Friday, December 18, 2009

You are the Light of the World

A great piece from Tama of Awakening Artistry

Tama's Musings
(Please note that this is an edited version of an article I first wrote for last year's holiday season. It's slightly different in this form. I couldn't resist sending it out again. I believe it now more than ever!)

You are the Light of the World:
Taking your Pain into Promise

Since it's the holiday season, I wanted to write about "light."

The wisdom tradition of A Course in Miracles teaches us, "I am the light of the world. That is my only function. That is why I am here." When I first read that line part of me stood at attention as though its true name had been called through a fog and cobweb of centuries. The other part of me felt screwed.

At the time, I looked around at my life of half-written manifestos, unused yoga videos, and abrupt tectonic shifts of doubt and fear, and thought humanity could definitely benefit from a more reliable guide. But I have come to see that limitation is spirit calling my name. Limitation puts pins in my sofa and lumps in my pillow so that I do not fall asleep in my life. Limitation calls me to seek for strength, focus, achievement, and liberating powers I did not know I had. And, in the end, limitation gifts me with a one-of-a-kind credential in this world. It's because as I come to experience freedom in the midst of defeated circumstances, I become a hope and light to others.

We, who are questioning our lives and our abilities, are the light of the world. We will be a beacon of comfort, hope and direction to those who need us. We are in the soup, but it is healing broth. We are the ones who are learning to find joy and full expression in the midst of bruised conditions. Every spiritual tradition teaches us that freedom is not being liberated once the job comes through, the check comes in or the skinny jeans fit. Freedom is learning how to be at peace no matter what, no matter when.

Our world is changing. The old ways are falling apart. Some talk about being in a revolutionary evolution of consciousness. We are the ones. We are the ones who are discovering our sacred resources and responses and bringing them to the table. We are the ones who write poems or sing praises to the divine, even as the stock market crumbles. Our dark days and stumbles are our training grounds. We are learning how to recognize a magnitude that is never threatened or taken away. We are discovering the river of faith in the dryness of our desert. We are the ones. We may not get it right every single day or even for weeks on end, but we are the ones.

Your pain is your relentless guru. How do you gain instruction from the sting? How do you resist the urge to curse it, deny it, or lie down in a ball for a thousand years? How do you love yourself? How do you forgive yourself? How do you sit down right now and trust the perfection of where you are? This is the juncture of your freedom. This life is not about just sweeping the kitchen one more time, or sending in a resume. It's about feeding the wild blue bird in your heart on berries not of this world. It's about feeding the wild blue bird so that it flies free no matter what.

I do not wish you pain or suffering. But I know that pain will cause you to seek freedom and freedom will teach you who you are and why you're here. You are the light of the world, and you have love, talent, and healing to offer us. Because of the sand, the oyster yields the pearl. Peacocks grow their signature colorful feathers by eating thorns. "What is to give light, must endure burning," wrote Viktor Frankl, who taught about how he found liberation, through mental focus, in the harshest hours of living in a concentration camp. And Buddhist nun Pema Chodron says, "Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us." You are the light of the world. And it's pain that reminds you, like a ferocious drill sergeant, to abandon your useless definitions of security, and penetrate the limitless grace within you.

We may not have easy lives at this time. But it's not because we're failing, falling, or inadequate. It's because our souls demand healing more than coping, soaring more than just reaching cruising altitude. We are the teachers, healers, visionaries, social entrepreneurs and architects of the coming bright times. We are the sensitive ones, the canary in the mines. We have never truly been fit for this world. That's why we are the ones who will change it.

We will change it with our compassion. We will change it with our twigs of peace. We will change it by sitting in our dark corners until the pain passes and transmutes into new energy that can sustain the rest of our lives-- and we have a new stronghold to offer our brothers and sisters.

We will turn darkness into hope, as humanity has always done. We will prove that pain passes and leaves strong alchemy in its wake. We will run a new mile, inspire new actions, bring clean water to the needy, or paint images of wonder and faith. We will find our unique way to channel inexhaustible strength to hungry conditions. We will bring the new into the world by expanding our minds, communing with our creativity, and opening our boundless hearts. We are in the study halls now. Many of us are getting ready for our certifications.

We are the light of the world. We are the ones who have mercy for others. We are the ones who lend a hand. We are the ones who share a bit of writing, a dance, a reiki session, a vibrant expression filled with courage and forgiveness. We are the ones who question limitation and habits and demonstrate the raw and formidable power of love and alignment with our source. We are the ones who believe there is enough here to work with and we are about the business of working with it. Jesus walked on water. We may be doing something far more electrifying in these times. We are walking in this world.

* * *

In this coming year, and every year, I dream of a world where everyone's talents are cherished, honored, and put to use in the business of uplifting humanity. I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart for all your faith and growth this year. And on a personal note, I am so very grateful for all your love and support. It's your emails, your sharing this work, your coming to workshops, and just knowing you're ‘out there' that keeps me siding with my own strength and light. I am so touched by all of you. I am so grateful that our Awakening Artistry family is growing in every way. I wish all of you a beautiful, holy holiday season filled with grace, authenticity, and love, and the birth of wild, new inspiration.

Love and blessings,


©Copyright 2009 Tama J. Kieves. All rights reserved.

Feel free to forward this copy to anyone you think might enjoy it. Please keep the entire message intact, including contact, logo, and copyright information. Thank you. This message is from Tama's monthly email newsletter

Training on Jan 25 in Phoenix on Using World Cafe and Open Space Technology

Click here for the flyer and registration form for our training on January 25 in Pheonix, AZ on using Open Space Technology and World Cafe.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Digital Story about Wholonomy Consulting

We are grateful to St. Luke's Health Initiatives (SLHI) for their trailblazing work in building healthy and resilient organizations and communities. On December 11, the SLHI Annual Conference is being held in Phoenix. As part of the day, 8 pioneers are being recognized for their work. We are so proud to be included. A digital story was made about the work of the pioneers. Click here
for a link to the 8 videos including the one about Wholonomy Consulting. Thanks to Jon and Sam for bringing these digital stories to life.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Photos from Training on Using World Cafe and Open Space Technology

Here are some photos from a recent training we gave on using World Cafe and Open Space Technology.

Notes from a World Cafe held on Nov 17

Sarah and I facilitated a World Cafe during the November 17, 2009 SLHI Consultants Community of Practice Retreat.

We've put this summary of the questions that were used (some were generated live by the group) and some of the highlights.

World Café held on November 17, 2009 at the Franciscan Renewal Center during the SLHI Sponsored Consultant’s Community of Practice Retreat.

Round 1 Question –

In your experience of building healthy and resilient organizations and communities, What are the essential elements of success?

1. Seeing the client as a hero!
2. Leaders who exhibit gratitude.
3. 3 categories – a. inspiration, vision, mission, b. commitment, c. functional/ action – cross pollinating, support
4. Don’t deny conflict – resolve it
5. Organizational alignment with sensitivity to context
6. Listening for convergance
7. Structure – good teams, work, measurable outcomes

Round 2 Questions

Half the tables discussed Question 1 –
How is the field of strengths based approaches to change and resiliency changing? How can we respond?

Highlights of Discussions:
- Technology is supporting organizations to do more w/less
- Call upon the federal government to integrate strengths based approaches into how resources are distributed
- ABCD is not new, but new sexy, non-partisan. Conversations/interactions now more authentic, curious, spiritual and move toward implementation.
- It is not a field, it is a philosophy. It is becoming more mainstream.

