The world is roiling from stress on many fronts, felt deeply by public servants. Prompted by a friend's question, "What are we all about anymore," I was inspired by a recent article to put democratic principles into a venn diagram. The challenge of "government of the people and by the people" to create a government for the people is coaxed along through important institutional supports. Public servants are a huge part of this dynamic relationship and I am honored to support them. Creating this helped me, and I hope it can be helpful for others, as well (with apologies to the graphic artists of the world).
As articulated so well by Podger, a comprehensive list of democratic principles might comprise the following:
Government of the people, by the people:
Heading into July 4th, this is time for civic mindfulness. Wishing all a peaceful long weekend.
My grandma used to say "it's not what happens to you, it's how you happen back." Wise words in an easy to remember catch phrase. But right now, we are really experiencing pressure on our ability to "happen back."
The stress of the global pandemic, the tension of the current political climate, the overdue reckoning on race and America --it can all feel overwhelming. These are serious and challenging realities. To respond, I'd like to make the serious case for optimism.
How can optimism help? Lets start with what optimism isn't. Optimism isn't all pep talks and cheerfulness. And it is not the same as confidence. Optimism is also not the absence of criticism. In fact, criticism is, in its own way, an expression of optimism.
While optimism can be expressed with an upbeat attitude, confidence, and even criticism, what it comes down to is more than way of behaving. It is a way of being. A personal belief in better days to come. Ultimately that belief is grounded in an internal dialog, not an external expression. What are you saying to yourself about how you respond, adjust, adapt and make a difference?
In coaching, that dialog is facilitated. I like to put it this way: this partnership approach looks like a conversation between you, the coach, and you again. That's not the same as talking to yourself or even your friends. It is instead an intentional and creative process to expand possibilities.
We're going to get through these tough times, but not out of tough times. To forge a better future, we commit to doing the work. Optimism can fuel the work. I think grandma would approve.
Twenty-five years ago today, a remarkable speech was given. So much as happened since Hillary Clinton's speech to the 1995 UN Conference on Women in Beijing on September 5, 1995. It is important to harken back to what a moment in history it was. Read the full text of the speech to appreciate its full measure without editorial.
Recently, in supportive conversations, colleagues and I have related about situations in which we feel like ”Chris Farley interviewing Paul McCartney.” In the comedy classic from Saturday Night Live, McCartney is a guest on The Chris Farley Show, a skit portraying Farley as a talk show host.
Chris asks Sir Paul a variety of questions that inspire basically one-word answers. Throughout the interview Chris fidgets, plays with his notes, runs on with his thoughts and seems to squander the opportunity, and then beats himself up about it. His anxiety is visible and the performance is an outward display of his character’s, and maybe Farley's own, inner tumult. Who of us hasn’t been Chris Farley interviewing Paul McCartney at least once in our life? This sketch captures the experience of self-doubt through Farley’s comedic genius and McCartney’s good humor.
What is the consequence of listening to our doubts? One of them is to think more about what we are putting out than what we are taking in. To focus more on what we are saying than what is being said to us. We miss the chance to connect, even to our dreams and those we adore. Then we doubt ourselves even more when we later realize what we have have lost.
How do we listen to our internal dialog without letting it take over? How do we hang with our conscience and not be self-conscious? It is not so much about shutting those voices out, but clarifying and appreciating what they express to us and being able to project our full, conscious, selves.
It is fun to imagine how, if we were in Chris’s shoes, we would rephrase his interview. Of course, it wouldn’t be a comedy classic, but it would be a good exercise. It might also be a nice tribute to a talent lost too soon. So you know how Chris Farley gave us a funny, emotional, pop-culture touchstone that promotes self-awareness? Is that true?
Spring cleaning brings about an opportunity to re-familiarize yourself with your items and make some decisions. Books are especially challenging. Do I keep this or pass along for someone else's learning? My process is to randomly open the book and read a passage. If it still resonates, keep. So it was that I came across the Pocket Pema Chodron in my collection. My random selection produced the following story/passage:
I was once invited to teach with the Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, my teacher's eldest son, in a situation where it wasn't exactly clear what my status was. Sometimes I was treated as a big deal who should come in though a special door and sit in a special seat. Then I'd think, "Okay, I 'm a big deal." I'd start running with that idea and come up with big-deal notions about how things should be.
Then, I'd get the message, "Oh, no, no, no. You should just sit on the floor and mix with everybody and be one of the crowd." Okay. So now the message was that I should just be ordinary, not set myself up or be the teacher. But as soon as I was getting comfortable with being humble, I would be asked to do something special that only big deals did.
This was a painful experience because I was always being insulted and humiliated by my own expectations. As soon as I was sure how it should be, so I could feel secure, I would get the message that it should be the other way. Finally, I said to the Sakyong, "This is really hurting. I just don't know who I am supposed to be," and he said, "Well, you have to learn to be big and small at the same time."
Big and small at the same time. This helped me to reflect the challenge facing community leaders, and on my coaching role as they draw on their abilities from within. Inspires me! And I am keeping this book, as well as passing it along here.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the third Monday of January. "A day on, not a day off." The Corporation for National and Community Service serves as a resource for developing community service programs large and small. The commemoration of King's legacy occurs each year determined by the day of the month of January, not on a specific date. It has that in common with local meetings and US Thanksgiving. Reflecting on this commonality, isn't that a great way to remember the links between our gratitude and week-in, week-out opportunities to promote justice and be a force of good? Some additional quotes for "a little inspiration."
Susan Hockenberry's blog of suggestions for info and updates.