Archive for September, 2015

Purpose

skywarrow

Your purpose is what you are constructed for. Constructed – as in built, wired, crafted. Your unique way of thinking and acting.

Many get confused and believe purpose is made from what is liked, or what one happens to be good at. Being good at something is a clue, but there is more to purpose than just having an aptitude and interest. It’s even more than passion. Purpose includes the assessment of where you can make the most difference. The stuff that’s on the top shelf of your capabilities. You may not even be good at it yet, but you will be, because you will stay in the game in spite of signs to the contrary, even when you get decked.

In 1988 Steve Jobs was in the wilderness, having been fired from the company he started. But while he may have initially set out to make some computers, his true vision started to come into focus. He believed computers are for the people. He saw a world with thousands of users versus one computer a 1000 times more powerful. That was his purpose. He was relentless about it.

It’s not about how grand your purpose is. It can be small. It’s big to you, and that’s what counts. Start by figuring out what you’re unwilling to give up on. Within those things there is one that you actually shouldn’t let go of. Part of life is figuring that out. Difficult. It may even require some trial and error. That process is important to recognizing the real deal when you find it.

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Diffusion of Blame

finger-pointingx4We find it handy in our culture to be able to ascribe blame for things we don’t like. Consequently we often tend to oversimplify problems. The righteous indignation from those who feel they are on some obvious moral high ground can be palpable.

People do need to be accountable for their actions, but it’s often not so simple as it can appear.

Example: Slave labor in clothing manufacturing.

How do you assign blame for the practice of human beings enslaving other human beings to produce cheap clothing? Do you blame the kidnappers who captured the slaves? Do you blame the smugglers who trafficked them? Do you blame the staffing personnel who bought and hired them? Do you blame the foremen who makes the working conditions harsh? Do you blame the executives who made the policies? Do you blame the investors who financed the factory? Do you blame the brand who sources the clothing from such factories? Do you blame the retailers who carried the brands? Do you blame the consumers who purchased the products?

The truth is that without any one link in the chain the shackles would fall to the ground. However, each link can rationalize that their own little sin isn’t all that bad, or that their hands were tied without reasonably viable options, and that if they weren’t there someone else would come and take their place.

After all, the consumer doesn’t generally feel involved with how brands produce their products. The brands are just trying to give the customers what they want at the right price. In order to do that, they’re willing to make a few sourcing compromises, or simply “can’t” (don’t) afford the time to understand the details of the whole chain. The factories realize that if they’re not doing everything they can to cut costs, they’re going to lose the bid. The foremen believe that if they don’t keep their workers in fear they don’t get the output that they have to have in order to avoid repercussions on themselves. The staffing realizes that if they outspend their competition they’re not going to exist anymore, so they make a compromise and acquire slaves. The traffickers, after all, never kidnapped anyone, they’re just getting them where the slave trader wanted them to go. And the kidnappers themselves? It’s just too lucrative, “if I didn’t do it, someone else would,” then the moral atrocity still takes place and someone else gets paid besides me.

Everyone can sleep at night within their scope of relative sin. Who do you really blame, and what actions must be taken to stop it? Are the people and organizations who might be able to stop it to blame? Government? Usually something eventually happens when a light is shone on something bad, but cockroaches are good at slithering into the shadows and carrying on.

Do you think your life is devoid of these compromises (sins)? We’re a consumption oriented society. Look around your house. Look around your place of work. Really look, and think about where stuff comes from and goes. What business are you in? It’s probably not pure. No, we are all guilty. It’s not black and white at all. We can throw stones at them, but we best be ready to duck a few as well.

Go | Stop

GoStopIt’s a paradox of our lives that while technology is constantly invented that saves us time, we use that time to do more and more things, and so our lives are more fast and furious than ever.

Recently as I sat on the porch reading an actual book I felt the call of the phone. What e-mail, texts, Facebook/Instagram/Twitter posts have gone by? Was the book not enough? Was I afraid I was going to miss something important?

It doesn’t have to be this way…

It’s only when you stop moving that you can begin to see what really moved you. Yes, movement is important to acquire experience and get things done, not to mention its value as a mere distraction. But don’t forsake the value of simple stillness. Leaving your mind open to think and process. Only in stillness you can deepen the experience of life, to replay it and try to make sense of it.

People are getting dizzy from movement, and we often find that our biggest luxury comes when we’re sitting still. Slowing down without simply being lazy is a conscious choice. To appreciate life & living now and here. It may sound easy, but for many of us it’s difficult to do, and it’s even risky for those of us whose wandering minds pose problems. It’s more than the commonly hyperbolic statements such as, slow down, or stop and smell the roses, or take time to enjoy the moment. Those are valid and often true, but…

You must stop. Go when you need to, but stop at prescribed times. Just stop. Let your mind take over. Let your mind wander (wonder). So much of our life takes place inside our heads — in memory or imagination or expectation or just illusion — that if we want to change our lives, we might best start by changing our minds.

But the mind is hard to control. If it’s not being productive, and the thoughts are dragging you down, then go. Try doing something to reset things. Come back to the stillness later and try again.

Decision Time

BrainDiagramMany decisions come to us in a way that invites, and sometimes requires, immediate action or response. We have complicated machinery working behind the scenes that in those precious seconds will chemically and electrically influence what we do in profound ways.

I wrote recently about the role some chemicals play in our lives. The relative presence or absence of those at any given moment certainly impacts how we act as we’re stimulated. That perturbation of our system then triggers the release of still more associated chemicals, which ride around with us for a while, continuing to impact how we interpret the world.

The electrical system also has a profound influence. Because of the way our brain is physically laid out and wired there is a timing impacting how we register stimuli. Much information about the anatomy of the brain is available online, but for quick reference you can think of the Thalamus as an information hub that routes things where they need to go. The hippocampus is complicated, but in layman’s terms it plays a vital role in processing memories, inhibition, and the way we understand space (as in our spatial awareness). The amygdala also processes memories, but is more focused on emotionally oriented things. Finally the cortex, which is comprised of many subparts, is responsible for our thinking. It plays a key role in consciousness, perception, awareness, language, thought, attention, and memory.

Note how the emotional centers of the Amygdala and Hippocampus are closely tied to the Thalamus. Electrically these areas are able to receive and process information fractions of a second before the more rational parts of our brain get a shot at it. When an input triggers a memory our emotional center is first on the scene, and is able fire back electrical impulses that pull other emotionally relevant memories before we’ve had a chance to “think” about it. And then the chemicals are released to put the rest of our physiology in a complimentary state, which among other things affects the way we process further information and categorize it into memories, which are then retrieved, and so on.

We don’t stand a chance.

There are some biologically sound reasons for it to work this way, but it does trip us up on a regular basis. One can employ techniques to mitigate the tendency to react emotionally to things, but they all require time. The emotional centers have an inherent advantage. If you can pause to begin thinking about it, or distract yourself away from it, you better open the circumstance up for more rational processing. You can write things down, which also engages the more rationally cognizant portions of your brain. You can make a flow chart, or log some if/then statements, etc. You can force yourself to remember something you did well, or achieved, or (ideally) something you did that helped someone. Your chemicals will reinforce your efforts here.

It all starts with the recognition that your emotions are out in front of your thinking, which means even your thinking becomes based on an emotional context…until you change the context with other thinking and emotions.



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