Half the tables discussed Question 2 –
What question if answered, could make the most difference in creating healthy and resilient communities in Arizona?

The Questions the groups came up with included:
- What can we do to get people to come together like our 50’s neighborhoods? (We are in this together)
- How do we define resilience in communities and find the glue to hold the community together based on principles of participation and sustainability?
- How do we adapt to make a difference in creating health and resilient communities?
- How do we motivate people to commit to and benefit from “new communities” i.e. schools, AB community, cyber?
- What Do We Want?

Round 3:

The tables that developed questions in Round 2 – left them for people to discuss in round 3 in half the tables.

Q.How do we adapt to make a difference in creating health and resilient communities?
Report Form:
Highlights: collaboration, innovations, new methods, diversity
Powerful Quotes: If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you’ve already got!
Recommendations: Think outside the box. Be open to Change.

Q.What can we do to get people to come together like our 50’s neighborhoods? (We are in this together)

Caring neighbors, felt safe, you know your neighbors
Poweful Quotes:
I wasn’t old enough to remember the 50’s
Encourage architecture that creates neighborhoods, front porches, parks, walking paths (safe), encourage block parties

Q.How do we motivate people to commit to and benefit from “new communities” i.e. schools, AB community, cyber?
Make it easy, identify gifts to benefit from
Define the community
Volunteers need to be appreciated
Find easy communication vehicles
Powerful Quotes:
Community is different. Could be schools, Art’s organizations, cyber
Take a different view of community, not just physical neighborhood
Identify activities or gifts that the community could benefit from
Make it easy!
Be grateful for all contributions
Develop easy communication vehicles

Q:What Do We Want?
Agreement on the need for ea individual to share values and what they want and why – before moving to identifying the issues and the problem to solve
Powerful Quotes:
What will inspire people to be involved?
Commitment will stem from creating and communication that is inclusive
World Café will be more powerful with a more diverse group with divergent points of view but focused on a common goal.

Q. How do we define resilience in communities and find the glue to hold the community together based on principles of participation and sustainability?
Remove “we” and “they”
Common vision
Foster commitment to vision (various means)
Make it a priority (how?)
Keep the momentum

The other half of the tables discussed the following question:

Q. How can we as a community of practice create an environment that enables each person to contribute our best, inspires us to keep learning and produces valued results?

Sharing, Supporting, Engagement, Outreach – new ppl and being welcoming
Value of giving, collaborate on purpose, for a purpose that serves the larger community – think more about giving than receiving… return, revive, HNK roots
Recognition we (HNK consultants) we’re all in this together
Small HNK community groups to discuss issues, ideas, a “wisdom group” and get connected
Establish a safe environment to share, respect of differences in opinion

Powerful Quotes:
Keep doing what we’re doing, more of it, and continue to evolve.
Utilize the HNK Water cooler, create wisdom circles, creating deeper meaning, makes a difference in our lives
Everyone in the room is equal as far as their input, perspectives, and ideas

Provide opportunities for new ppl to collaboration together.
More nutrients – massages, good food, fellowship, innovative ideas
Provide ongoing learning experiences and activities that lead to the results of creating a safe environment

Widening the Frame

We've been thinking about using a graphic to help talk about how strengths based approaches to change compare to traditional approaches. What do you think about this?

Let me know at or by posting a comment.

Happy Holidays 2009

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season from Cassandra and Sarah.

Dan Pink's Ted Talk on Intrinsic and External Motivation

This is a great explanation of what science knows about the limits of external motivators and the power of intrinsic motivators -- autonomy, mastery, and purpose.


Monday, November 23, 2009

The Fun Theory

Click here to watch this two minute video on the fun theory - called piano stairs.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Beautiful Morning at Agua Caliente Park

We had a great adventure this morning at Agua Caliente Park as part of the Adventures in Sustainable Leadership offered by Jennifer Sellers from Inspired Mastery Here are some photos!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Yesterday I was asked to write a haiku, 5 syllables then 7, then 5. Here's what I came up with.

Accessing inner strengths through
Joy, love, and laughter

Can you guess the topic?

Cassandra at

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Letting Non-Profits Act Like Businesses: One Foundation’s Brave Act of Leadership

Letting Non-Profits Act Like Businesses: One Foundation’s Brave Act of Leadership
Posted by eJP | September 21, 2009 | Category: Opinion | 1 comment

by Dan Pallotta

Last week the Boston Foundation unveiled major changes in its grantmaking strategy and announced that “the most dramatic change is a shift of emphasis to unrestricted operating support.” You’re not hallucinating, and it’s not a typo. As if the emphasis on operating support were not jaw-dropping enough, it’s going to be unrestricted. This is not a narrow experiment. It involves the “majority of the Boston Foundation’s competitive grants.” And this is not a bunch of well-intentioned, innovative MBAs starting a little experimental social venture fund. It’s a major institutional funder with a $700 million endowment that was founded in 1915.

Hallelujah. This is the nonprofit sector equivalent of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I remember when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. I didn’t cheer. I just kept saying over and over “The Red Sox just won the World Series” to convince myself that it was real. It was the same experience yesterday. I’m an optimist, but even I am so used to the hyper-incrementalism that defines the sector that I found myself in a state of disbelief.

The Foundation went ever further. They will start making larger grants, they are removing term limits so grants can be made over five years or longer, and they are removing deadlines so nonprofits can operate on their own timelines. The White House could learn a thing or two about hope and change from these people.

The announcement is striking and material on several levels.

First, it is an important voice making a declaration that real change will come from strengthening the capacity of good organizations; that as good as it may feel to fund programs, the greatest good can be achieved by funding organizations. Our mantra on poverty for decades has been, “instead of giving a man a fish, give him a fishing rod and teach him to fish.” But the institutional funding approach with nonprofits has been to deny fishing rods and hand out fish for a year or two and then tell the organizations to go find some new fish somewhere else. The Boston Foundation has said in no uncertain terms that it is in the fishing rod business.

Second, in a culture where a misinformed donating public has a prejudice against “overhead,” it recognizes the unique responsibility that institutional funders who know better have to act on their better knowledge.

Third, in a relationship where for years nonprofit organizations have been saying that what they need most is general operating support, it demonstrates respect, listening, empathy, understanding, and real commitment to their success.

Fourth, in a sector desperate for encouragement it demonstrates the ability of boldness and daring to excite and inspire, and it demonstrates the value of excitement and inspiration themselves. This is a new day, and the dawn of a new day moves people.

Fifth, it shows that the oldest institutions can rise up and surprise us. That disrupts the syndrome of predictability that so suffocates our sense of possibility.

Sixth, it is a demonstration of trust.

Last and most important, it is a demonstration of brave leadership. It challenges all major players to follow suit – not only to rewrite funding strategies, but to be bold, to lead, and to surprise. Today let us salute the Boston Foundation. They have just changed the world.

Dan Pallotta is a leading expert on innovation in the nonprofit sector and a pioneering social entrepreneur. He is the founder of Pallotta TeamWorks, which invented the multiday AIDSRides and Breast Cancer 3-Days. He is the author of Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential.

Reprinted, with permission, from Harvard Business Publishing.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Activating Positivity

This is an excerpt from Christina Merkley's latest newsletter. She is responding to a question about how to activate positivity at the beginning of the day.

