Clear Confident Leader Weekly Observer, Issue #49
From the Greenbelt of Boise, Idaho, Quiet summer evening
Everything alive has cognition and uses it to determine what to notice. We humans, with higher mental powers, complexify the process of cognition. We see the world through a well-constructed, tightly controlled personality. This is not a good thing: It reduces our cognitive capacity. Instead of being conscious, we are self-conscious.
– Margaret J. Wheatley, Who Do We Choose to Be? (2017).
I frequently hear, the problem is them. What goes unsaid is, of course it has nothing to do with me. I find it happens easily and quickly for me. All I need to do, is recall the last time I was surprised by someone cutting in front of me in traffic. I can quickly play the part of "victim" and assign responsibility to the "villain".
As human beings, we’re very good at finding what we look for, and overlooking what doesn’t fit our beliefs and sense of ourselves. We all develop coping mechanisms to survive from early childhood. The defenses and strategies of our personality can become like castle walls and moats between ourselves and “others”. It's not about me, it's about them.
It is easy for me to look out from my vantage point, see what others did wrong and now need to do, and totally miss how I am part of the situation. Yet that only serves to raise the drawbridge further, reducing my choices and cutting me off from what we need most: connection and a sense of belonging in a community.
It helps me to look at the situation from different perspectives. When I feel surprised by someone cutting me off in traffic, I can realize I was not noticing them enough in advance to adapt accordingly.
If I go out onto the road thinking only of myself and where I’m going, I’m likely to be surprised. When I approach the road as a shared community resource that helps us all get to where we want to go I have a very different experience.
Last week I shared a unique experience with tens of thousands of people in the Idaho mountains watching the solar eclipse. Returning to Boise was challenging as two roads merged, requiring flaggers to alternate who merged when. Traffic was backed up for miles. Yet I found it remarkable that as we repeatedly stopped and started in single file down the two-lane highway, we became a community. Twice in a 15 mile stretch passing lanes were available, and we all stayed in line together.
When we are conscious of how interconnected and interdependent we really are, we can realize it is about us, and choose to create a better community together.
When I'm thinking it's about them, I find it helpful to consider:
- What perspectives am I missing?
- What part am I playing in the situation?
- How might it be about us?
Let’s widen our perspectives, and create a better future today!