Tag: positive change

The Engaged Life

June 16th, 2010

There is only so much you and I can do to positively contribute to the lives of others. All people are multifaceted; the most advanced computer cannot rival the complexity of a human being. This means that a particular input from us will not necessarily produce a particular outcome. It may not even produce a desirable outcome. We may expect, for example, that having a pleasant conversation with another might make for less conflict and more cooperation between us. This is a reasonable expectation and may in some cases be accurate, especially if such times together are a pattern and not isolated incidences. But there are no guaranteed outcomes. Much of what informs others and their decisions lies beyond our control.

Confronted with this reality we may be inclined to despair and opt out of the relationship. Or we may remain physically present, but emotionally disengaged. We may wonder why we should bother making an effort if we can’t know if any good will result. So we don’t bother. If we do bother, we may resort to the use of techniques that promise a guaranteed outcome. Think “Perfect Abs in One Week” and other tabloid ads. These promise certain outcomes if we follow the prescribed technique. They give us the illusion of control and the hope of a desirable outcome. If I do X, Y will happen.

All relationships are no-guarantee relationships. The most humane response to this truth is to muster the courage to engage; to neither opt out nor heed the seduction of techniques. We must risk—and when we do we will experience both rewards and grief. These are guarantees. The joys and sorrows we experience from such courage are evidence that we are alive. I prefer this to a life of emotional and spiritual atrophy. Commit to living with this courage and you will model The Engaged Life. This may, after all, be the most potent means by which we contribute to others’ lives.

    Newsletter for November 2009: The Third Element of Effective Structure

    November 3rd, 2009

    The Synthesis Fugue

    What kind of music do you enjoy? If you’re like me you appreciate a broad spectrum. So far today I’ve listened to Bach, Radiohead, Ryan Adams, and The Rolling Stones. The music I’m drawn to tends to result from synthesis: the combining of multiple, different parts into a complex whole. Attend the symphony and you’ll experience the splendid coalescence of myriad, unique aural expressions.

    Synthesis, the third step in our learning structure, is when we collaborate with our audience to reassemble the elements explored during the process phase into a new coherent whole. Imagine you are the conductor. The orchestra is your audience. Together you are working to shape something resonant and memorable.

    A powerful shift happens as you progress from Introduction through Process and into Synthesis. The topic you present in the Introduction, though helpful for the purposes of orienting your audience, is as yet abstract to everyone but you. Imagine if you told me, “Today we’re going to talk about native vegetation.” I would know what we’re discussing, but I wouldn’t have any relationship to the topic. It remains intangible to me. Process allows me to explore the content and make it my own. I can ask questions, deepen my understanding, and at least begin to satisfy my curiosity. Through synthesis we can then create a new form, or composition, that has personal meaning and relevance to each individual.

    Too often, because we bypass the process phase, synthesis becomes merely a reiteration of what was stated in the introduction. For example, an introduction may be, “Smoking cigarettes is harmful to your health.” The “synthesis” that follows falls flatly as, “Furthermore, don’t smoke. It’s bad for you.” This prevents the message from taking root and yielding change because the topic remains distant and impersonal to the audience.

    Synthesis offers the opportunity to make meaning of process. The presenter or educator can facilitate synthesis by bundling together comments from the audience into likenesses, then reframing the main message after integrating input. This is a far cry from traditional approaches wherein we state the message in our terms, irrespective of participants’ voices.

    In summary, a solid Introduction promotes productive, divergent Process, which in turn allows for constructive Synthesis. Keep in mind that all of these elements apply to both formal and informal presentations. What applies to teaching a workshop will also be relevant in a dialogue with your coworkers or children. Fidelity to each element will enhance the potency of all our interactions.

    It’s great to be working with you to promote meaningful, lasting change.


    Questions? Send me an email.

      Newsletter for October: The Second Element of Effective Structure

      October 5th, 2009

      Process is to learning what digestion is to eating. Content that people make their own is content that can change their lives. To make our work as meaningful as possible we have to allow time for others to process what we’re discussing. This is exactly like the digestion process by which our bodies break down food and make it something we can use.

      I played soccer throughout high school and college. During each high school season we’d gather at a teammate’s house the night before the game. The menu was always the same: spaghetti. In addition to building camaraderie, the high carbohydrate fare helped fuel us up to play the next day. Our bodies required approximately 24 hours to digest the pasta and extract the necessary nutrients.

      Imagine playing a soccer game immediately after eating three helpings of spaghetti. Not a pretty thought. (Viewers of The Office should have no problem conjuring an image here.) But sadly this is what many educational approaches amount to–a spaghetti feed/soccer game.

      Without process we can’t assume any material we present will be relevant to our listeners. The goal of the process phase is to help others take ownership of the content we present. They do so by strengthening their relationship to the content. Through process we can afford participants the opportunity to more deeply understand and internalize the risks of alcohol, for example, resulting in their truly owning their convictions surrounding alcohol use. This ownership can lead to changed action.

      Underlying process is the opportunity for abstract, intangible ideas (think “Just say no”) to be more concrete. As ideas become more concrete they become more real. Then they have power to alter our perception.

      It’s great to be working with you to promote meaningful, lasting change.

      Send an email to andrewfrobinson@aweber.com to subscribe to future newsletters.