"As for a script in the morning … Louise Hay has a lovely affirmation in the back of her famous little book called Heal Your Body (the mental causes for physical illness and the metaphysical way to overcome them). I read this script upon waking for years –starting back when I first launched my own business in San Francisco. She calls it ‘Loving Treatment’.

“DEEP AT THE CENTER OF MY BEING, there is an infinite well of love. I now allow this love to flow to the surface. It fills my heart, my body, my mind, my consciousness, my very being, and radiates out from me in all directions and returns to me multiplied. The more love I use and give, the more I have to give, the supply is endless. The use of love makes ME FEEL GOOD, it is an expression of my inner joy. I love myself, therefore I take loving care of my body. I lovingly feed it nourishing foods and beverages, I lovingly groom it and dress it, and my body lovingly responds to me with vibrant health and energy. I love myself; therefore, I provide for myself a comfortable home, one that fills all my needs and is a pleasure to be in. I fill the rooms with the vibration of love so that all who enter, myself included, will feel this love and be nourished by it.”

I love myself; therefore, I work at a job that I truly enjoy doing, one that uses my creative talents and abilities, working with and for people that I love and that love me, and earning a good income. I love myself; therefore, I behave and think in a loving way to all people, for I know that that which I give out returns to me multiplied. I only attract loving people in my world, for they are a mirror of what I am. I love myself; therefore, I forgive and totally release the past and all past experiences and I am free. I love myself, therefore, I live totally in the now, experiencing each moment as good and knowing that my future is bright and joyous and secure, for I am a beloved child of the universe and the universe lovingly takes care of me now and forever more. And, so it is.” -Louise Hay

Christina Merkley, "The SHIFT-IT Coach" and creator of the SHIFT-IT System®, is a Visioning and Strategic Planning Expert specializing in Visual Thinking and Law of Attraction techniques. Based in charming Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, she works deeply with individuals, partners and spiritual-based businesses to create what you really want. And, trains other helping professionals in the visual way of working. For more information visit:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Training in Tucson October 9 on Facilitating with Open Space Technology and World Cafe

Facilitating Whole System Methods:The World Café and Open Space Technology

When? October 9, 2009, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Where? The University of Arizona, Tucson AZ

This training is designed for consultants, facilitators, and anyone interested in learning about facilitating whole system methods.

Topics Covered:

• The common principles of Whole System Methods
• How Whole System Methods align with recent research on how the brain works and strengths based approaches to change
• The benefits of using Whole System Methods such as The World Café and Open Space Technology
• How you can use Whole System Methods for both strategic and action planning
• How to craft invitational and appreciative questions

Participants will have opportunities for hands-on practice in: facilitating, writing strengths based questions, developing agendas, selecting methods, and more.

Faculty: Sarah Griffiths and Cassandra O’Neill, Wholonomy Consulting llc

Sarah and Cassandra have facilitated using these methods and conducted trainings with a wide variety of organizations, including staff and volunteers from the United Way of Southern Arizona, Arizona Early Education Funded Regional Partnerships, First Focus on Kids, Girls Inc. of Southern Arizona, Pinal Gila Community Child Services, Inc, and grantees and staff from several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) funded programs.

What participants have told us about their experiences learning these methods:

“A highlight for me was learning new skills and techniques from everyone in the training including the processes of Open Space and World Café in theory and practice.”

“ Participating in the Open Space Process was a highlight for me, and seeing the beauty of a flexible process within a structured process.”

“I feel newly inspired around positive meeting processes! I have the tools for better planning that will lead to broader and creative thinking (and the scientific links to the why!)”

Registration Form

Name ________________________________________________________________

Organization ___________________________________________________________

Address ___________________________________

City/State/Zip ______________

Phone ________________________

Email ________________________________

WHEN: Friday October 9, 2009 from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm – Registration at 8:30 am

WHERE: The training will be held at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ in the El Portal, Saguaro Room 510 N. Highland
(link to campus map:

Pay parking available at the 6th Street Garage (west of El Portal and “Highland Commons” Buildings)

TUITION: $99 – Early Bird Registration by September 21, 2009 – The price is $129 if registration is after September 21. The cost of registration does not include lunch.

Please make check payable to and send with registration form to:
Wholonomy Consulting LLC
PO Box 42035
Tucson, AZ 85733
Registrations may be faxed to: (520) 844-3251

More about Whole System Methods:
Open Space Technology - This method is an alternative to traditional meeting and conference formats which encourages creativity, generates enthusiasm, and produces extraordinary results. People self-organize to discuss what is most important to them and generate action towards the results they want. For more information go to:

World Café - This method is based upon the discovery that by combining a welcoming space and physical environment that resembles a café with questions that matter -- you promote authentic conversations among people which propel organizations forward. Questions are posed to groups for discussion with participants moving from table to table while a host stays behind to cross pollinate discussions. For more information about the World Café go to:

There are a limited number of partial scholarships available.

Questions please contact:
Cassandra O’Neill (520) 403-0687

Monday, August 24, 2009

Daily Practice of Purifying Mistakes

In Thubten Chodron's book Working with Anger, there is a section on Anger at Ourselves. In this section, there is a description of a 4 step process that can be used daily to purify mistakes. The full description is on pages 130-131, here is a summary.

The first step - review our actions and genuinely regret those that harmed others or ourselves.

She talks about regret being different from guilt. Regret arises from accurately assessing our actions, while guilt is a form of self-hatred. This is a very important distinction.

The second step - Regret leads us to determine not to act destructively again. You can set a reasonable period of time to be mindful and not engage in those (harmful) actions.

The third step - Make amends to those whom we have harmed or towards whom we have had negative attitudes or feelings. In the case of other sentient beings, we develop love, compassion, and the altruistic intention to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all. This counteracts the force of our previous negative intentions.

The best way of making amends is through transforming our attitude, letting go of any hostility or other destructive emotion we may still harbor towards another person. If the person wants to receive help or communication from us, we can apologize and compensate for any physical damage.

The fourth step - Walk the Talk. Remedial action can be taken, suggestions of community service, volunteer work, service work, meditation, or religious practice such as bowing, reciting prayers and mantras, and meditating are suggestions.

This practice can help us avoid "stockpiling" negative feelings and lays the foundation for a happy mind.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

5 stages of healing

If you are interested in learning more about the 5 stages of healing in NIA dance - embryonic, creeping, crawling, standing, and walking.... check out this blog post and video. Thanks to Holly for sharing this.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cultural Humility

Last week I co-facilitated a session on Cultural Competency with Raquel Gutierrez for the SLHI HNK Consultants Community of Practice. I’ve been thinking about the issue a lot for the last few weeks between preparing for the session, being greeted with enthusiasm and interest from our colleagues during the session, and reflecting after the session.

We invited the community to use the blog to write about the issues that came up during the session. I decided to start it off.

One of the ideas that people really liked was the concept of cultural humility. This is written about on the Partnerships For Older Adults Web Page. They talk about the distinction between cultural competency and cultural humility. Here is what they have to say about cultural humility in community partnerships.
“Cultural Humility in Community Partnerships

Consider this example of cultural humility in action: at a partnership meeting, a member might see an older African-American man walk in. She might identify and try to understand the older gentleman from a racial or cultural perspective. However, this man might think of himself as a retired teacher, a deacon in his church or another kind of community leader, or as a caregiver to an ailing sister or troubled grandchild. By approaching every person with cultural humility, the partnership member will be better able to understand how this man feels about different aspects of the partnership, and where his feelings, opinions and concerns come from.

