Open-mindedness and Truth

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This week’s cover on Time Magazine headline reads… “Eat Butter. Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong.” How many times are we told that something is true and later discover what we were told was just the latest interpretation. Whether it’s scientists or the government or our company or religion, so many things called Truth is no more than the current thinking on something rather than truth.

Truth is something that never changes. Truth is not subject to interpretation. It simply is.

As leaders, we are faced with many “truths.” More likely than not, what is being touted as truth is an interpretation of a situation or set of data. For most of us, our reality is the interpretations we are making of the world around us. These interpretations arise from the myriad of beliefs we have, most of which we are totally unaware.

When I was teaching leadership programs and had groups that were made up primarily of people who didn’t know each other, I would conduct an experiment. I asked each person to select someone in the room they didn’t know and write a story about them. Everyone found this very easy to do. Then I had them talk to that person to see how accurate the story was. Not surprisingly, the story held little “truth” in it.

We walk around believing we know who others are because we know the truth about them. This sense of truth comes from our inner need to “know” the world. This “knowing” helps us feel more secure in our surroundings.

It’s this need that is the biggest blind spot for leaders. We stop questioning what we know, because we believe it’s true. Then something happens that we didn’t anticipate. For the most part this is because we believed we “knew” our world and what we “knew” turned out to be untrue.

Look back and see where that’s happened to you. Learn the cost of self-imposed blindness. Then, start the practice of questioning what you “know” to better see the truth.

Where the Wild Things Are!

As we have settled into our new home, my wife and I have explored the land. It is filled with wildlife that seems to jump from a nature magazine, and wild plants, whose varied identities continue to amaze us. There is a feeling of the green world of Ireland here with its deep beauty and wildness.

As we’ve talk about the history of Ireland and in particular its Celtic heritage, the mythical characters almost take life before our eyes. We have almost three acres of lawn, so a lot of attention can be easily placed on orderliness. Yet, just below the surface, I can feel wildness. Its like the Celtic god, Cernunos, is waiting to appear.

It’s this wildness that I write about today. I find that most of my life is about control. The messages from birth have been to control my sexual drive, control my temper, control my children, control my business – control everything.

At what cost is all this control and is it misguided anyway? When I was feeling the wildness here, I found I became very uncomfortable. My inner conversation was to get into motion so that this feeling of wildness didn’t go too far. Wait, I thought, what’s wrong with wildness? Oh, it’s out of control.

I have to admit I am afraid of wildness. I want the neat and orderly world of my lawn rather than the uncertainty of what lies just beneath. I know that control isn’t really possible anyway. I mean, how can I control the weather, or how you feel, or what the stock market will do today? Control is such an intense focus that creates so much tension and no real payoff.  Yet, I pretend it’s possible. What folly.

I admire people who I feel are wild. I like their unrestrained nature. Is this admiration an invitation for me to allow my wildness to come out? As the terror of letting go of control abates a bit, I am getting interested in seeing what this wildness thing would be like. There are moments when I do feel it already. My wife says the fire comes into my eyes.

Maybe by just admitting my worries about the world being out of control, I can allow more of my wildness to come out. I’m getting excited about this possibility. I’mcurious to see how this unfolds….

Is A Promise a Promise – Part II

Yesterday, I was talking about when a promise is a promise, and concluded that a promise is always a promise. As I was reflecting more about this, I realized I left one important stone unturned. What about promises I make to myself?

A clear example of promises made to myself are New Years resolutions. I get all fired up at the end of the year about all that I’m going to change in the new year. A popular resolution is losing weight or getting in better physical condition. January is a boom time for gyms. During the first week of January, people charge into the gym, sign up for a membership and buy some new gym clothes. As the weeks of the new year go by, gym attendance drops rapidly.

Other popular resolutions are about money. Maybe, I want to spend less so I can save. I could also want to change my income by getting a new job or cut my debts by paying off my credit cards. Whatever the resolution, I find that by sometime in February, the enthusiasm of the resolution has waned and I’m slowly moving back into my old patterns.

So why do I do such a poor job of keeping promises to myself?  The only way to answer the question truthfully is to tell you about my experiences. For starters, I seem to have a selective case of amnesia about certain categories of personal promises. For instance, when it comes to things like food, I am clear about what’s good for me and not. I promise to only eat food that good for me and then the little voice says things like, “You’ve done so well lately, what’s a little bowl of ice cream?” or “Surely one piece of candy can’t be bad for you.”. What creates this amnesia? It’s my lack of awareness of the automatic nature of how I choose the food I eat. All diet programs that last beyond the initial program phase help the dieter become aware of what they are eating before it goes in their mouth, and whether it’s good for them or not.

The second reason, it seems hard to keep promises to myself is that I don’t see myself so clearly. When I make a promise to you and don’t do it, I have to face you. So to not have you think poorly of me, I’m more likely to do what I promise to you than myself.

This is connected to the third reason I don’t do as well keeping promises to myself as to others, which is that I have a very active rationalizer. I can make up a good story about why something I promised myself isn’t really that important. Since I don’t have to tell that story to anyone but myself, I don’t get a lot of push back.

The irony of all this is that the most important person for me to keep my promise to is myself. If I don’t start with me, how can I know I’ll be reliable with you? Today is another day, and I can start anew. I write everyday. This writing includes some things I don’t publish. In this writing, I check where I’m in integrity and where I’m not. Through this practice of self-reflection, I find that I’m becoming more reliable to myself.

What do you do that helps you be more reliable to the person you see in the mirror?