Sunday, July 29, 2007

Exploring the Sufficiency Paradigm

The three truths of the Sufficiency paradigm described by Lynne Twist: 1.) Money is like water, 2.) What you appreciate appreciates, and 3.) collaboration creates prosperity.

How is money like water? Money flows through our lives, our organizations, and our systems -- sometimes with more volume than others. Too much money or stagnation of money can like water -- become toxic. Money can be used to control, manipulate, and harm. Sacrificing is something that comes from the scarcity paradigm - that there isn’t enough - and so someone needs to suffer or do without. The flow of money can also support our ability to do good. Generosity from a sufficiency paradigm is not sacrifice.

What you appreciate appreciates. If you truly appreciate what you have, you will feel better and better. Appreciation of what is, can break the cycle of wanting more and more. She has several suggestions on increasing appreciation. One is using Appreciative Inquiry in our lives. This approach has been successfully applied all over the world. More information on it is available at the Appreciative Inquiry Commons (see the link on our blog.) The more you focus on your strengths and what you do well – the more success you have.

Collaboration creates prosperity. Nature fosters collaboration and reciprocity as well as competition. Cooperation can be more powerful than competition because all win. When someone loses we all lose when we live in an interconnected system and world – which we do.

Living from this paradigm of sufficiency involves changing how you look at and approach everything. It transforms your experience in the world from a fearful competition that you can never win, in which you can never do enough, or have enough -- to an experience of abundance. One in which we have enough, do enough, and are in fact – enough.

Remember the old Saturday Night Live skit – looking in the mirror and saying “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and Doggone It – people like me.”

What would our world look like if everyone believed this? How would people treat themselves and each other? Let us know what you think.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Naming the Scarcity Paradigm

A paradigm is a way of looking at things, yourself, or the world which we are often unaware of. Paradigms can remain unconscious or invisible to us – and yet determine how we see things and our actions. One commonly referenced quote on the effect of paradigms from Albert Einstein is “You cannot expect to be able to solve a complex problem using the same manner of thinking that caused the problem.”

Lynne Twist in her book The Soul of Money, outlines two paradigms, the predominant paradigm which she names the Scarcity Paradigm. She says this lie about scarcity is based on what she calls three toxic myths:
1.) There isn’t enough,
2.) More is better, and
3.) That’s just the way it is.
The predominant emotion that results from believing these myths is fear. Here is how they play out.

There isn’t enough. When we fear there isn’t enough, and that someone is going to get left out we try to get as much as we can so we aren’t the one left out. And our fear of not getting enough leads us to keep seeking more, which results in others not having enough.

More is better. If no matter what we have, more is viewed as better then it becomes impossible to have enough. Enough is completely unattainable. The constant pursuit for more and more functions like an addiction.

This is also true with how we view our work. If more is better, and nothing is ever enough – no matter how much we work it is never enough. We mindlessly go from task to task in a race that we can never win or stop.

This myth also places higher value on people with more, and a judgment of inferiority on people that have less. This allows us to blame people who do not fare well in the inequitable distribution of resources for their lack, and feel that they deserve less.

That’s just the way it is. This myth creates feelings of helplessness and hopelessness which lead people to feel resigned to the current situation. And, this myth ignores the fact that things are the way they are -- because people created them this way. Everything, all of our systems, our economic system, currency, the way we measure GNP, all of it was created by people. The reality is that people can change things, but not when they are rendered hopeless and resigned.

The reality is that there is currently more than enough for all. It isn’t currently distributed this way, and there might not be in the future if the current levels of over consumption continue, but there is now.

So what’s the alternative? Viewing the world through a paradigm of Sufficiency, a you-and-me paradigm rather than a you-or-me paradigm. She details the three truths of the Sufficiency paradigm: 1.) Money is like water, 2.) What you appreciate appreciates, and 3.) Collaboration creates prosperity.

Check back for more on sufficiency in the next post.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sitting in Discomfort

Sitting in discomfort was something that one of our recent training participants said she did that preceded a major breakthrough. Often when things feel uncomfortable we try to stop them as soon as we can. This may not be the best strategy. Sometimes you can alleviate the discomfort, or you make it worse trying to alleviate it. A lasting solution is available only after tolerating the discomfort and in fact becoming comfortable in it. Why? Because attempts to stop the discomfort won’t necessarily lead to a breakthrough or AHA moment.

AHA moments can lead to solutions that are far more comprehensive than just stopping the pain. Rolf Smith in The 7 Levels of Change: Diffferent Thinking for Diffferent Results defines “Ordinary” thinking as thinking that is “based on continuity with the past – continuation of an idea or experience or line of reasoning.” He defines “Discontinuous” thinking as not-normal. “Discontinuous thinking occurs when a shift is made to a new direction of thought or work, rather than continuing along the same line.” Discontinuous thinking produces those AHA moments that are so valuable, when suddenly everything looks different and something so brilliant and sometimes so obvious drastically shifts your thinking about how to approach a situation.

Earlier this week I was writing something and I was feeling very stuck. I was trying harder and harder to get unstuck, looking through books and articles for some insight or inspiration, thinking about who to ask for help. And I finally realized that what I was doing was only making things worse, when I remembered this concept of sitting in discomfort. That in fact the breakthrough I wanted would only be available if I sat in the discomfort of not knowing. Remembering this piece of wisdom from our participant immediately helped me shift my thinking and stop trying to force the breakthrough.

As I worked on something else later that day, I discovered another piece of wisdom from a different participant who said “ I learned not to jump so quickly into problem solving.” This was related to our presentation about Polarity ManagementTM. And I realized that had been exactly what I was doing, jumping too quickly into problem solving and thereby making it impossible to have a breakthrough. Accepting the discomfort, trusting that the AHA would come when I wasn’t trying to make it happen, and realizing that problem solving would not help resulted in my having several AHAs. What successes have you realized from sitting in discomfort?