seeing myself as a system

cables clint-adair-BW0vK-FA3eg-unsplash

I’m reading a book these days about leading change. My hope is that the book will help me and my team learn how to help others flourish – even through changes in our fast-paced, uncertain, complex world. I am learning a lot that will apply to the organization, but this morning I read something that applies personally to me.

I’ve struggled for a while with my inability to name my own desires and preferences with confidence. I hear others say without hesitancy, “This is what I like” or “This is who I am”, but I can’t seem to do that. I’ve wondered why. I’ve wondered if something was wrong with me.

The chapter titled, “See Yourself as a System”, gave me a fresh way to look at this.

The chapter starts out with the story of an Army officer who does not agree with some of the self-protective but unstrategic behaviors of the men he is commanding, but who does not stand up to them because he wants solidarity with the unit. The officer’s tension is an illustration of the complexity of our human system, with its “competing values and interests, preferences and tendencies, aspirations and fears¹”, many of which he linked back to needs he had developed during his upbringing.

The authors explain that our personal system is an inter-tangled network of our personality, life story, intellect, skills, and emotional intelligence. Our behaviors and decisions are affected by all of that and the situations, conditions, loyalties, experiences, and bandwidth that we have at any given time.

The chapter suggests that we cannot effectively lead change if we do not understand our system and our “multiple identities” that are a result of that reality. Not multiple identities in a psychotic or lack of integrity kind of way, but the fact that we do – in a healthy, authentic way – show up differently depending on the role we play, the need of the times, and the new growth we can bring to a situation now.

Personally, I felt a sense of relief when I read this. I was encouraged to hear that my perceived struggle with a set identity definition could actually be a benefit to a changing organization when I view myself as a complex system – less easy to describe, growing, updating, and changing over-time, rather than static, fixed, defined, and fully-formed. It’s given me a hopeful lens to consider some of my tensions. I’m looking forward to reading more about loyalties, influence factors, and roles in the next chapters.

What do you think? What is your perspective on being a “system”? 


¹ R. Heifetz, A. Grashow & M. Linsly. 2009. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership – The Tools and Tactics for Changing your Organization and the World, Harvard Business Press, p 178.

Photo credit: Clint Adair on Unsplash

 

making choices

house search
I am a house hunter.
Hopefully just for a little while longer. My husband and I are settling in a new city and looking for a place to live. We have rented internationally for a long time. Now we are going to buy a home.

It has been quite the process.

I have been receiving emails for months that tempt me with the new offerings in my supposed price range. We have picked a realtor to help us search. Friends have made suggestions. We have scanned the internet realty webpages. We have looked at many maps and driven many miles through many neighborhoods and walked through many future home possibilities. Price per square foot, HOA fees, room layouts and sizes, finishings and amenities overwhelm our conversations.

Which style is me?

What do I like? What do I want? Big or small? Modern or cozy? Privacy or community? Move-in-ready or fixer-upper? Yard or carefree? Close to school district or mall? Stretch the budget or live simply?

Comparing with others only makes it worse. We know many people in the area. Some live in gorgeous, spacious homes; others in small efficient condos. Some have a pool; others a lake view. Some are amazingly decorated and organized; others are cluttered and in need of a few up-grades.

I have reflected on everything about me.

There was a day when my choice had more to do with my children and my job. What they needed was priority and simplified the options. Today I have very few real needs in a house, so it is just my chosen lifestyle that makes the determination. How do I like to spend my time? What is most important to me?

I want to be ok with who I am and my choices and not feel pressure to be like someone else.

I think the pressure and the comparison will always be there. Even at my age, I still struggle with wanting to be liked, wanting to fit it, and wanting to be someone I am not. Sometimes other people make it harder… questioning my desires and my decisions. Are you sure you want that? Wouldn’t you rather have this?

Over the years it has gotten easier. I am getting more comfortable in my own skin, but I don’t know if I will ever get over it completely.

So the search continues… for my house… and for my own identity.

How do you deal with choices and comparison? What helps you feel content with your uniquely created identity?

abundance from imperfection

My sister’s plum tree bends to the ground heavy with plump, fresh, purple fruit. More than they can ever use… even more than they can give away!

The interesting thing for me is that this tree is not “pretty”. It grows crooked, scraggly, cut harshly on one side to get it off the roof of the house, mostly ignored, and often maligned for the mess that it makes.

… yet despite all those negatives, it yields A LOT of fruit.

I found much encouragement and hope in that tree this morning. I thought about my less-than-perfect, oft-neglected and criticized life, and realized that there is hope for fruit from my branches also.

That plum tree reminded me that it is not only the flawless, attractive, meticulously protected lives that produce fruit. Certainly attention and care are helpful in most situations, but I believe that there is much potential even in less-than-ideal circumstances also. It was as if that tree said to me this morning, “Take hope! You can produce a great harvest too!”

Have you ever felt that you were not good enough (…not smart enough, not old/young enough, not talented enough) to accomplish something with your life? How do you find hope?