This approach (Cultural Humility) eliminates the need for every person in the partnership to master knowledge of group values and beliefs for every racial, ethnic and cultural component of the community. It calls for an attitude of openness to receiving new information and new perspectives on a regular basis.

A partnership leader observing this situation might practice an attitude of openness by:
• including time in the partnership meeting for all participants to share how their personal experiences and values are relevant to the issues at hand;
• seeking opportunities to speak one-to-one with the elder African-American community leader about his goals and concerns in remaining active in the partnership;
• building a working collaboration with professionals of color in the partnership in thinking of ways to maximize the participation of all elders who come to meetings; and
• taking a minute to notice her own response to the older gentleman mentioned above, exploring the actual information he has as the basis for his feelings.

An attitude of openness is demonstrated by the internal process an individual is willing to go through, how this is expressed to others, and careful attention to the organization and content of partnership events.”
If you want to read more click on the following link.

This concept of cultural humility spurred some great discussions in our Community of Practice, about how cultural humility could be useful in all situations -- not just when we think we are going to be interacting with someone or a group that is “different” from us.

I often use a set of Zen cards by Daniel Levin with groups. The Humility Card has this wisdom – The way of the earth is to empty that which is full. And fill that which is empty. True humility brings great fortune.

When I first read this, I wasn’t quite sure what it meant. As time went on, I began to think that the message from this card was to be open. To approach people from a position of openness allows learning to take place.

This reminds me of the concept of the beginners mind. If we bring a beginners mind to our work, we are open to learning. What if the best results are only possible if we as consultants collaborate with our clients -- by joining our knowledge with theirs through cultural humility. Would this then transcend from cultural humility to a culture of humility?

In the new book Embracing Cultural Competency A Roadmap for Nonprofit Capacity Builders recently published by the Alliance for Nonprofit Management and Fieldstone Alliance, there is a story about an Asian American woman who brought a different interpretation of leadership to her work. At first her leadership was not understood and was judged to be “poor” leadership. When she articulated the value of her leadership to her boss and employees – people began to understand things differently. One of her leadership strengths was humility. What do you think?

Cassandra at

Friday, July 31, 2009

Spiritual "Conspiracy"

Thanks to Tracey McConnell for passing this along.

The word conspiracy (con + spire) actually means to breathe together. The poetic essay below is an inspiring reminder that we are being deliciously enveloped by a growing spiritual conspiracy. Increasing numbers around the globe are breathing together. As old structures crumble around us, we are conspiring to breath new life and a new way of living into our world. We know that no matter how crazy things may look on the surface, the universe is conspiring to shower us with blessings. Enjoy the rich flow of conscious conspiracy as you breathe in the soul-touching words below.

Breathing together with you,


On the surface of our world right now
There is war, violence, and craziness
And things may seem dark.

But calmly and quietly
At the same time
Something is happening underground.

An inner revolution is taking place
And certain individuals
Are being called to a higher light.

It is a silent revolution
From the inside out
From the ground up.

This is a global co-operation
That has sleeper cells in every nation.
It is a planetary Spiritual Conspiracy.

You won't likely see us on T.V.
You won't read about us in the newspaper.
You won't hear from us on the radio.

We don't seek glory.
We don't wear any uniform.
We come in all shapes and sizes, colors and styles.

We are in every country and culture of the world
In cities big and small, mountains and valleys
In farms and villages, tribes and remote islands.

Most of us work anonymously
Seeking not recognition of name
But profound transformation of life.

Working quietly behind the scenes
You could pass by one of us on the street
And not even notice.

We go undercover
Not concerned for who takes the final credit
But simply that the work gets done.

Many of us may seem to have normal jobs.
But behind the external storefront
Is where the deeper work takes a place.

With the individual and collective power
Of our minds and hearts
We spread passion, knowledge, and joy to all.

Some call us the Conscious Army
As together
We co-create a new world.

Our orders come from the Spiritual Intelligence Agency
Instructing us to drop soft, secret love bombs
when no one is looking.

Poems ~ Hugs ~ Music ~ Photography ~ Smiles ~ Kind words
Movies ~ Meditation and prayer ~ Dance ~ Websites
Social activism ~ Blogs ~ Random acts of kindness…

We each express ourselves
In our own unique ways
With our own unique gifts and talents.

"Be the change you want to see in the world"
That is the motto that fills our hearts.
We know this is the path to profound transformation.

We know that quietly and humbly
Individually and collectively
We have the power of all the oceans combined.

At first glance our work is not even visible.
It is slow and meticulous
Like the formation of mountains.

And yet with our combined efforts
Entire tectonic plates
Are being shaped and moved for centuries to come.

Love is the religion we come to share
And you don't need to be highly educated
Or have exceptional knowledge to understand it.

Love arises from the intelligence of the heart
Embedded in the timeless evolutionary pulse
Of all living beings.

Be the change you want to see in the world.
Nobody else can do it for you.
Yet don't forget, we are all here supporting you.

We are now recruiting.
Perhaps you will join us
Or already have.

For in this spiritual conspiracy
All are welcome, and all are loved.
The door is always open.

~ Author Appropriately Unknown

Cassandra at

Monday, July 27, 2009

Butterfly Wisdom

In Steven Farmer's animal card deck called power animal oracle cards, the Butterfly Card says Get Ready For A Big Breakthrough. The wisdom from the Butterly includes...

It is quite possible to go through major changes Calmly and Willingly when you view them as natural and hold relentless positive expectations.


Cassandra at

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Strengths Based Approaches to Going Green

My friend Gina Murphy Darling hosts a weekly radio show called Mrs. Green Goes Mainstream. Her show is always inspiring and informational. She offers listeners a chance to celebrate what they can do to increase their level of green.

One of the things I love about her message, is that it is strengths based. Traditional approaches based on an innaccurate understanding of the brain - are often focused on making people feel bad and guilty about their daily habits and fearful about the future. Recent findings on the brain show that this is not the most effective strategy for inspiring positive change. George Lakoff and The Frameworks Institute share research about why facts and figures do not result in positive attitude or behavior change. In summary, there is no frame for them in our brains, and so this type of information goes in and right out of the brain. They also write about what is effective so if you are interested you can read Lakoff's work - I'd recommend starting with Don't Think of An Elephant or go to the Frameworks Institute Website.

There is a much deeper understanding now that neither anger nor fear is the best way to motivate people toward positive action. There are chemicals released in our bodies when we feel angry or afraid that interfere with our higher level thinking, our creativity, and our ability to see the big picture and connect our behavior to it. In fact, some of these chemicals can stay in the body for up to 48 hours. As this new understanding continues to grow, I look forward to more organizations adopting a brain friendly approach to their work, and I celebrate those that are doing it.

On July 18, Mrs. Green will be interviewing Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff, Founder and CEO of Check out the Ecostiletto website, it is fabulous. Here is a quote straight from the website - "We're not about guilt, we're about information. We're not about forcing you to change, we're about giving you alternatives. Because everyone wants to make a difference, but no one wants to give up the little things that we love. Making a difference doesn't have to mean making a huge change in your lifestyle. Sometimes it just means considering the alternatives."

This is a brain friendly approach to helping people act on their passions and interests. It is so refreshing. And it totally aligns with building resiliency and strengths based approaches to change in all areas of our lives. For more information on Ecostiletto click here, and for more information on Mrs. Green Goes Mainstream click here. Thanks Gina!

Cassandra at

Friday, June 5, 2009


I'm reading the book Positivity by Barbara Frederickson. It is incredibly good. I've done some graphics of some of the key points. Here are photos of them.

