Wednesday, May 9, 2018

No More of the Same

In a post for writers about the power of storytelling to motivate change, I was reminded of the most influential week of training in my career, at Palo Alto's Mental Research Institute. MRI affiliates study and apply interactional concepts with families, schools, communities, and businesses, their goal to understand and resolve human problems at all levels of social organization.

That was the first time I'd heard the famous Einstein quote:
Problems cannot be solved by thinking within the framework in which the problems were created.
The extended meaning of this quote has grown clear over my thirty years of coaching. Change occurs when we:
  1. come to see a frame of reference (worldview) within which we have been operating,
  2. learn to observe without judgment the nature of our thoughts and behavior from within that worldview,
  3. experiment with ways to interrupt those previously unconscious and automatic responses.
Even someone you're close to may have an entirely different perspective on events you both experience. In the four novels of The Alexandria Quartet (Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, Clea), author Lawrence Durrell brilliantly illustrated how our limited perspectives create completely different interpretations of the world. The Quartet's first three novels describe the same sequence of events through the eyes of three different people, showing three different perspectives of a single set of events.

When you don't step out to a fresh perspective, but continue thinking and acting from within the framework in which a problem arises, you create "more of the same." This dynamic operates every time you and someone else act from within your own worldviews without discussing your assumptions openly and developing a larger perspective.

For example:
A wife and husband agree in marriage counseling to show each other appreciation every day for a week. In the next week's session the wife says "You never once brought me flowers!"
The husband says, "You said you wanted me to do something different, so I thought you would see flowers as not really doing anything. Instead, I took out the garbage every day this week. And you didn't even notice!"

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