This is not working (but I don’t blame you this time)

In my new book, we expose the new reality about both our work and personal lives:

This is not working

The center is not holding

We need to rethink our way forward

The forces of fragmentation are winning. Winning big time!

In our work lives, the result is that our cultures lack the necessary meaning and gravitational pull to keep the organization “whole.” On the personal side, most of us are living a “peripheral life” – losing our capacity to live simply and deliberately.

One simple exercise that I have found to have a “unifying” impact on our fragmented lives is the process of clarifying the question that “life” is asking you now. With the clarity of an overarching question in front of us, we can start to let go of the stuff that pushes us away from our true center.

The exercise actually takes three steps. The first step is to do the necessary inner and personal work (e.g., prayer, reflection, meditation, etc.) to frame the question in the most honest way.

The second step is to share your question with others – to make your efforts public, to spark interest and to gain feedback.

The final step is to ask others to join you in this “Wizard of Oz” journey. This is when the journey truly becomes real.

I think for the last two to three years, the question that I can’t get out of my head or heart is this one:

In a world that requires everyone to lead in some way, what are the

central principles and practices that represent the core path?

In my new book, I invite you to join me in a larger discussion for rethinking our way forward. The book is available for ordering on the following site:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1468119478

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How close are you to crumbling?

Fellow leader:

In this series of e-letters we have been exploring the dark-side of the ever-popular strengths-approach (leveraging your strengths and managing around your weaknesses in work and life). In my final message, we see how our “strengths” can be a comforting message for our embattled ego – but can also be a limiting approach to developing our most adaptive “best self.”

Our contemporary lives have made the job of the ego almost impossible.

The main role of the ego is keep things in balance.  It tries to moderate our impulsive responses and desire for pleasure (just one more bite of waffle) – while keeping the voice of judgement (your not good enough) in check.

Its main concern is protecting the self and acting like a good defense attorney. The question the ego asks is not: “Did you do it?” Rather, the ego asks: “Did anyone see you do it?”

In protecting our self-image and self-esteem, we can also be overly concerned with what the world thinks of us. In fact, much of our psychic energy is spent serving the expectations of our external world (e.g., family, bosses, popular culture, etc.). In the pressure to please, the concept of “best self” loses out to a “managed attempt” to project a positive image to others. In reality, the “self” feels like it is one bad day away from crumbling.

Unfortunately, the “strengths” approach can contribute to this dilemma. Here’s how. We are invited to take one of the popular strengths assessments at our work place. The survey results get tabulated and great news – we’ve got talent! In our fragmented work worlds (with increasing levels of anxiety and vulnerability) – this is welcome news.

We now begin to believe (desperately want to believe) that our best self (represented by a handful of strengths) is something we discover – and has now been codified in professionally reported test results. The neat packaging of our strengths is whole-heartedly accepted by the ego – looking to grasp any firm handhold in a dispassionate, I-don’t-see-you world.

But here’s the deal. Our best self is not something that is discoverable. It is not something that already exists in a measurable state. Our best self is always emerging. Think about it. A premature preference for “analysis” over the “conceptual” doesn’t give us insight into our true self. It is a reflection of our institutional learning and early work history that is totally built around analysis! Let’s get real!

What the world really needs is not one more defense mechanism for the ego to protect (our self-proclaimed strengths). It needs reflective souls who will seek the truth at any cost, are self-adaptive and have a great capacity to be others-oriented. In other words, our best self is better reflected as a state of courageous learning – not comfortable self-promotion.

The world does not need one more person with an illusory sense of who they are. Our best work does not come from a comfortable center but comes from living at the edge of who we are truly called to be.

I would love to hear your thoughts!

See you on the path,

Mike