Cassandra at

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Seven Sacred Pauses

In Seven Sacred Pauses by Macrina Wiederkehr the seventh is night time and she calls it the great silence. She's given some questions you can ask yourself at this time about your day. I thought these were beautiful and am passing them on. I modified a couple.

Have I been a good memory in anyone's life today?
Have the ears of my heart opened to the voice of the Universe?
Have the ears of my hear opened to my sisters and brothers?
Have the eyes of my heart beheld the Divine face in all created things?
What do I know, but live as though I do not know?
How have I affected the quality of this day?
Have I been blind or deaf to the blessings of the day?
Is there anyone, including myself, whom I need to forgive?
When did I experience my heart opening wide today?
Have I worked with joy or drudgery?
Have I waited with grace or with impatience?
What is the one thing in my life that is standing on tiptoe crying, "May I have your attention please?" What needs my attention?

Cassandra at

The Element

I'm reading The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything - by Ken Robinson, PhD. I've done a couple of graphics to capture the key ideas I've read so far. I'm thinking this could be a graphic version of Cliff Notes. Enjoy.

Cassandra at

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Training in Phoenix on June 22, 2009

Interested in facilitating using Whole System Methods like The World Café and Open Space Technology? We are offering a training in Phoenix.

When? June 22, 2009 8:30 am – 3:30 pm
Where? in Phoenix, Arizona

This training is designed for consultants, facilitators, and anyone interested in learning about facilitating whole system methods.

Topics Covered
• The common principles of Whole System Methods
• How Whole System Methods align with recent research on how the brain works and strengths based approaches to change
• The benefits of using Whole System Methods such as The World Café and Open Space Technology
• How you can use Whole System Methods for both strategic and action planning
• How to craft invitational and appreciative questions

Participants will have opportunities for hands-on practice in: facilitating, writing strengths based questions, developing agendas, selecting methods, and more.

Faculty: Sarah Griffiths and Cassandra O’Neill, Wholonomy Consulting llc

Sarah and Cassandra have facilitated using these methods and conducted trainings with a wide variety of organizations including staff and volunteers from the United Way of Southern Arizona, Arizona Early Education Funded Regional Partnerships, First Focus on Kids, Girls Inc. of Southern Arizona, Pinal Gila Community Child Services, Inc, and grantees and staff from several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) funded programs.

What participants have told us about their experiences learning about these methods:
• “I’ve learned that you get what you ask for, if you want positive you need to ask for positive.”
• “I see that you can structure meetings to produce one of two outcomes, either drain the energy from the group or create increased energy.”
• “Learning to ask powerful and transformative questions can dramatically alter what happens in meetings.”

Registration Form
Name ____________________________________________


Address ___________ _City/State/Zip ______________

Phone __________Email____________________

WHEN: Monday June 22, 2009 from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm – Registration at 8:00 am

WHERE: The training will be held in Phoenix, AZ at the office located at 4747 North 22nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85016

TUITION: $99 – Early Bird Registration by June 5, 2009 – The price is $129 if registration is after June 5. The cost of registration does not include lunch.

Please make check payable to and send with registration form to:
Wholonomy Consulting LLC
PO Box 42035
Tucson, AZ 85733
Registrations may be faxed to: (520) 844-3251

More about Whole System Methods:

Open Space Technology - This method is an alternative to traditional meeting and conference formats which encourages creativity, generates enthusiasm, and produces extraordinary results. People self-organize to discuss what is most important to them and generate action towards the results they want. For more information go to:

World Café - This method is based upon the discovery that by combining a welcoming space and physical environment that resembles a café with questions that matter -- you promote authentic conversations among people which propel organizations forward. Questions are posed to groups for discussion with participants moving from table to table while a host stays behind to cross pollinate discussions. For more information about the World Café go to:
There are a limited number of partial scholarships available.

Questions please contact:
Cassandra O’Neill (520) 403-0687

Monday, May 18, 2009

When You Know What You Want Your House To Look Like - Start Building!

We love using Whole System Methods. We are in a learning community of consultants that focuses on how to use these methods well. Part of this includes talking to other people and potential clients who don't know what Whole Systems Methods are. What are they? We have a definition, we have descriptions of methods, etc. Sometimes when we hear how other people are using them, or talk to people who have had less than positive experiences with them, we wonder about using different descriptors. We love Appreciative Inquiry, to me it is like eating ice cream. It is always great. Other people don't always feel that way. We sometimes use the metaphor of designing a home, when talking to people about this method.

The first phase is Discovery. In this phase we look at our existing home and think about what features we really like—features that we’d like to include in the plans for our new home. In the second phase Dream — we start to dream about our ideal home. What would it look like? How many bedrooms would it have? We begin to visualize our dream. In the third phase Design - we have a vision of what we want our home to look like, but we need help to start building it. We bring in an architect to help us design and create a plan. In the fourth phase Destiny, we have our overall plan, and we bring in teams to develop plans for their specific area of work—we have roofers and plumbers and electricians—teams that have individual plans but whose work is a part of the grand, architectural design of our dream home.

One of the things we love about using Appreciative Inquiry and other Whole System Methods, is that you can get things done very quickly that normally take a long time. Harrison Owen has described this as high performance.

In our learning community, we were talking about how sometimes consultants or participants like to stay in the early phases for unnecessarily long periods of time. Maybe because it's enjoyable. I just heard about a group that spent two years in Discovery. We all had a good laugh about that. They certainly discovered a lot! However, because they didn't move on - the inquiry didn't result in any changes or action. When this happens, it can lead to people to think that they don't like the method or that it doesn't work. When really, it is just the way it was used. We know from using it in strategic planning that you can get to action planning quickly, and that this excites the participants! Once you know what you want your house to look like - start building!

Cassandra at

There is Always Something to Celebrate

I recently went to a celebration of the University of Arizona's Learning Center. They handed out this quote on Celebration and I'm passing it along.

"Celebrating the wrong thing, or not celebrating at all, presents a serious loss, for celebration is, and should be, an occasion to participate in one’s own history and contemplate one’s future. It is a time for telling the story, honoring the heroes, renewing the spirit. For old-timers the time can be sweet, a remembrance of prior accomplishment and an opportunity to share dreams for the future. For the newcomers, such a celebration offers the chance to participate in the history—not just knowing the facts, but actually feeling the impact, if only vicariously. It may also be the time in which their dreams may be woven into the unrolling fabric of the organizational life."

Wave Rider: Leadership for High Performance in a Self-Organizing World, pp.193-194
Harrison Owen

Cassandra at

SMART Goals Made Fun

No kidding! We had a group break into 5 teams and each one drew an image to represent one of the concepts, i.e. Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Driven. Here are the photos, can you guess which picture goes with which concept?

Cassandra O'Neill at

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Video on Validation

This is a funny video which is about 15 minutes.

Let me know what you think.

Cassandra at

Monday, April 13, 2009

Great Quote on The Key to The Universe

I drank an Honest Tea yesterday and here was the quote on the cap.

The bad news: there is no key to the universe. The good news: it was never locked. Swami Beyondananda

Thought I'd pass it on...

