Connect First!

March 10, 2014 at 3:52 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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One of the things that I loved teaching when I was in the classroom was figurative language. “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom” (Marcel Proust). The people being spoken about in the quote above of course are not literally gardeners but the use of this metaphor paints a vivid picture in our mind and deepens connection through attaching feelings, characteristics and traits that can be easily identified with. Once the students were able to understand the process of saying one thing is another they had great fun creating and using this powerful tool in their writing.

Writing in the classroom is not the only time we are creating stories though. We are living and communicating the stories of our individual and shared lives all the time. Your favourite sporting identity’s performance on the weekend may be spoken of in ‘Godlike’ terms, your job or to do list may fluctuate anywhere between ‘smooth sailing’ and ‘drowning’, or your child may be your ‘little angel’ as they sleep peacefully or a ‘little monster’ when they won’t sleep for the third night in a row. We are constantly attaching metaphors to the experiences, people and circumstances of our lives as a way of processing and communicating the complexities, vulnerability, successes and challenges that we navigate.

Why is this important? Many of the metaphors we tell ourselves and others in our unfolding journeys relate to or focus our attention on the external, things we can’t control, inauthentic ways to be validated or feel worthy, or as a means to justify certain thoughts, words and actions that we know don’t feel quite right. In the Western World I feel many of the influential overriding metaphors relate to accumulate first, connect second. As we or others through individual or shared goals/ marketing/ media/ politics/ etc. attempt to make the uncertain nature of life certain, individually and collectively we disempower rather than empower. This thinking promotes the idea that in order for us to win or succeed there needs to be a loser as there is never enough, instead of exploring the possibilities and potential that exists for win – win outcomes and true authentic abundance.

I think back to my time living and working overseas in my early to mid twenties. There were many powerful experiences from my time away in the UK/Europe, America and East Africa but this theme of connect first really impacted me when I was working at camp in the States and while in Uganda 10 years ago. Throughout the year in East Africa in particular I experienced and was apart of what I describe as this connect first thoughts, words and actions. It challenged me to process and reflect on all the metaphors and messages we in the Western World receive and make sense of throughout our lives.

I am not saying that individually or collectively anywhere in the world there aren’t elements of all ways of interacting with self, others and the world around us, rather expressing the feeling or overriding messages that influenced me in these particular locations. I’m also not saying that we shouldn’t aspire to work towards certain personal, family/relationship, professional, financial, health or other goals, rather appreciate that the deepening of connection to self, others and the world around us on these journeys is what gives us purpose and meaning, not the external validation that we have accumulated them.

We as individuals ultimately choose for ourselves what we will think, say and do but we must also grow our awareness and appreciation of influences in our lives. I stumbled on this quote below the other week and it has made me think of metaphors and messages that play a role in creating the world we have today and the global village we aspire to become:

“If you want to change the world, you have to change the metaphor.” – Joseph Campbell

  • Cooperation (win – win opportunities) instead of competition (win – lose / lose – win)
  • Connection (deepening to self, others and the world around us) instead of comparison (never enough or not worthy)
  • Opportunities (explore the possibilities, discover potential, act authentically) instead of problems (too hard = no action and complain)
  • Embracing uncertainty, complexity and vulnerability (showing up and engaging, supporting each other, being open to not having all the answers and remembering “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” – Winston Churchill) instead of fear and craving certainty (stereotyping, harsh judgements of self, others and the world around us and inaction)
  • Authentic success (deep connection to self, others and the world around us, being passionate while sharing our gifts and talents, making a difference in our own and others lives) instead of external success (accumulate external titles, possessions and privileges to feel worthy or enough)
  • Compassion and accepting our thoughts, words and actions matter (personal and shared responsibility) instead of the ends justifies the means (excusing accountability for self or our family/ community/ country/ etc. because of what we see as context but creating metaphors for ‘others’ through judgement of character)
  • Personal and Shared Leadership (‘leadership is action, not position’ and our ability to ‘be the change’) instead of privilege, power, gender, personal characteristics, etc determining access to leadership roles and opportunities (we are all capable of making a difference in our own and others lives)
  • Celebrating, honouring and connecting to the full breadth and depth of an individuals or our collective potential.

These are just a few of the themes we explore through our L.E.A.D. with Courage™ Program. It aims to provide time, space and experiences for the participants to engage and process what’s real for them and meaningfully connect their learning to action beyond the program. Consider what metaphors or overriding messages are at play in your own life or within our greater global village. How can growing our awareness and appreciation of these assist in our daily choices and help us make a difference as we deepen connection to self, others and the world around us?

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