Dear Diary –
Well, I might have gone overboard with my focus on possibility thinking and commitment to action in conversations… So far this week I’ve envisioned 3 outrageous breakthroughs for myself, arm-twisted 7 friends or relatives to swear an oath to manifesting their own ridiculous goals, and committed myself to a half dozen preposterous projects involving worldwide transformation (as well as time, money, power and resources that I don’t have access to at the moment). People are starting to avoid hanging out with me for fear that when, say we’re having coffee, and they order their drink via a weakly worded request like “Hmm, oh, I don’t know, a latte sounds pretty good.”, I’ll demand to know “Are you absolutely and completely committed to having a latte?” I obviously need more practice on applying the conversational tools from the Dear Diary #1 blog, but let’s go on to Step 2 for now.
Step 2 – Escape the grip of the past by shifting my focus to the future.
The past is kept alive in the present by our conversations. People are obsessed with talking about how various things have been tried before, how they failed, who was to blame, and especially why it guarantees that your idea won’t work today. They frequently call it “being realistic”, or “the voice of experience.”, but I call it idea homicide. The future is being murdered by our obsession with the past. The status quo (the result of a string of things long past) has us in a death grip. We can’t increase the quality of our project outcomes as long as we’re condemned to merely following the voice of experience. Even if it worked in the past, “doing things the same old way” doesn’t necessarily continue to work when the world changes around you. Like watching reruns of “I Love Lucy”, giving too much airtime to the past in our conversations is a recipe guaranteeing that the future will just be more of the same.
Become a conversation terrorist! Hijack conversations about “what happened last time we tried that”, “the way we’ve always done things around here” and “the reality of the current situation”. Redirect them to a destination that’s a lot more appealing – the future. Talk about the what’s possible, what stirs passion, what builds commitment, what inspires action. Talk about the way we intend things to be around here in the future. Here’s a good way to start: “If anything were possible, and you were guaranteed success, what would you begin to create today for <your project, yourself, your work, your family, your career>?” If a conversation is careening violently toward the abyss of the past, you might try something like “I totally agree with everything you say, AND <dwell purposefully on this word> I’m absolutely committed to creating…<some outrageously wonderful future possibility that makes the person’s hair fly back like they are riding a Harley with no helmet>.” Follow that up quickly with “What would make that possible?”, and maybe even “Who’s in?!” These kinds of statements generally evoke more productive conversations, as well as commitments for people to take some action to make a positive difference.
Naturally this stuff can impact our personal lives, too. And you don’t even need other people to keep you stuck in the past. Some historical conversations are happening entirely in our heads. My father wasn’t the easiest person in the world to live with, but I’ve been out of his house for the past 33 years. Unfortunately, the internal conversation going on in my head about him is still keeping alive all of the angst and grief associated with our early relationship. The ramblings of the little voice in my head continue to build and maintain a barricade to a decent relationship between us today. Every time he veers even slightly toward some old, familiar banter, that inner voice starts rattling off all of the stupid nonsense I had to put up with as a child, warning me that it’s just milliseconds from all happening again – as if the future is destined to merely be a reflection of the past. My dad’s made stunning efforts to create a new kind of relationship with me over the years, but they are all thwarted by the conversations I continue to have with myself. The only thing that can release me from the grip of the past is imagining a future that today seems unlikely, but would be a more enjoyable way to spend the little time we have left together on this planet. My dad can’t change because I keep him stuck the way he was 33 years ago through the repeated past conversations swirling around in my head.
OK, that settles it! I’m going to shift my inner voice to future possibilities, give my dad a call, and see how this works out.
I’ll let you know what happens later this week! – Kimberly
Kimberly Wiefling, Author, Scrappy Project Management