Cassandra at

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Art of a Powerful Question

I have been reading and thinking about powerful questions. What makes a question powerful? When we ask a powerful question, it can be transformational. Much about coaching and facilitating is about asking powerful questions. Attached is a link to a great article about asking powerful questions. One of my favorite parts is the following quote from Marilee Goldberg's book The Art of the Question, " A paradigm shift occurs when a question is asked inside the current paradigm that can only be answered from outside it." This kind of question can lead to transformational learning. What does it feel like to ask or be asked this type of a question? What kind of response might this type of question get compared to a comment or observation? What do you think?

Cassandra at

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Power of a Dream

Lately, I have been exploring the power of the dream phase in Appreciative Inquiry. It is really an amazing thing. It is a very different experience to work with a group to create a collective dream, and to work with individuals to create a personal dream. Both lead to incredible things.

I met a photographer this past weekend who printed his dream on labels that he put on the back of his photos. I loved his photos and his dream. Here is his dream...

As far back as I can remember, I have always looked upon the world with childlike wonder. Each morning as I head out into this awesome space we live in, I am amazed with the exciting things that I find. Through my photography I can share with you the everyday beauty, as well as the overlooked treasures that surround us all. Though the world can seem dark at times, it is my dream that everyone can learn to stop for a moment each day to see and appreciate the beauty that is always there. I thank you for purchasing this photograph, and sharing in my vision.

What is your dream?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Adaptive Change Webinar

Free webinar on adaptive change is based on a recent article by Dr. Carol Mase, published in Shift Magazine called The Adaptive Organization. It can be downloaded at

Dr. Carol Mase has an extensive education in medical and social sciences and has worked as an entrepreneur, global marketing executive, and organizational coach-consultant. She brings the "new sciences" of complexity, neuroscience, and systems thinking to organizations and leadership.

Free interactive webinar to introduce the adaptive change model are offered in April.

Tuesday April 14, 2009 4-5 pm EDT / 1-2 pm PT

Thursday April 23, 2009 12-1 pm EDT / 9-10 am PT

Tuesday April 28, 2009 4-5 pm EDT / 1-2 pm PT

Register by email at subject=Free WebinarRegistration specifying the day you would like to attend.

She says...

We are entering an unprecedented time of change and opportunity. It is a time of great uncertainty and challenge; the new language of business describes our situation as complex and chaordic and new ways of thinking emerge as old mental models from the industrial era fail and add to, rather than improve, the problems we face. As recently stated by Sumeet Banerji, CEO of Booze and Company, "Industry structure is fundamentally [being] reshaped by [today's] discontinuity." A level of discontinuity that challenges even the most sophisticated manager and leader, not to mention their organizations.

"Change agents continue to struggle with outmoded models, tools, and techniques - ones that were sufficient in slower and simpler times, but that are counterproductive when complex adaptation is the only viable survival strategy." - Edwin Olson and Glenda Eoyang, in Facilitating Organizational Change

Taking advantage of this moment in history provides coaches and consultants with the opportunity to move beyond our outdated tools, designed in the era of linear, mechanistic organizational structures. We have the chance today to design new dynamic tools that engage organizations, managers, and leaders in a new conversation - one that allows them to create a new paradigm for business.

"As long as human beings have inhabited the Planet Earth, we have existed in a self-organizing world. Quite probably the majority are simply unconscious of this fact, and their adjustment to the forces of self-organization are equally unconscious. Others are unwilling Wave Riders, who take deep umbrage at the uncontrollable forces at play, seeking their defeat and claiming to be in charge. ... There have also been more than a few who truly understood the situation, if only intuitively, and learned to ride the waves to their benefit and to the benefit of their fellow human beings." - Harrison Owen, Wave Rider

If this speaks to you, please join in the conversation. If you know of someone who might be interested in this conversation, please pass on the invitation. The format is to first introduce a concept, the Conceptual Phase, as a free one-hour webinar from the worldview of self-organizing systems. For those who are interested, a second Application Phase, Tools for New Times (TNT), is offered as 3-5 week webinar. Finally, an Amplification Phase exists as an on-line creative design group, Organizational Change Agents, generating and testing new tools.

We begin with a biomimetic model of change, because change is what we are obviously facing at this point in history. The adaptive model offers you a new way of thinking about and resolving the organizational and individual strain and tensions that emerge when complex systems interact with, and in, a volatile global environment. Integrating systems thinking, organizational theory, and the new sciences this model gives you a tool designed to provide the change agents you coach with a road map for traversing this new landscape.

Find Dr. Mase's blog at

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Building Resiliency Through Acceptance

Radical Acceptance is a book by Tara Brach. In this book, she talks about how we can explore accepting things that we are resisting as a pathway to less suffering. She talks about suffering being a result of resistance and not the events that happen.

Someone told me recently that there is a saying that pain is unavoidable, but suffering is not. That resonated with me. Feeling pain, sadness, and grief about loss is a natural and healthy part of life. However, suffering is optional.

When we resist what is - we are putting energy into something with little return. In Keegan and Lahey's newest book The Immunity to Change, they talk about the result when we put energy into commitments to change and also competing commitments not to change. They give the example of putting one foot on the gas pedal and the other on the brake pedal. A lot of energy is being expended, but no movement is happening.

Every day we hear about budget cuts and layoffs. We hear about service cuts at the same time as increases in demand for services. How can we accept this? Not that we are saying this a good thing or we approve of it. But how can we be with it in a way that doesn't create suffering? It is challenging. If we can feel the sadness and at the same time feel the hope of what is possible - we can free up energy from resisting -- and direct it toward something more productive.

This does release energy and build resiliency. Sometimes at the raw moment of grief and loss we can only experience one side of this paradox, the what is now. This is natural. Eventually however if we can feel both sides - we feel lighter. Parker Palmer calls this paradox the tragic gap. There are several videos of him talking about it on you tube. Click here for one.

Cassandra at

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Building Resiliency with Blessings

I recently bought the book To Bless the Space Between Us by John O'Donohue. This book contains dozens of blessings for all different situations, occasions, and transitions. I've been carrying it around with me and at meetings or on the phone - picking one to read. He talks about blessings as being lost, they were once a part of daily life. It is amazing how powerful it is to focus on a blessing, it connects us to energy and our resources. Here is one for broken trust.

For Broken Trust
Sometimes there is an invisible raven
That will fly low to pierce the shell of trust
When it has been brought near to ground.

When he strikes, he breaks the faith of years
That had built quietly through the seasons
In the rythm of tried and tested experience.

With one strike, the shelter is down
And the black yoke of truth turned false
Would poison the garden of memory.

Now the heart's dream turns to requiem,
Offering itself a poultice of tears
To cleanse from loss what cannot be lost.

Through all the raw and awkward days,
Dignity will hold the heart to grace
Lest it squander its dream on a ghost.

Often torn ground is ideal for seed
That can root disappointment deep enough
To yield a harvest that cannot wither:

A deeper light to anoint the eyes,
Passion that opens wings in the heart,
A subtle radiance of countenance:
The soul ready for its true other.

Cassandra at

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Increasing Energy with Appreciative Questions

I love Appreciative Interviews. I use them with groups and individuals. You can craft Appreciative Questions on any topic or use the same ones over and over. We created an Appreciative Inquiry Guide on Lasting Change. We've used this more than any other one because isn't that what we all want? To create positive lasting change!

I feel that you can never do too many Appreciative Interviews. It makes me laugh when people say - oh we've done that already. Just because you've done an Appreciative Interview once doesn't mean there isn't value to doing one again. In fact, I think that if you did one once per week, that would be a great way to stay focused on what gives you energy and increase your energy.

