Passionate and emotional

What is it with the world of work, corporates and organisations? The words passion  and passionate  are slapped on anything from IT models to supermarket products. Emotion or emotional, however, produce a corporate reaction like a scalded cat.

Several things strike me about this.

One: both reactions are emotional ones, thus creating an amusing irony.

Two: passion is being systematically eroded and degraded. It’s about suffering and ecstasy. Christ’s or St Matthew’s Passions were not about keeping thier desks tidy or a new product range. (Try to ignore the religious thing, here. I needed to make a point}

Three: and this, I think, is what it’s about. Passion and  passionate’s conotations and associations (today) are sexy, strong and manly. Emotion and – paticularly emotional‘s conotations are sappy, flaky, fluffy – female.

When I’m writing material for organisations, I make a point of substituting ‘enthusiasm’ for passion, if I can. Emotion, though, has to stand, with some sort of qualifying phrase about it’s not being fluffy. Unless you slip in intelligence very quickly afterwards.

Put intelligence after emotional – or , even better, avoid the word completely and call it EI -and you get a more acceptable form. Intelligence has a sharper, cleaner – more manly – edge to it, particularly when it’s combined with some kind of neuroscientific half-knowledge.

I think we need new words to describe that state of connectedness between  the world and the inner man (sic).

PS. I’ve had to add this. Paradoxically, emotion and emotional don’t have the scare-factor to the hardest, most butcho of all constituencies – sales people. They understand that buying decisions are emotional. Hurrah for the sales force!

How to be positive

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how to be positive. I’ve now got some kind of handle on gratitude as the way to stay positive. The next thing is how to be grateful without being Pollyanna or thankful without having to go to church and sing praises. Here’s how.

I’ve just finished an article on Naikan, which is a Japanese meditation/self reflection/instrospection practice used in mental health, business and counselling. It comes from a very rigorous Jodo Shinsu Bhuddist discipline and has been adapted so that you don’t have to live in a dark cave without light, water or food or sleep (I said it was rigorous, didn’t I?).

There are three questions to reflect on and ask about you in relation to other people, one at a time. In the Bhuddist practice, you start with your mother – whatever your relationship is with her –  then move on to others.

The three Naikan questions
* What have I received from (…..)?
* What have I given to (……)?
* What troubles and difficulties have I caused to (….)?

The third question is the most difficult – and you’ll notice that there isn’t a fourth, corresponding question. That’s because most of the time we are aware of how other people cause us inconvenience or difficulty and not the other way round.

Try it. It’s more interesting than you think.

Blog-shy – but back in the saddle again

I went away on holiday, then stuff happened and in the process of that I lost my blog-voice. Sorry I’ve been silent.
This is exactly what happens with my diary writing, with going to the gym, regular exercising, diets. There’s something about regularity that my personality jibs at. I think it makes me feel nailed down or trapped.

I have, however, got a backlog of things to blog about, so I’m starting again now.

On yesterdays’ Today programme, there was a discussion about the Proms and the audience clapping too soon after a performance, to be precise. Whoever it was said that often, audience members ‘count down to the end’ of a piece so that they can be the first to clap to show that they know when it has ended.

Good to hear someone saying this as it’s one among many of the things I find difficult about theatre, particularly Shakespeare.

Example: to my mind, Shakespeare’s jokes are ghastly and not a bit funny. All that horsing about and clunking (or ancient and obscure) innuendo about pizzles etc. I can can well do without.
Not so the knowing audience who insist on chuckling or laughing theatrically to show that they’ve got it.

Can’t they just sit quietly, let everyone be amused and leave the showing off to actors on the stage?


More about goals, vision and dreams

Something else that can happen is that an end goal, ‘the dream’, can become a fantasy, divorced from day to day life and from reality. Focusing on it too much, researching it, tweaking  and pimping it can become a displacement activity rather than an inspiration. The fantasy can take over and become counter-productive. 

Dreaming is easy; a lot easier than slogging on through.

Climbing the mountain – when dreams aren’t enough

Congratulations to Sir Ranulph Feinnes – conquering Everest for the thrid time at 65 after serious surgery. During his interview on the Today programme and various other news programmes, he said something about goals and vision that struck a chord with me.

He said (and I have to paraphrase here as I can’t find the interview to listen to again and check) that the way he managed to go on in the face of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion was NOT to think about getting to the top. He had to think of the climb as never-ending, and to keep on going, step by step by step. Counter-intiutive, you might think.

