You cannot see my world. It is invisible, you see. It sits within the nuance of my own inner thinking and creating. It comes from the depths of my epistemology. My work life. My home life. My wider family life. It comes from the good times and the bad. It comes from my creative moments and my times of despair. It comes from years of working. Years of training. It comes from deep personal work, pushing through times of love and grief. It is nothing that you have experienced like I have. So, you cannot see what I see, as you are not me.
So, how do I support you when you want to grow if you cannot see what I see and I cannot see what you can see? Well, it’s gently as we go. One step at a time. One lens at a time. One perspective at a time. One re-framing at a time. We cannot jump into a huge approach without the ‘gently as we go’ guiding us both through framing, using different lenses, challenging boundaries and more often than not, challenging ourselves.
‘Why did I not see that straight away’ you ask. Because you were not sensitized to it and it is gently as we go. ‘But why gently as we go?’ You ask. Because to turn your world upside down by shaking your perspective, your perception, your framing and the lens you use to see the world all at the same time would leave you with a deep sense of confusion, disorientation, loss, in some cases shame and guilt. My job is to guide you, not destroy you. Serve you, not harm you. Support you, not throw you over a cliff.
So, particularly when I am coaching you in systems thinking, it is gently as we go……
For systems thinking support and coaching: email@example.com
I have recently returned from a holiday on Tenerife. The holiday was brilliant, by the way, but not the reason I’m writing today. I went on holiday because I was tired of what is happening in the UK. Exhausted by our plummeting humanity, the selfishness, the greed, the division. I needed to walk away from it for a while.
I didn’t know why at the time, because my brain was too tired to go through the full processing of my thoughts, but I had an overwhelming desire to sit at the window seat on the plane. I wanted to see the land, the sea, the sky, the clouds. I wanted to experience our world without the people. From up there, looking down, I couldn’t see them, and I wanted, no craved, this perspective. That’s not at all strange, I hear you say. It was for me, though. I am generally a bit scared of heights. I get disorientated. I particularly don’t like when the plane is climbing and the only direction I can see is up. But this time, I craved to see it with a desperation I could not explain. I had to see it, no matter what. I thought about that more than the holiday.
I had been contemplating our plight in the UK and have been somewhat overwhelmed by the direction we are going and to a point, I felt helpless. Then I came across the following quote in the book Perseverance, by Margaret Wheatley:
‘Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.’ – Clarissa Pinkola Estes
I had read the book, ‘Women who run with the wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes a number of years ago. Both me and my sister shared it between us. At that moment, I remembered how much wisdom we read…..and then forget. It helped me regain focus in this overwhelming world. It made me remember the compassion in the work we do. The conditions we model to support each other to learn and grow.
On my flight home, my mind was becoming more relaxed. I stepped on the plane with a whole new feeling that I did not recognise. I thought to myself, ‘Do you trust this flight crew and the pilot?’ I decided that yes, I did. I also realised that should there be an issue with the plane there would be a whole group of people dedicated to keeping us all alive. I realised that we all die, so why not enjoy this flight while I can. My fear started to dissolve.
I saw the world from above. I can tell you that I did not move my eyes from the world outside of that window for a full 4.5 hours. I looked into the sky with no fear at all. I saw the most beautiful planet. I felt free and liberated.
My systems thinking journey is taking a new turn. I have been working in a field lately that was not necessarily my choosing. One of social change. I kind of fell into it, quite accidentally. That said, I have done some very powerful and useful work, particularly over the last two years. It was punishing, though. Draining. Working with people who are all feeing what I was feeling when I left the UK on holiday. Working with that every day and supporting others on their journey takes its toll. It has been long hours, filled with emotion. The systems thinking and systems change journey that people are just starting is one I started on many years ago and for me, it is now time for a slight turn in the journey again. I have never been one to sit as part of the crowd. That is too noisy a place for me. I like the edge where there is some solitude, quiet and freedom to explore deeply.
What did my holiday teach me – it is the quiet and deep exploration that I was missing. The negative noises in the UK, driven by our government, had penetrated into my personal space. It is time to kick them out and get on with the deep learning and living again. As quoted in Margaret Wheatley’s book, Perseverance,
‘Love is the only emotion that expands intelligence’
Onto the next stage of my systems thinking journey…….
I watched the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel again recently. Well, twice actually. I love it so much. It is wholesome and full of wisdom. A line in it that I have heard many times before is,
‘I came to pay my respects. There’s nothing I respect more than someone planting trees under whose shade they may never sit.’
It brought to mind the conversations I have had recently with other systems thinking colleagues about, ‘the invisibility of the catalyst’. Yes, that’s us a lot of the time. We observe, we seek to understand and we work with and within the work ecosystems we engage with day in day out. We take actions that no-one will ever know about. Make plans that no-one will hear about. We manoeuvre in and around things like an invisible ghost, nudging, encouraging, guiding. We put the foundations down for what might come next. The very solid grounding to enable the next stage of change and growth to thrive.
We talked about how that felt. There is no glory. There are no thanks. Most people do not even know what we are doing. Then, we move on, knowing that we have shuffled what needed shuffling, supported what needed supporting and sometimes, removed what needed removing. We walk away and start on something else. It is a win that feels like a fail. It feels like a fail because we have been conditioned to perceive a positive or a ‘win’ as something we get recognition and glory for. But a true win is when we have planted the seeds that few even know are there, but they may benefit from in the future.
My words of encouragement to anyone working as the invisible catalyst is to look inside of you to feel your ‘win’. The inner self is the only person who needs to know. Comfort yourself that you planted those trees. The trees that will grow and thrive for many years to come. The trees that may even support other trees and encourage the growth of even newer trees.
The connection between the person and the legacy is sometimes invisible to the eyes of many but it is never invisible inside of yourself.