Monday, 22 November 2010

Empire State of Mind

Last week was mad as I crammed in a full week of work in 67% of the normal time allocated so I could take off for almost a week to go celebrate a special event in my brother's life. It was definitely worth it despite coming back to another hectic week of deadlines. We were all in New York for my brother's wedding and it got me thinking and what follows was the result.

Rituals are a key part of this life whether we are religious or not. This is in part because rituals have symbolic value. In the case of a wedding it is a public declaration to friends and family about a major decision on how we intend to live our lives. What made this wedding particularly special was not so much the family tie but other thoughtful elements. Let me a share a couple with you to give you a flavour of what I mean.

In the States, it is possible for the marriage ceremony to be taken by a friend who has secured a special license that enables them to be the celebrant for the day. In the case of my brother and his wife, they chose someone who had lived with them for a few months and so was able to witness their relationship in close proximity. The words she shared with us resonated because they described the couple that we knew and loved. More than that she had the ability to make the ceremony meaningful for all those of us who were married and in a way gave us the space to reflect on our own relationships and to renew our vows silently if we so chose. It was very well done.

One of the other highlights for me was the cookie bake, the morning before the wedding. Mainly women from both families gathered together for the activity. Beforehand I had assumed that one of the main reasons was to provide my two small children, both girls, with something to do. In fact it enabled me to have a real conversation with the bride to be as well as get to know some members of her family. At the end of the session, those who took part in the baking and decorating had made the favours for the wedding and my two girls got to ice and try a cookie each, which was just as well as despite prompting us to take one with us as we left on Saturday evening, we still forgot!

Although Empire State of Mind was not their first dance, it was the first song they played after the marriage ceremony and a remixed version came later. I love that song and the sentiment within it certainly rings true for me and my brother. He because he met his wife there and has experienced the can do culture in the work place. For me because it has been an important city for me over the last ten years for a number of reasons.

There are many other little details I could mention but I think you get the idea and as I hinted there is a bigger picture here too. We need rituals as a way to celebrate key moments in our lives so that they stand out from the routine of daily living. It gives us the opportunity to glimpse the universal truth that we are all connected to something bigger than ourselves. Rituals are also the only effective way to break bad habits. So what rituals have you created or been part of that have enriched or even changed your life in some way?
Photo was supplied by jsbanks42.

Friday, 12 November 2010

What do continuous learning and success have in common?

At the moment I am really enjoying Rob Yeung's book The Extra One Per Cent. It explores through research and other techniques what those who are really successful have that others do not have and is very insightful as well as surprising in some cases.

As you may know, one of the key projects I am currently involved in is looking at how to develop an intense learning environment in a corporate environment where the emphasis is on performance with behaviour a secondary consideration for the most part. Challenging that's for sure.

It was with great excitement therefore that I read about Richard Boyatzis' work, a professor in the United States, who has examined the behaviours linked to attainment for over a decade. He spent two years working with outstanding partners from a very large Professional Services firm to assess their behaviours and subsequent performance. The interesting part was the findings from the monitoring of the partners over seven successive quarters to find out not only how much money they bought into the business but also the profitability of their work. He looked at a range of over 20 skills and the only two that were linked to both revenue generation and profitability were what he termed "values learning" and "facilitates learning."

This is amazing because what it is saying is that contrary to popular belief, it is not only coaches that need to continue their development and learning through adulthood, in fact we all do. Yeung goes on to explain about the T shaped mind being the vehicle for doing that. In other words individuals need to increase the depth of their knowledge in their specialist area whilst maintaining a broad interest in a wide range of topics.

You may say that none of this is rocket science but let me ask you a question. How much time do you put aside each week to keep yourself informed of developments in your field and beyond? Put it another way what do you do to address this need of continuous learning? How do you get a stretch that takes you into your learning zone?

Friday, 5 November 2010

Giving and receiving using the body

I want to share something with you this week that is emerging out of a conversation that I had recently. First because it may help you to recognise a similar aha moment in a conversation and lead to you making the connections that you need to make more quickly. Second because I do believe that what we say and how we act is reflected back by the Universe for lots of reasons, one of the main ones being that we are made of energy.

Quite often those of us who are stay at home parents or part-time workers find ourselves drawn into non-paying activities that hold true to our values. For me this year it has been joining the Offley School Association (OSA) as my daughter started at the school. I think it is also dependent on what type of person we are. I cannot count the number of conversations I have been party to where people wonder why so few volunteer to ensure that charitable organisations can run effectively. That is a whole other topic but getting back to this one. If you are the type of person who is good at organising stuff or believes it is important to help create community then you can find yourself over committing yourself.

Context given how does that relate to the conversation I was having with a couple of men who are parents but whose kids have since flown the nest. We were talking about themes around spirituality and business the focus of our current book and issue that often crops up amongst those with a spiritual bent in life. They often keep on giving and are less able to receive what they need. Does this sound familiar? It all came together for me earlier today when I was chatting with a Mum and friend who is also a PTA member but not at Offley. Everything came to a head for her this week. She felt overwhelmed by events because her pattern is to give generously to others of her self until her energy is depleted.

So what is the answer? I don't believe it is about stopping to give tempting though that is at times. The answer for me lies in Conscious Embodiment. In other words seeing our bodies as a vessel through which the Universe's boundless energy of giving can flow. That may sound a bit odd to you which is why it is great to experience it through undertaking Conscious Embodiment - doing physical exercises which demonstrate this principle in action. It is incredibly powerful and more than that it is a way of protecting ourselves in a positive way.

The second part of the answer is allowing ourselves to be open to receive. Easy you say. It certainly has not been for me. I find it incredibly difficult to ask others for help when I need it. Perhaps you are the same holding a belief that it is important to be strong and to hide your vulnerabilities. Quite a few of these realisations came to me as a result of having a conversation about receiving and this is also how the Universe works. It brings things into your conscious thoughts if you start to think and talk about them.

If you would find it helpful to explore Conscious Embodiment further then there is an opportunity coming up in January to find wholeness through connecting the mind and the body here.