It’s good to have an end goal, a vision. It inspires and motivates you. It makes you believe that you’re getting somewhere, that the rocky patches are worth negotiating and that they won’t last forever. 

However, there are times – particularly if you’re mired in a slough of despond -when lifting your eyes to the distant horizon makes your spirit fail and your heart sink. Sometimes all you can do is to keep looking down, at your feet and the next few inches of  path in front of you. Your goals shrink to taking a step, then another, and another.

It takes guts to keep going when all you want to do is to give up.  As the way gets tougher and tougher, your motivation comes from lower and lower down Maslow’s heirarchy of needs until you hit the very bottom  – the biological need not to die. Self-actualisation (ie. your dream- at the top of the Maslow pyramid) becomes irrelevant then. 

Often, the difference between success and failure is perseverence. You can start with a dream, but that isn’t enough. Something other than a dream  – something real, hard, dirty, bloody and sweaty – has to kick in.  It’s resiliance, willpower, determination that get you to where you want to be. 

But you need the dream too. Without one, why would you bother?

Luck and the Law of Attraction

I don’t believe that I’m lucky. I regard competitions, lotteries and the fall of dice with a dubious eye, never believing that I have any chance of winning. I feel I have to do more; that I must work for it and earn good fortune. So I leave well alone.

However, I see with my own eyes that luck does exist. I know that some people are blessed with luck and good fortune. What I also know is that these are people who believe in it and expect to be lucky. Not that I think belief is enough to make it happen. No. I just think that without belief, it really won’t.

I also know, without any doubt, that confidence has so much to do with everything. (For today’s purpose, I’m thinking confidence = belief).

Recently I wrote a piece on the Law of Attraction. If you don’t know about this: very briefly, you attract the same kind of ‘matter’ from the universe as you have in yourself and that you give out (success/good fortune or failure/pain). I’m sceptical of the quasi-science rationales that are often given as evidence for this, but I glimpse a truth in it.

On plenty of reflection, it seems to be connected to my understanding of luck and luckyness and the ‘success builds on success’ maxim. The point is to be the thing you want to attract. Just wishing and hoping aren’t going to get you anywhere (because they come from negativity?). Belief, pure positivity and receptivity is.

That’s belief in the fact that you will get what you want, that you deserve it, that it will happen and that you can rely on its happening. And that you are completely positive about it and about yourself.

Now I’m wondering if this receptivity, faith and positiveness can have any connection – however tangential, secular and frivolous – to do with the religious activity of praising. I’m not religious, not Catholic and I haven’t done any research on it, so I don’t know. What I do know is that there’s an awful lot of it in the Christian religion, and that I haven’t, until now, been able to see a reason behind the most obvious reinforcing of the idea of God as almighty and wonderful, etc.

I wonder whether this is the same idea  that  giving thanks and gratitude is a way of being and staying positive.

I’ll probably delete this post when I find out that I’ve been hopelessly muddled in my thinking. Halfway down a motorway, when I can do nothing about it, the penny will drop and I’ll see how I’ve displayed my ignorance and foolishness and gone live with only half an idea.

That last thought isn’t very positive, is it?

What is Intuition?

Successful leaders and businessmen have it
Despite the fact that intuition is not valued in our society, we are told that really successful people all have it. Have you noticed that? It is true, of course. So what the hell is it? This is my take….

What it isn’t

First, I want to get a popular confusion out of the way. Intuition is not the same as instinct, which is to do with basic survival: food, procreation, life or death.

Neither is it just any old feeling about a situation, which can be triggered by fear, bias, prejudice or mere preference.

What is it, then?

Intuition short-circuits the lengthy process of rational assessment and analysis.

It’s a gut feeling, made up of your awareness and responsiveness to the world and other people (sensitivity to the external environment) as well as your knowledge, understanding and experience (awareness of your internal environment).

The intuitive process takes in information from the situation and filters it though

  • all your five senses (vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch)
  • your bodily sensations/responses (tightening of the diaphragm, feeling faint, nausea, shakiness, holding your breath, the ‘hairs on the back of your neck’ – different people feel it differently) 
  • your intelligence, experience and knowledge.

It then processes the information, sorting and assimilating it, arriving (if it’s working well) at accurate and fine-tuned judgement.

