Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Letting go in order to move forward.

The origin of our political behavior in organizations comes from our dependent relations with our family, how we went about getting what we wanted from our parents and others who had power over us, living as someone said, "in a community of frowning others" who knew what was right or wrong for us. We tend to repeat those strategies of influence for the rest of our lives.

“We sail with a corpse in the cargo,” according to Henrik Ibsen. In his play, Ghosts, Osvald Alving comes home on the brink of dementia, suffering from syphilis inherited from his father. Rather than blaming Oswald’s plight on his dead father, Ibsen suggests that society at large also must share the blame for the poison of its false pieties, its preoccupation with appearances, and its soul-crushing mediocrity. So does his mother for buckling under to bourgeois respectabilities. In the end, the best she can do by her child is to promise to give him a fatal dose of morphine. Ibsen leaves us very much in doubt that she’ll have the heart to do this when the time comes. Ibsen wrote, “I’m coming to believe that all of us are ghosts ... It’s not just what we inherit from our mothers and fathers. It’s also the shadows of dead ideas and opinions and convictions. They’re no longer alive, but they grip us against our will.”

In his research on peak performers, Paul Gustavson found that high achievers were primarily people who had a dream, a clear vision of what they wanted to be in the future, and were prepared to work hard to make that dream come true. They were seldom the best or the most naturally talented when they started out. But they found opportunities to support and develop the talents they knew they had, even if others didn’t appreciate them. How many potential Pavarotis or Margaret Meads are alive today, undiscovered and undeveloped?

Transformation of any sort calls for a radical letting go and an openness to the unknown. We can’t advance and grow as long as we’re holding on tight to what no longer works. We have to let go for a new form to emerge. These are the creative moments that build our lives and they can happen at any turning point. During this time, patience is one of our greatest virtues and seeking premature closure is one of our greatest perils.

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