Pain is our jailor, jail, and liberator in this world.
Props to Allan Tsang for title inspiration.
Pain is our jailor, jail, and liberator in this world.
Props to Allan Tsang for title inspiration.
Patience is not a particularly interesting topic, at least on the surface of it. Though patience has a lot to do with why people we admire accomplish so much, we tend to focus only on the fruits of their patience, or their visible actions.
Patience is seen more like drudgery. But reflecting on patience, we can begin to get some traction with it, and give ourselves an advantage for having done so.
How do we get started with becoming more patient? Consciously or not, patience always begins with a decision to be willing to endure averse emotion as it arises in an endeavor – choose pain over comfort. So being more conscious of that mental process, or mindful, will help us get more of a handle on accessing our patience when we need it. One wave of averse emotion at a time, we can develop our patience, even as we fall off the wave and our efforts are thwarted. We are strengthening our patience just by consciously meeting the wave that threatens it. We do the best we can.
Yet we know our efforts will be thwarted. Patience is built on a foundation of failures to be patient. It will strengthen your patience if you are kind to yourself and others even as your patience fails you. Or as Idries Shah wrote, learn to …”be patient with your patience.” Resolve to relate to yourself with heart as often as you can remember to do so.
Fortunately, not everything requires patience. In fact, there is a time to give into your impatience. It is always wise to soothe or bypass averse emotion unless doing so disrupts the focus you require to complete something important. Putting patience aside sometimes and favoring pleasurable activities will help replenish the energy that patience requires when you really need it. Misplaced patience is an energy drain.
Nonetheless, you really can’t overdo patience in situations that require it. The challenge is deciding which situations really require it. After all, we are told that he who hesitates is lost. Then again, we are advised to look before we leap. Maybe better sayings would be “He who hesitates to look before they leap unnecessarily risk being lost”. or “if you don’t look before you hesitate to leap you are just guessing and are already lost”. Anyways, my playing with the wording of pithy quotes might not clarify anything. Patience does not replace critical thinking. It just gives you adequate time to engage in it.
Patience must not confused with the capacity to wait. Patience is a tool that permits us to see and seize the moment when waiting any longer is unhelpful. Procrastination tends to be the default way we employ time. Waiting is not hard for the procrastinator in us. We put things off and distract ourselves with something more interesting or easy. But it really is more a failure of patience than ambition not to get started on something. After all, you have no problem ‘getting started’ with easier activities, no shortage of ambition or gumption there! You are simply refusing to make a decision to endure the averse emotions that getting started on the tougher challenge might evoke. Call a spade a spade, and call impatience what it is – impatience.
Patience is very worthy of our focus in enhancing our development and making progress toward our goals. It can expand and deepen our perspective on situations and make possible the vision required to make better decisions based on a greater grasp of what is happening and how it all fits together.
But it will not insist on your attention. It is a quiet virtue, and you have to be able to still yourself to really be able to employ it.
I am sorry if this piece is a boring or dry, but that does sort of speak to the point I am trying to make.
The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health.
This is the first sentence from Chapter One of Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Advantage – Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. I believe it to be true, and really think anyone who plays a leadership role anywhere, ought to seriously consider what he writes to begin the book. We all play leadership roles somewhere, even if it is just for ourselves as we run our own lives.
Regarding this single greatest advantage, he continues:
… it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to anyone who wants to do it…If it sound absurd, it should. After all, why in the world would intelligent human beings ignore something that is so powerful and accessible?
The question was finally answered for me on July 28, 2010.
I was attending a client’s leadership conference, sitting next to the CEO. This wasn’t just any company. It was, and still is, one of the healthiest organizations I have ever known and one of the most successful enterprises of the past fifty years. In an industry plagued with financial woes, customer fury, and labor strife, this amazing company has a long history of growth and economic success, not to mention financial customer loyalty. Moreover, its employees love their jobs, their customers, their leaders. When compared to others in the same industry, what this company has achieved is almost baffling.