Find it, respect it and trust it

Everyone is born with intuition, but under the cosh of rationality and scientific reasoning, our educational system teaches us to dismiss it. There’s a whole lot to say about this, but not here!

Thankfully, people manage to keep and develop it despite all this. It has to be looked after, respected and honed. Sometimes it even has to be found! All this before it can be trusted and relied upon.

Develop it

To develop it, you have to be aware of everything that’s going on around you. You also need to be able to identify, access and process your emotions. That includes your habitual ways of responding: your prejudices and biases, hopes and fears, ways of dealing with people or situations.


Intuition can easily be confused with prejudice, bias, fear or wishfulness and a host of other psychological responses like projection, introjection …..etc. It feels the same. That’s why you have to know yourself well, acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses and your default ways of perceiving situations, however unpleasant that acknowledgement may be.

Back in love with Seth Godin

I’ve just watched Seth Godin’s video on ‘This is broken’ (go to Seth Godin’s Blog and search the entries for this title). I wish I could give you the right address to click on, but I can’t.

It’s not Important or World Shaking and it won’t tell you much you don’t know, but he’s good and funny.
I forgive him for thrusting Chris Guillebeau on me (who is all fur coat and no knickers. Writes really well – no substance other than look at me, me me.)

Meditative activity

For years I struggled with the concept of meditation. I never did get past the first principle of emptying the mind. Then, when I was training as a coach, I suddenly got it. It’s not nearly as difficult as I thought and you don’t have to sit cross-legged in a silent room.

For anyone who has the same block as I had, this is how it works for me:

Any activity can be meditative and healing if:

  • you are wholly absorbed in it as you do it
  • you’re not preoccupied with something else and on ‘auto-pilot’
  • it involves some kind of  physical activity
  • you’re under no pressure to achieve, strive, try, improve
  • there’s room for little thoughts to cross your mind.  

Anyone can do it – and many of us do so without realising that’s what it is. Forget the ’empty your mind’ injunction. That’s  impossible. Instead, think about letting thoughts float into your mind and out again, easily. It’s a bit like the fast-forward images of clouds forming, dissipating and reforming as shown on TV nature programmes.

 The trick is to let thoughts, words, images, melodies in and  not to hang onto them or chase them: not to think things through, draw conclusions, extrapolate, pounce on them. Just let them come and go.

That’s easier to do if you’re involved in an activity that needs focus and uses some of your brain – and that you enjoy. ‘Proper’ meditation techniques  use sound (as in a mantra and/or a prayer bell ) or breathing  as a  focus. You can use running, walking, sport, dancing, singing or playing an instrument, painting , gardening – and cooking if it’s not stressful or pressurised.  Some people can do it sitting on a train or bus, gazing out of the window. That’s not wasting time, it’s putting yourself back together.  

I think it’s important, in our busy-busy-work-work world, to do something every now and then that is completely in the present. It gives the brain a breathing space, away from the forward-planning, worrying and regretful thinking that life is often so full of. It’s not only a rest space and soul food, but also a creative space where ideas can move, change and settle.

Do it once a week.

Hit and run! Hurrah for the police!

No, not as dramatic as it seems. Last week, someone bashed into my (perfectly) parked car in Otley, leaving me with a scuffed bumper, a mangled wheel and flat tyre. There was a note on my windscreen with the registration number of the other car and the time. No phone number, so I imagine it was left by a passer-by.

I didn’t have my mobile on me  and I can’t change the wheel myself. – I’ve tried before. I have a Ford KA and, delightful though it is, the one design horror is that the spare wheel is bolted to the underside of the car – hard to access.

I rang the AA from a cafe. No luck – the AA charge a £102 callout fee if  another vehicle had been involved. News to me.

I lef t a note for a Traffic Warden and walked to a garage. They were (how do I say this?) reluctant to come and look at it for me/change the wheel – I offered cash.

Still no sign of a Traffic Warden, so I walked to the Police Station.

And they were so helpful. A PC came back with me and changed the wheel so that I could drive it away.   

And I wondered whether this kind of thing is part of their formal target structure. It seems to me that it is a core value and one that is taken for granted. I expect to be able to get help from a friendly policeman if I need it. That’s why it’s so shocking to see clips of policemen clubbing citizens.

I feel like a one-woman police marketing board when I say let’s remember that when we (rightly) condemn inappropriate police actions, we’re starting  from an expectation of trust and helpfulness.

Does anyone know if acts of kindness are included in formal police targets?