Tags: Kizuki Series

Acceptance as a way to another kind of hope [Today’s Kizuki 3]

by Anna
Published on: April 19, 2020
Categories: Self-management
Comments: No Comments

The most recent series of NPR’s “Invisibilia” Podcast* is coming to an end but one episode from March left such a strong impression on me personally, and as I think of the challenge of self-management during the current COVID19 crisis, that I felt compelled to put my thoughts into words.

As with each episode of Invisibilia the listener is taken on a kind of magical mystery tour of rich and varied perspectives, and the interesting twists and turns subtly reveal themselves along the way towards the conclusion.  The particular episode that prompted me to write today is titled “An Unlikely Superpower”  and touches on topics such as climate change, health and how we think about the future in an uncertain world.

At about 40 minutes into the podcast  there is an interview with an individual called Alison who talks about her philosophy on living with the health condition Parkinson’s disease:

if I pinned my hopes to a cure, I would just be waiting and it wouldn’t come and I would get resentful and disappointed and depressed and be more likely to fall off my perch quicker.. So I pin my hopes to living a life as well as I can, as good as I can  every day from one day to the next

Alison’s words and her story struck home for me because I had also been in a situation of “pinning my hopes on a cure”.  While still in my early 20s I had surgery which left me with partial facial paralysis. I have been lucky in that this hasn’t stopped me pursuing my interests in life but my facial nerve never fully recovered. I spent many years holding on to hope for a cure and that life would suddenly be better when I could look “normal” again. 

However,  it was upon reading my medical notes and set of research papers on my health condition for the umpteenth time several years ago, that I finally came to terms with the fact that a treatment wasn’t going to reveal itself any day soon and that it was highly unlikely that there was ever going to be a day when I would, in my own definition, regain a symmetrical face and look “normal” again.

Releasing my thoughts of the future from a hope and expectation on a cure or treatment brought a wave of relief and felt like I could finally let go of a heavy weight that I had been carrying . Moreover,  it helped me realise that pinning my hopes on a cure had narrowed my own vision and that when I took some time to accept a new reality, many more positives in my day-to-day life came into view again.
I had undervalued  friends, discovery, growth, experience, and achievements from the past and of the present, because I was so focused on a future conditional on a so-called cure. By accepting and releasing myself from a future dependent on a cure, I was able to better appreciate the positives and meaning of my current  life.**

As I think of so many of us working in a new normal as a result of the COVID19 crisis, it also makes me wonder how we go about balancing our hopes about the future and the meaning and joy to be found in the present. Yes, we need to take action to help each other and find ways to work in a new way and in new contexts, but we can only do this if we release ourselves from a hope that there will be a magical resolution: To borrow Alison’s words, if we pin our hopes on a time when things will return to normal, then we will “just be waiting”, rather than  living a life as well as we can, as good as we can every day from one day to the next.

Endnotes
* Invisibilia is one of many podcasts  that I enjoy from NPR and other media and news publishers. To see my current list of favourite podcasts click here
** My intent in writing this is not that we should give up on working towards or hoping for cures to health issues or solutions to world problems, but if we hold on too tightly to a hope for something to come along and “save” us, we can lose ourselves in waiting and be blinkered to the options, delights and rewards that are accessible to on a day to day basis

Temple with cherry blossom reflected in the windows

On More Meaning and Less Passion [Today’s Kizuki 2]

In my last blog post, I wrote on the topic of my first “Kizuki” around emotional granularity and how some organizational cultures could run the risk of causing us to disconnect from ourselves and diminish our own skills in self-management through the social pressure to use certain words to express our feelings.

The other day I happened to come across a discussion on a related theme when listening to one of  Adam Grants new episodes of Work Life* which was a very rich and engaging interview with Esther Perel . The topic was on relationships but, by its very nature, delved deep into the topic of emotions. 
At about 50 minutes into the podcast the topic of “passion” and its more recent usage in relation to work contexts.

Emotions and mismatched perceptions
It reminded me of one time when I was interviewing for a role at an international company. I’d received feedback that the initial interview had gone well but there was just one thing: I was told that I wasn’t being perceived as passionate enough about the role and opportunity.

Wow! This was a shock for me because I WAS very excited about the role and in line with the cultures that have influenced me the most – Scotland and Japan – I thought I was showing up as keen and enthusiastic.  However, in this organization’s culture, apparently i needed to show up in a different way for them to interpret my body language and words as meeting their definition of looking like someone who feels “passionate” about a topic.

Is too much “passion” getting in the way of you hiring the best people?
Adam Grant and Esther Perel continue their discussion into the topic of  work and motivation for work, reaching an interesting conclusion around the difference between meaning and passion (starting at about 53 minutes into the interview/discussion).

I have  often heard the word “passion” used to describe the degree of interest in a role or project when it seems like the terms “meaningful” or “engaged” would be a better fit.

Furthermore, taking into account the fact that “passion” could alienate individuals from cultures that are less extroverted, it makes me wonder how many organizations may be missing out on hiring individuals who would bring value to a team: Because over-reliance on a word like “passion”, which is not only an emotive and subjective term,  gets in the way of the interviewers trying to understand what “meaning” and “high engagement” would look like, or be defined by, from the perspective of the person being interviewed.

I feel this is particularly relevant for less extroverted cultures or cultures which are lower on the self-promotion, assertiveness or enthusiasm spectrums**.  If interviewers and hiring managers are using their own organizational culture as the main reference point and using difficult-to-define words like “passion” as a shortcut to rate suitable individuals, then, not only could they be missing out on hiring individuals who could make a significant contribution to the organization, but they could also be unintentionally reducing the diversity of their organization over time.

What other terms do you see being used in cultures that might unintentionally be short-circuiting a deeper conversation to better understand how another person feels or thinks about a topic?
Where else might we be unintentionally excluding others because we are relying on only one cultural context as our measure of fit or suitability?

Sources & Endnotes:
Molinsky, A. (2013). Global dexterity: How to adapt your behavior across cultures without losing yourself in the process. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press
Molinsky, A. (5 September 2017). Want to Boost Your Cultural Intelligence? Do This 1 Thing First. Inc.com. https://www.inc.com/andy-molinsky/want-to-boost-your-cultural-intelligence-do-this-1.html

*Worklife with Adam Grant: A TED original podcast: https://feeds.feedburner.com/WorklifeWithAdamGrant
** Professor Molinsky in his book “Global Dexterity: How to Adapt Your Behavior Across Cultures” set outs six dimensions of cultural difference – 1. Directness, 2. Enthusiasm 3. Formality, 4. Assertiveness, 5.Self-Promotion, 6. Personal Disclosure

Spring flowers found in the city
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