Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Roots or Wings?

Roots and Wings.  Hopefully we are cultivating or challenging one or the other at any particular time. 

We see it in the news and in our own lives.  Obama’s parting comment to African leaders was that the continent will not advance if its leaders refuse to step down when their terms end.   Here in Italy, we have been facilitating retreats for teams who want to pause and consolidate their learning.    At yesterday’s coaching session, I explored with a senior leader how his need to feel protected was limiting his systems thinking, reach and effectiveness.  Every day on Linked-In we see a constant flow of people taking on new roles and offering new ideas.  At a personal level,  friends are leaving for new pastures, others are settling.

Roots and Wings.

Our roots are our connection with ourselves, others and of our place in the world.  Cultivating them gives us a sense of identity, of belonging, of ‘coming home to who we are’.  They are the foundations which keep us grounded, connected and contributing.  They are the relationships with those we love and with the complex and supportive fabric which nourish our inner core.   They give us security and stability.

Our wings give us the ability to reach out far and wide, expand our horizons and venture into new territories.  With them we express our innate curiosity, our sense of adventure and exploration and discover new ideas and opportunities.  They are the means for which we allow our independence and initiative to flourish. They give us flexibility and freedom.

Arguably a balance between the two enables us to fulfil the depth and breadth of our potential.  If we get too focused on our roots, they can constrict and bind us.  Sometimes we just need to uproot and fly off to new places and gain fresh perspectives.  With too much focus on our wings, we can exhaust ourselves floating around and become disorientated, unfocussed and isolated. 

Attempting a balance may be something we do in the moment, or it may be stretched over longer periods, as we find ourselves giving priority to either one, over days, weeks, months or years. 

Some of us have a personality preference for one or the other. I find myself making generalisations about national cultural differences, such as the strongly rooted collective Italians and flying independent-travelling New Zealanders (as an aside, the irony is not lost that NZ’s national treasure and icon, the kiwi, evolved into a flightless bird -as a result of having no enemies it decided it had no need to fly so lost its ability to do so).  More broadly, perhaps we can also draw on the difference between the eastern philosophy that we are already ‘here’; what we need is within us, and the western perspective, where we are driven to look externally; to go out in order to get ‘here’ fully. 

In integrating the two, we balance stillness with movement, being with doing, activity with meditation, solitude with company, introversion with extroversion...

As David Richo said “In short, we need to get up and go, but we also need to sit and stay”.        

Noticing our preferences, focus and patterns helps us make those choices more consciously as opposed to automatically from a place of habit or fear.  Often it is about getting out of our comfort zone and doing the opposite of what we would prefer to do.

What is your priority at the moment?  Roots or Wings?


Thanks to Jennifer who first introduced me to the concept of ‘roots and wings’, as passed on from Buster whose Mum might have heard it from the quote by Hodding Carter “there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One is roots; the other, wings” which according to Wikipedia, was borrowed from Henry Ward Beecher

BBC, Obama warns on Africa leaders refusing to step down, 28 July 2015

Richo, D, (2002), How To Be An Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving, Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boston, Massachusetts p. 4

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sustainability - feeling the stretch?

In about 2 months time, the United Nations will agree on a new set of global development goals.  And it means a big stretch. As the Ethical Corporation observed “eight big Millennium Development Goals have become 17 super-sized ones”. These Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) “are monumentally ambitious.  Take, for example, Goal 1: “End poverty in all forms everywhere.” Or Goal 16: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.”

The goals are daunting not at least of all because of the challenges of financing them and the existence of dysfunctional governmental and business structures but they are compelling in their aspirations.  As humans we are born to stretch ourselves in mind, body and soul.   By its very nature stretching can be uncomfortable, but it is the only way we can enter new realms of possibility.
In our leadership programmes, we often use stimulation projects which explore a team’s behaviours and attitudes towards stretching themselves.  Some will set goals below their abilities, sure of non failure.  Some will benchmark themselves on the competition or what has been done before.  Some will just try once and be satisfied with whatever score and will not want to try again.  Some will stretch and surprise themselves at what they can do.  

Stretching – it takes us to somewhere new, untested, unknown and unfamiliar. We go up to those limits and exceed them.  We lean into the discomfort but also notice the leeway.  We breathe into previously fixed boundaries and see them dissolve.  We notice the pain but also the potential.  We accept the awkwardness, clumsiness and tension and move through it to find new areas of ease, flexibility and opportunity.

As an organisation, what are you doing in terms of setting stretching goals? Big Hairy Audacious Goals as Collins and Porras termed them.   What will you stretch into, in terms of knowing about, understanding and contributing to the UN’s SDGs?   The ambitious Take Action campaign wants us all to sit up and take notice of these global goals.
And where in your day to day actions, moment to moment choices can you stretch?   It can take unlimited forms.  It may involve...

-  choosing to do more to look after your health in terms of exercise, diet, meditation

-  speaking up against inequality

-  expanding your understanding of the world through new perspectives, interests and networks 

-  increasing your donation or volunteering time to support a cause you believe in

-  delving into understanding yourself and your deepest truths

-  having that courageous conversation

-  doing what you have never done or not doing what you always do

Decide what the stretch is for you, go into it and feel it.



Collins J and Porras J (2002) Built to Last, HarperCollins Publishers Inc

Streeter, A (2015) Sustainable Development Goals: the bar just got higher, Ethical Corporation,  Jul 8, 2015

Rewritten from previous posting:

Image from Art,Crtl, Del on Facebook