Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Initiative - Intention and Presence in Action

"Initiate - to introduce by first doing or using"
Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary

Lately David and I have been considering what our clients gain from working with us. Where does the magic come from? What elicits the fire and the drive that seemed so distant from their work before? How do we adequately describe that magic we create in their world? The word that we keep rolling across is initiative.

Initiative seems to capture both the individual and the organizational aspects of what we unleash into play. Initiatives are often under the radar efforts or skunkworks. Many never get formal organizational sanction or recognition. Those that do most often trace their seed to an individual, subversive seeming idea that found its first roots in a benevolent little conspiracy before growing to a point where it pokes its heads above ground for a little sunshine and rain. Initiative is the key ingredient to innovation, creativity, and the deliberate, consciously induced change that individuals and organizations seek.

But something about the word Initiative doesn't sit right for me. It just doesn't capture the real sense of what really happens. It seems too, I don't know, static.

There seems to be something faulty about the language we have for describing systems and change. Our words seem to connote some certain 'is-ness' about things that implies that if we just got it right, we'll arrive at our perfect destination. (This is the point I think of as where I will ultimately write my magnum opus, "Amy's Five Easy Steps to Nirvana - And You CAN do it Too!")

So we describe what we invoke as initiative. We ask about intention. We deeply consider presence. As if doing those 'things' or reaching those mystical states (holding an intention and being here, now, with full acceptance of how it is) would get me what I want.

What is missing in these static seeming descriptions is action.

So, it's not about initiative but about Initiating.

It's not about intention but Intending

It's not really about Presence but ??? Presenting?

Hmmm, that doesn't quite get it either.

Maybe the missing factor that brings it to life is action - the doing, the using, the acting? Perhaps it boils down to acting with intention and presence. And, on the flip side, being present to all that intention and presence attracts.

Ah, gerunds. Aren't they great!

Acting - conscious, deliberate, sometimes courageous, sometimes foolhardy.

Webster's, once again, gives good counsel - initate by introducing into first using or doing.

Initiating - first doing or using, taking that first step. Again. And again. And again.

Monday, April 9, 2007

In the Beginning was Intention - or was it just really showing up?

Warning: This post contains likely mis-use of navigational references. I hale from the middle of the land sea of North America's great fly-over zone. I profess no expertise with sailing. However I do know wind. So, treat me generously when I use the sailing metaphor. I think you'll get my drift!

"All change rests on the full, albeit temporary acceptance of the status quo."
Virginia Satir

The beginning of every engagement, so I often teach, is intention. Some authors call it source energy. Lately it's all over the news as The Secret. Most often, for me, it starts as a vague sense of a change in direction usually noted in the area of my solar plexus.

But is this really the beginning?

Here is a chicken and egg question: what comes first, our Intention or our Presence?

Intention without Presence seems like a wind with no sail. Presence without Intention seems like a sail without a breeze.

Humberto Maturana, the noted Chilean biologist, postulates that the two things that make humans different from all other biological entities and living systems are the two things that allow us to effect deliberate change in our environment.
  1. The ability to accept things exactly as they are - radical acceptance/love (what I call Presence - with a capital P).
  2. The ability to form and hold an Intention for things to be different than they currently are.
Too often, we focus on intention without really considering the importance of genuine Presence. We wish, we hope, we intend. But we don't notice that we're trying to move without unfurling our sails. Or we're trying to sail in the exact opposite direction of the prevailing air currents without adjusting to the real situation (often cursing the damn wind, the stupid boat, the clueless captain, or the limiting water). Or we just aren't 'there' enough to turn the tiller or adjust the sail or even notice that faint breeze that could take us out of the doldrums onto the next leg of our adventure.

As I start this new beginning, I am announcing my Presence - feeling more tentative lower-case p than proudly unfurled upper-case P. Regardless, my full (uncomfortable) awareness of this tentative sense probably shouts loudly PRESENCE. So, I'm guessing that this constitutes a radical acceptance of how it is. Damn!

So I announce my Intention, to share what I'm learning and what I've learned about making a difference. And this is the beginning. Such as it is.

Maybe someone will find this interesting. Maybe it will make a difference. Maybe I'm simply sailing to my next port of call.

Anyway, it's my adventure. Join me?