I'm currently taking a teleclass with Sara Orem on Appreciative Coaching. As part of the class, we paired up with someone in the class and interviewed each other using the following questions. There are many different versions of Appreciative Questions and Appreciative Coaching Questions. I really like these. I did them at the end of the day Friday and it was such a great way to end the work week.

Question 1. What experiences am I proud of?

Question 2. How do these experiences highlight my strengths and talents?

Question 3. How could I leverage these strengths and talents to address current issues and future dreams?

Question 4. What actions can I begin experimenting with (to assure that my imagined state IS my future state)?

Suggestion: Ask someone to pair up with you so you can interview each other. See how much energy you feel. You can do this every week and talk about something different every time.

Hope you enjoy this. Cassandra at

Sunday, March 15, 2009

In Praise of the Earth

The following is a blessing from John O'Donahue's book of blessings called To Bless the Space Between Us.

In Praise of the Earth

Let us bless
The imagination of the Earth.
That knew early the patience
To harness the mind of time,
Waited for the seas to warm,
Ready to welcome the emergence
Of things dreaming of voyaging
Among the stillness of land.

And how light knew to nurse
The growth until the face of the Earth
Brightened beneath a vision of color.

When the ages of ice came
And sealed the Earth inside
An endless coma of cold,
The heart of the Earth held hope,
Storing fragments of memory,
Ready for the return of the sun.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And holds our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Let us salute the silence
And certainty of mountains:
Their sublime stillness,
Their dream-filled hearts.

The wonder of a garden
Trusting the first warmth of spring
Until its black infinity of cells
Becomes charged with dream;
Then the silent, slow nurture
Of the seed's self, coaxing it
To trust the act of death.

The humility of the Earth
That transfigures all
That has fallen
Of outlived growth.

The kindness of the Earth,
Opening to receive
Our worn forms
Into the final stillness.

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

Hope you enjoyed this. Cassandra at

Facilitation Graphics Training

I attended a Facilitation Graphics training this past week in Phoenix. It was a great experience. I had taken my first training in May of 07. This training was a great experience for new learning, to refresh and practice my prior knowledge, and to learn with people who lived in Arizona that I could see again and maybe practice or work with. I used what I learned immediately when facilitating. I have posted a photo of what I created to capture the participant's expectations for the day. I've put in a link to future ICA graphic facilitation trainings.

Cassandra at

The Cost of Overemphasizing Measurement and Achievement

The Gifted Leaders March 2009 e-Newsletter by Jeff Thoren, DVM, ACC focuses on the unintended negative consequences of focusing too much on goals, measurable outcomes, and achievement. This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately and loved this so much, I am passing it forward. Thanks Jeff.

Many educational and business environments emphasize the importance of performance, results, achievement, and success. All good things, right? But is it possible that when we focus so much on how well we're doing that we lose intrinsic interest in what we're doing?

Common sense suggests we should figure out what our goals are, then check in periodically to see how successful we have been at meeting them. Assessment thus would be an unobtrusive servant of our achievement. In education, assessment is employed in an attempt to motivate students (with grades used as carrots and sticks to coerce them into working harder) or, as with standardized testing, to sort students (the point being not to help everyone learn but to figure out who is better than whom).

If we are truly interested in collecting information that will enhance the quality of learning, then traditional report cards and standardized testing are destined to disappoint us. Grades by their very nature undermine learning. Too many students have been led to believe that getting A's, not learning, is the point of going to school. And standardized tests are associated with a whole host of consequences.

And as business leaders, we must also ask, "what price are we paying for our love affair with measuring results in the workplace?"

Here's this month's feature ...

The Costs of Overemphasizing Achievement
By Alfie Kohn

School Administrator - November 1999

Highlights from the article:

There is a fundamental distinction between focusing on how well you're doing something and focusing on what you're doing. The two orientations aren't mutually exclusive, of course, but in practice they feel different and lead to different behaviors.

Consider a school or a business that constantly emphasizes the importance of performance! Results! Achievement! Success! A student or employee who has absorbed that message may find it difficult to get swept away with the process of creating or innovating (i.e. learning). He may be so concerned about the results that he's not all that engaged in the activity that produces those results.

Kohn presents five disturbing consequences that are likely to accompany the obsession with standards and achievement in an academic setting. If you are a manager or business owner who focuses a lot on setting goals and measuring results, where do you see these showing up in your workplace?

Students come to regard learning as a chore. When kids are encouraged constantly to think about how well they're doing in school, the first casualty is their attitude toward learning. As motivation to get good grades goes up, motivation to explore ideas tends to go down. Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation tend to be inversely related: the more people are rewarded for doing something, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward.

Students try to avoid challenging tasks. If the point is to succeed rather than to stretch one's thinking or discover new ideas, then it is completely logical for a student to want to do whatever is easiest. That, after all, will maximize the probability of success - or at least minimize the probability of failure. It's convenient for us to assume that kids who cut corners are just being lazy because then it's the kids who have to be fixed. But perhaps they're just being rational. They have adapted to an environment where results, not intellectual exploration, are what count.

Students tend to think less deeply. The goal of some students is to acquire new skills, to find out about the world, to understand what they're doing. When they pick up a book, they're thinking about what they're reading, not about how well they're reading it. Paradoxically, these students who have put success out of their minds are likely to be successful. By contrast, students who have been led to focus on producing the right answer or scoring well on a test tend to think more superficially. One study after another shows that creativity and even long-term recall of facts are adversely affected by the use of traditional grades.

Students may fall apart when they fail. No one succeeds all the time, and no one can learn very effectively without making mistakes and bumping up against his or her limits. It's important, therefore, to encourage a healthy and resilient attitude toward failure. As a rule, that is exactly what students tend to have if their main goal is to learn: when they do something incorrectly, they see the result as useful information. They figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. Not so for the kids who believe (often because they have been explicitly told) that the point is to succeed - or even to do better than everyone else. When the point isn't to figure things out but to prove how good you are, it's often hard to cope with being less than good.

Students value ability more than effort. When students are led to focus on how well they are performing in school, they tend to explain their performance not by how hard they tried but by how smart they are. And the more that teachers emphasize getting good grades, avoiding mistakes and keeping up with everyone else, the more students tend to attribute poor performance to factors they thought were outside their control, such as a lack of ability.

"An overemphasis on assessment can actually undermine the pursuit of excellence." - Martin Maehr and Carol Midgley at the University of Michigan

For the full text article, go to ...

Goals Gone Wild: How Goal Setting Can Lead to Disaster

Consider some recent findings on the consequences of overemphasizing achievement ...

New research by Wharton Business School professor Maurice Schweitzer and three colleagues documents the potential hazards of setting goals. In pursuit of corporate mandates, employees will sometimes ignore sound business practices, risk the company's reputation and violate ethical standards.

This lesson, however, has not been absorbed by corporate America. To the contrary, ambitious goal setting has become endemic in American business practice and scholarship over the last half-century. It's possible, though, that corporate goal setting can cause more harm than good.

Schweitzer believes the practice of goal setting is greatly overused. He argues that, "there are some contexts where goal setting is appropriate, such as when tasks are routine, easy to monitor and very easy to measure." In practice, there are a series of potential problems linked to the misuse of goal setting.

Goal setting may be unnecessary in many cases. Research has shown that employees have a stronger intrinsic motivation to do a good job than their managers tend to give them credit for. This flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that says, "what gets measured, gets done."

