Weird seems like a pretty good word for right now. The origin of the word goes back to the 15th Century, and described those with the ability to control fate. It got picked up by one William Shakespeare who gave us the Weird Sisters in Macbeth, and whose frightening appearance takes us to the uncanny and alarming which encompasses the modern use of the word. These are weird times.
It felt, not so long ago, that complex, unfamiliar challenges would take it in turns to arrive, allowing us to separate them from the everyday, and come to terms with them. Now, it feels more like a kaleidoscope of challenges, and that every morning we wake up to them arranged in a different way. It can be hard to know where to start – climate change, Ukraine, energy prices, increasing inequality, Covid the sequel, species loss – the list goes on. It’s hardly surprising we have an epidemic of mental health issues.
The Germans have, as ever, cornered the market when it comes to a single word that captures it.
“Zeitenwende” -“a turning point in history”.
What do we do now, when we find ourselves, having invested so much time and energy designing a system in a world it longer fits?
Our politics, organisations, businesses and stock markets suddenly look about as equipped to deal with this as we were for the collapse of the Berlin Wall – which is of course, a large part of why we are where we are now. Hubris is a corrosively comforting emotion.
As is always the case when a new epoch shoulders its way in, many of the organisations and businesses will not adapt, they will just quietly – and sometimes not so quietly – disappear beneath the waves created by this zeitenwende, to be replaced by new entities that will feed of the nutrients released by the disturbance.
That leaves us having to work out where we fit.
In his iconic book, Tim Gallwey observed that our performance equals our potential, minus the interference we experience. Most of that interference of course we create for ourselves. He talked about our “self 1” – the self we feel we should be, defined by the expectations of others, and our “self 2” – who we really are when we give ourselves permission to let those qualities we have express themselves. His work is a staple of just about any coaching education.
This is a fertile time for interference. As Edward Murrow said, “anyone who isn’t confused doesn’t understand the situation”. When everything we have been brought up and trained to expect goes absent on us, we’re going to be confused. The one’s who claim not to be will probably be consultants.
When we’re disorientated by interference, the path to orientation goes through calm, dispssionate observation. That sort of observation is best done with a small group of others who share your values, who you trust, and who trust you. People with who we can let go of independence in favour of deliberte interdependence. People who exhibit “expedition behaviour“. Those who will back you doing your work, but won’t do it for you.
It’s a very personal thing. Perhaps you’re part of a group like this already – small, cohesive, trusting and with a common direction, like a group in a raft tackling whitewater rapids. If you are, count your blessings.
Most people are not. They are busy manning the yacht going wherever the owner has determined, and even though well paid, have no seats in the lifeboat when the going gets rough. That’s what most of us sign up for. Smooth water and hope.
In the middle of the confusion we find ourselves in, and the dissonance most of us feel, what comes next is emerging, but we won’t see it looking down.
Taking time out with others, for an hour or so, helps us look up. There are though I suggest some important factors:
- Don’t do it with people you work with. You need a wider perspective.
- Don’t bring your challenges, work or personal. They are interference and will restrict your vision.
- Be prepared to trust your senses and your intuition more than your intellect.
- Be prepared to observe without expectation. What we need tends to find us, but hides if we go chasing it.
- When we find what we need, the work starts.
This will be an important time to look back on, and like planting trees the best time to have started was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.
There’s a group of us at Originize who have been working together for a while now, just taking time out to observe. We do it for no other reason that to help each other see differently. It works.
With what’s going on, we’re thinking of running some “open house” sessions. If the idea interests you, click on the link above and sign up (there is no charge – it’s about interdependence, not money) or drop me a line if you have questions.