As I sat there at the conference listening to one presentation after another highlighting the remarkable and unorthodox activities that made this organization so healthy, I leaned over and quietly asked the CEO a semirhetorical question: ” Why in the world doesn’t your competition do any of this?”
After a few seconds, he whispered, almost sadly, ” You know, I honestly believe they think it’s beneath them.”
And there it was.
I have also seen this at the individual and family level in my work as a psychotherapist. The people who improve under my care and maintain their gains all have one thing in common – they establish their mental health or wellness as their top priority. They stop taking it for granted for the rest of their lives. This may seem like an obvious thing to do for someone who is suffering enough to take time and money to see a mental health practitioner, but it is not so easy for the many folks who think they are in therapy just to get back to who they used to be before mental health issues set in. They forget that the same person that seemed so strong because they weren’t struggling with mental health issues also made the decisions that failed to prevent their current mental health difficulties.
They idealize how they were before mental health challenges struck, and they just can’t bring themselves to stoop down from their lofty view of their former self and do the new things it takes to achieve and maintain true wellness.
Even if they get better, and many do because they make a surge of effort for a limited time, they remain at high risk for relapse if they do not keep their mental health priority number one.
Sadly, this can reinforce their idealization of themselves before their first mental health episode, and the pattern continues.
I imagine organizational leaders fall into similar ruts for similar reasons.
Types of cancer tend to be named after the organs where they grow, so the term cognitive cancer seemed apt for this article.
The roots of the words organized and organic are the same – organ. In a healthy system, organs receive messages, serve a function in a greater system of organs, and send messages to other organs in that system. Organs organize organically into organ systems 🙂 So organs have sub-organs, including organs of perception that receive messages and organs of communication that send them.
The questions how , where, when, and what have to be constantly asked and answered by our organs of perception and communication. It all has to be organized according to sequence, degree, type, quantity, periodicity, and other variables. Just contemplating how your own body does without any conscious effort on your part is mind-boggling.
Cancer is a system of mass replication that does not serve the greater system. It is organic, but it does not serve the whole system, even though it depends on it to survive and grow. Cancer only serves itself, however shortsighted that is as it kills the system that sustains it.
Generally speaking, our current cognitive systems are very susceptible to cancerous growths. Just one thought can begin to take you in a cognitive direction resulting in the sorts of actions that end in a destination that some would even call hellish. Some people are psychologically loaded with cancer and their existence is like a hell to them. We can catch their cancer just by spending time with them and responding unskillfully to the messages their cancer ridden system sends us. Most of us have psychological cancer to some degree. We know that our physical bodies are fighting cancer cells all the time usually successfully. Our minds require us to have an immune system for cognitive processes as well.
How do we maintain healthy psychological immune system? Taking care of our physical and mental organs and organ systems and those of others offers a way to rid ourselves of psychological cancers. Just focusing on curing our own cancer allows us to work on one end of our psychological cancerous ‘tumors’. Since cognitive cancer is fully pathologically selfish, it will thrive in us if we only focus on our own betterment. Not just about adhering to moral standards, there is a simple technical reason for unselfishness. Organs of perception that are only self-referential begin to atrophy for lack of diverse stimulation. The whole system weakens and becomes more susceptible to cancerous growth.
So this is where higher consciousness begins to take on some very practical importance to human beings and their endeavors. If you have a higher vantage point you can achieve a broader or more in-depth ability to receive messages from the environment and make better informed decisions to not only fight cancer but develop healthily. Higher consciousness is even more important in a world where we have developed such powerful technologies that serve us but can also destroy us. The human element, the organic element, is the only way to achieve and sustain higher levels of consciousness that our survival requires in an increasingly complex world. Without it, enamored of our new found technological efficiency, we risk the temptation of falling into replication thinking to solve our problems – throwing (fill in the blank ) at problems: logic, technology, data, analysis, skepticism, money, passion, detachment, formulas, etc. Despite the best of intentions, the result will be that cognitive cancers will grow in our minds at the expense of our families, organizations and our individual mental health.
