The single thread that runs through the fabric of my work is captured in Einstein’s warning:
A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. . . . We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.
I’m no Einstein. Who I am and what I know is the product of my relationships and of a lifetime of asking questions of great thinkers and average Joes and Janes. They’ve all made me smarter. Below is a sampling of ideas and best practices that, in my opinion, can help us all sustain “a new manner of thinking” that will improve our lives.
For All Audiences
If you’re good at relationships, you’re good at life. It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with a loved one, a life-long friend, or someone you’ve just met, every relationship is a “co-creation” of the two people in it. Here’s what you need to hold up your end and to make good choices in any relationship:
- Honesty. Stay true to yourself and, at the same time, tell yourself the truth.
- Mindfulness. Take a beat before responding to ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say or do going to better or hurt this relationship?”
- Restraint. Neither of the above are easy. They take practice and this 3rd critical ingredient. Some call it “self control.” Others think of it as “willpower.” If you have the ability to hold your ego mind in check, at least long enough to reflect on the moment, you’re more likely to remember that you always have a choice. You can’t change the other person, but you can control yourself.
For Parents and Grandparents
In 1965, psychologist Haim Ginott published a book entitled, “Between Parent and Child” that became a parenting classic. Ginott’s prescription for parenting still makes sense in today’s world: offer a combination of love and limits, listen and speak compassionately to your children. However, parenting is never just between parent and child.
In this talk I review the philosophy and the strategies conceived by the late, great Tracy Hogg — aka the Baby Whisperer — in context of the whole family. I talk about:
. why you need to widen the lense and look at everyone in your “family ecosystem.” Your adult relationship needs care and feeding as much as your child.
. how to look at challenges and change from a “whole family” perspective. What happens to one member of the family happens to — and affects — all of you.
. strategies for making sure that everyone’s needs are met, not just the children — and for making sure that everyone contributes to the family’s welfare, not just the adults.
A century ago, parenting wasn’t a verb. Now, “to parent” is synonymous with exhaustion and anxiety about every aspect of your child’s life. Modern parents keep trying to figure out how to have “better” children. But trying different child-rearing approaches isn’t the answer. Tiger Mom or Helicopter Dad, your days are all about your kids, which isn’t good for anyone–not the children, not the parents or their relationship, and certainly not the family. But what’s the alternative? How else can we make sure our kids have the right stuff to cope with. Focus on making the family “better.”
- Practice “family think.” You must see the whole instead of only one part. Managing a family is not the same as parenting a child. And how your child “turns out” is not simply a matter of what you do.
- Run your family like a “co-op.” Future adults need practice in responsibility. In the best families, adults and children share the work and everyone gain the benefits of belonging.
- Allow your children to participate. Children surprise us with their competence if we respect who they are. Guide them, teach them, but also let them make choices and earn their independence.
Acquaintances at the edges of our social circles populate our everyday lives. But we sometimes don’t realize how valuable they are. Our intimates are important–they support us at home. But our “consequential strangers” (CS) anchor us and give us strength in the world. I focus on these three domains:
- Personal development. Taking risks makes you grow. You’re more likely to hear different ideas and have new experiences with a CS than a loved one.
- Sickness and health. Hang around with health-conscious acquaintances, and you’ll probably practice good habits, too. When you get sick, those closest to you often suffer “burn out” and they’re not in the trenches. We’re also more likely to listen to a CS’s advice.
- Success. Our intimates know who we know and think how we think. CS connect us to job opportunities and broaden our minds and exposure. And unlike family members, they provides a reality check, so that you can reflect and, if necessary, revise your course.
Sometime, we find solutions in surprising places. The strategies of “family whispering”–widening your lens to see the whole, not just its parts–provide guidelines for our business lives as well. This new perspective allows you to perceive your organization as a complex intermingling of relationships, needs, and personalities. You can take into account the strengths and vulnerabilities of the individuals, how they relate to one another, and what’s happening in the world beyond the walls of your company.
- Make relationships your first priority. Reality is co-created in relationships. Each one is a unique entity formed by two people who can feed or starve that relationship. Before you say or do anything, ask yourself, “Is this good for our relationship?”
- Let them. For any enterprise to work, everyone must feel like a “stakeholder”–a person who benefits and contributes. Being open to everyone’s ideas, regardless of age or salary level, and allowing them to participate improves productivity and the bottom line.
- Don’t try to control; exercise self-control. Guide and offer assistance when asked, but don’t constantly step in, oversee, and correct. It’s a waste of energy. No one has the power to control how others think or behave. Ultimately, micro-management damages the relationships.
For corporate speaking engagements, please contact Bright Sight Group.