Schweitzer and his colleagues advise, "Rather than dispensing goal setting as a benign, over-the-counter treatment for students of management, experts need to conceptualize goal setting as a prescription-strength medication that requires careful dosing, consideration of harmful side effects, and close supervision."

Read more ...

Building Resiliency to Stay Up in Down Times

Bruce Elkin a coach, writer, and speaker talks about resiliency in his March 5 newsletter. See below a copy of this and a link to sign up for his eNewsletter. When you sign up you'll get a copy of his new ebook about this topic.

“Sign up for Bruce’s free eNewsletter and get a free copy of his Staying Up In Down Times ebook when it launches in late March -

Welcome to "SIMPLY SUSTAINABLE SUCCESS" - March 5, 2009:
Helping You Create What Matters MOST in Life and Work --
With Whatever Life Throws At You!
Bruce Elkin: Life/Work Design & Transitions Coach

> This Week: Building the Resilience To Stay Up In Down Times!

"The Beauty of Life surrounds me,
the Joy of Life uplifts me,
and the Resilience of Life protects me.
It is enough."
--Laura Teresa Marquez

Hi ,
Lovely spring day in Victoria. Clouds, sun, a spot of showers to brighten up the daffodils and crocuses--and that special renewal energy that only comes with the arrival of spring. Apologies to those of you still shoveling snow, or sweltering in record heat. I'm happy to live where I do!

I wasn't always this perky, spring or no spring. During a long and difficult period of my life I was down, depressed, feeling helpless and hopeless about my future. But, learning how to build resilience enabled me to overcome my learned pessimism and become realistically optimistic.
Things have gone much better for me ever since.

Two things helped me to develop that realistic optimism: the capacity to create results that matter to me, and resilience, the ability to bounce back quickly from losses and setbacks.

"Emotional resilience says stress counselor Elizabeth Scott, "refers to one's ability to adapt to stressful situations or crises. More resilient people are able to "roll with the punches" and adapt to adversity without lasting difficulties; less resilient people have a harder time with stress and life changes, both major and minor.

"It's been found that those who deal with minor stresses more easily can also manage major crises with greater ease, so resilience has its benefits for daily life as well as for the rare major catastrophe."

Getting Back Up: Learning From Failure
"Suppose you have tried and failed again and again," said actress Mary Pickford. "You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call failure is not the falling down, but the staying down."

Ms Pickford makes a distinction between the act of failing and the conclusions you draw about that act. Those who stay down judge that they have failed. They generalize from their act to the illogical conclusion, "I am a failure."

Worse, they may go even further, and generalize to, "I always fail."

Thus, they assume, there is no point in getting up. Viewing themselves as victims of circumstances, they stay down, don't act, and don't learn from their experience.

But making mistakes--and correcting them--is key to creating, and resilience. There is no failure in learning, only feedback. Fail fast; learn quickly.

Edison failed hundreds, even thousands of times, before he found a reliable filament for light bulbs. But did you know that giants such as Henry Ford and Walt Disney suffered multiple bankruptcies before they achieved lasting success.

Paralyzed from the waist down, "Man In Motion" Rick Hansen wheeled around the globe, raising millions for spinal cord research. Cyclist Lance Armstrong overcame major, mid-career cancer to win Le Tour de France seven times.

Daily, millions of people get up after being knocked down. Unwilling to adopt a victim story, they keep trying, and learning. They take power from adversity, and place it in their own hands, increasing their "sense of control."

Control, along with ownership of results, is key to building resilience. "Resilience," says Paul Stoltz, author of Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles Into Opportunities, "is the single greatest factor in driving change, improvement, and results."

Owning The Results You Want to Create
Faced with adversity, don't blame yourself, circumstances, or other people. The origin of adversity is not nearly as important as owning the results you want to create--in spite of who or what caused the difficulty.

If you suffer a loss--physically, emotionally, or financially--focusing on that loss, how it happened, or who was responsible will make it harder for you to get beyond it, and create the results you want. "Experience," said Aldous Huxley, "is not what happens to you. Experience is what you do with what happens to you."

If you lose a job, don't focus on the injustice, or inconvenience. Focus on the kind and quality of job you most want. If you lose a friend or lover, don't just grieve the loss. Focus on improving friendships, or finding new friends. If you suffer a business loss, regroup, revsision your business, and focus on the results you truly want to create.

You won't be able to do so instantly. Even minor losses, such as losing your car keys, provoke a temporary sense of helplessness. But, with practice, you can shorten the helpless period. You can learn to grieve loss, accept the new reality, and move on.

Before I learned to respond effectively to adversity, I often got frustrated, angry, and quit if something did not go as I thought it should. As I learned to embrace adversity, own my results, and take action on what I could control, I created better results.

Once, for example, when hired to give a 90-minute keynote presentation to 1000 people at a prestigious conference, three difficulties threatened to overwhelm me.

First, the agenda drifted off schedule. Three times during the morning of my presentation, organizers asked me to shorten it: first to 60 minutes, then 45, and finally to 30. I agreed, but with each change I grew more edgy.

When I took the stage, my podium was at the side, but my overhead projector was in the middle. To talk and show my graphics--without trotting back and forth across the stage--I had to unfasten my mic from the podium, hold it in one hand, and my notes in the other. I spoke from beside the projector and changed slides with my third hand. (That's how it felt!) Not only did this frustrate me, it cut another five minutes off my talk.

Finally, when I started to speak, the sound system did not work. But the sound booth techs assured me I was "live." Each time I looked to the booth for help, the techs gave me a frustrated "you're live" sign. I was confused, and irritated. My 30-minute session had now shrunk to 20 minutes. A large part of me wanted to throw up my hands in frustration, and say, "What's the point?"

Instead, I visualized the results I wanted: an impactful, professional talk, an impressed audience, happy organizers, a reputation for being resilient, and my $1000 speaker's fee. Owing those results, I sucked it up and shouted the highlights of my talk. When the organizers announced lunch, I offered to stay and take questions. About half the audience crowded around the front of the stage, and we had a great Q&A session.

In the end, the audience was happy, the organizers were delighted, and I got paid. The techs apologized because they hadn't realized a TV crew had unplugged the feed to the auditorium. The best thing was, over the next couple of days, I got a myriad of compliments from audience members on how well I'd handled a difficult situation. And two new good-paying gigs!

Had I focused on what happened, why, and who was to blame, I would have walked off the stage in disgust--and suffered the consequences. But I owned my results, took control of what I could, and did a professional job--in spite of adversity.

Should you experience adversity and setbacks, don't focus on the adversity and/or why it happened. Instead, acknowledge and accept the reality, and then focus on the results you want to create. Own your results--in spite of the difficulties you face.

To focus, ask yourself these kinds of questions:
* What result do I want? Is it worth working for?
* Am I willing to do what it takes to create it?
* Where am I starting, and what do I have to work with?
* What actions can I take to bring my result into being?

Once you're clear about the answers to these questions, you'll be ready to take action, learn from your experience, build momentum, and move toward the results you want to create.

As you do, you'll build competence and resilience. You will feel up, energized, and confident that you can deal with whatever life throws at you.

Last week, Lynn Johnson of the "Living On Purpose" radio show in Nanaimo, BC did a lively 22-minute interview with me. We talked about Life Design, and shifting focus from problem solving to creating results that matters -- and how that applies to day-to-day life.

>To listen to the interview, go to:
[You may have to cut & paste this link into your browser. If you do, check to make sure there are not breaks (spaces) in the link.]

Hope you enjoyed this! Cassandra at