So what do we do?
Almost all of us need folks who have achieved higher consciousness than we have to develop healthily. We did as children, and we do now. If these people exist, you can be assured that they are organized and looking for qualified candidates for their efforts. Their methods are certainly organic and not at all something we can predict or manage at our current level. We have to be open to the signals they might already be sending.
These are our teachers. They are not always who we expect them to be. Only their humility, and ours, can keep the right messages flowing for the right purposes at the right times to the right people. It all has to be aligned, and everyone can’t just have anything they want whenever they want. This is not a mass replication. We are human beings.
Our businesses need these qualified teachers and students. Our families need them too.
Teacher or student, and we are all both really, GK Chesterton’s quote applies to each of us:
“We are all in the same boat, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”
Antonio de Mairena
from Juan de Mairena
To see things as they are, the eyes must be opened; to see things as other than they are, they must be even wider; to see things as better than they are, they must be open to the full.
At a recent family meeting my wife came up with the idea of each of us thinking of three positive things that happened that day or the previous day. We started this morning when I sent an email with my three things to her, and my son (16) and daughter (18). So far, my wife has replied with her three.
It felt weird, but it felt good. I had to open my eyes wider.
We are trying to get out of a rut.
There are many reasons why individuals and teams negotiate badly. But one is the lack of insight into the event at hand. What are you delivering to your adversary in this event? What is holding back this event from moving forward? What is emotionally troubling you? And your adversary? What are you going to communicate? How will you communicate it? Ask yourself this simple question: Who must see what, now? Answer it beginning with yourself – and you will start developing the insight you require.
Camp Negotiation Coach
“Who must see what, now? Answer it beginning with yourself ….” – fantastic Santhosh! A much bettet question than ‘what should I do” which does not get us into the visual/emotional part of the brain where decisions happen. -Wim
Someone you are dealing with might be in pain. They may feel it. You may see that pain very clearly. But amazingly, they may not see it even though they are the ones going through it. This is often referred to as ‘denial’ by amateur and professional psychotherapists alike. Not seeing their problem and pain makes it hard for many of us to take constructive action. So what is the difference between experiencing pain and seeing it?
Maybe this analogy will help. A baby feels uncomfortable with a messy diaper. This does not stop them from messing in their diaper. They don’t even fuss right away about the discomfort often and let their parent know. But even a week or two after they are toilet trained, they see much more clearly the discomfort/pain of having a messy diaper. How does this change happen?
Take a look at how parents toilet train their kids. We turn toilet training into an instructive game. We sit them down on the toilet. Sometimes something happens, and when it does, we are very happy. They see it, and they are happy. They see us becoming more and more unhappy when they don’t use the toilet since we now know that they can go on their own. But they don’t see the problem with going in thier diaper quite yet. After awhile, going on the toilet becomes a habit. It feels weird not to do it on the toilet after awhile. Eventually, they become toilet trained. Then one day when they have an accident, they see how CRAZY it is to mess in your pants. We have to make a lot of effort to help them get to this point.
If you have someone who is headed for pain, or is even in pain, and you want them to just see what you see and be logical and fix it, then you are about as silly looking as a parent who wants their toddler to spontaneously toilet train.
Invite them to sit on whatever proverbial toilet is in play and see what happens. Make it part of a regular pattern. Have fun with it and them. If they refuse, don’t be angry. They are just being a baby. Just let them know they may have to find someone else to change their proverbial diaper if the won’t play the game with you.
If you ‘can’t’ stop rescuing them from their problem and pain, and you are unhappy with it, then complain. Maybe someone will listen and know how to help you.
Not all kids are easy to toilet train, for sure, but you at least want to make sure the problem is not you.