It’s a bit more than a week into the new year and I am already behind on all the things I was going to get done during the post-holiday lull. I am procrastinating. As with many of my less agreeable habits, I decided to do a workshop on the subject for a European client late last year. The overarching question of why we procrastinate was framed a bit more specifically as “Why don’t we do the things we KNOW we need to do to accomplish what we SAY we want to accomplish?” The correlation
By Jim Selman | BioDo we have an economic problem or a spiritual problem?
My teacher and friend Dr. Fernando Flores was a candidate for the Presidency of Chile. In one of his speeches, he declared, “We don’t have an economic problem so much as we have a spiritual one…we’ve forgotten who we are…we lack a vision and purpose for our nation”. He dropped out of the presidential race, but this phrase has stayed with me. I think it is true of most nations, including our own.
There is a maxim that states, “A vision without action is just a dream.
By Jim Selman | Bio
I was playing a trivia game and had to answer what the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are. I got three out of four, but had to go to go to Wikipedia to get them all: War, Famine, Conquest and Death. These traditional Biblical symbols mark the ‘end of time’, when all things are put right and presumably all karma is erased and this journey will be complete. In researching each of them, I learned that ‘conquest’ is best translated in today’s language as ‘corruption’.
By Jim Selman | BioThe older I am, the more I reflect on the aphorisms all around us and wonder why it is so difficult to accept and live with this obvious wisdom. Robert Fulghum memorialized many of them in his bestseller All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. All of these little ‘nuggets’ of wisdom we’ve accumulated over the years are generally, well, wise. It is befuddling why so few people take them to heart.
Why do so many spend a lifetime learning these kinds of lessons the hard way? Actually, why is it that any of us continue to act badly, do things we know won’t work, or become engaged in behaviors that, in any of a hundred different ways, are harmful to ourselves and others?
Theologians, psychologists, teachers, philosophers and parents have been occupied by these questions for a very long time. The larger underlying questions at the heart of this inquiry are:
- “Who am I?”
- “Do I really have a choice about what I do?”
- “Is it really possible to learn from our experience?”
If by ‘experience’
By Jim Selman | BioI work with organizations that are attempting to change. At the beginning of working with a new client, I point out what’s missing for any organization that has recurring or seemingly intractable problems: what’s missing is a different way of observing. Whether we’re talking about a company, a community or a continent, a new perspective always gives us an opening to create new possibilities, have new choices and take new actions: a new way of observing the world effectively gives us a different future than some variation of ‘more of the same’. =&0=&. When we do, we begin to realize that we have a paradigm problem. Until we deal with that, none of our seemingly intractable problems—from staggering debt to unending war, climate change to the underlying causes of the mortgage crises—can be solved. Albert Einstein expressed this concisely when he said that sometimes our problems cannot be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them.
Paradigm problems are like addictions. They are ‘self-referential’ structures that, at some point, disconnect us from a larger ‘reality’. Once disconnected, we begin to follow self-destructive patterns of behavior until we ‘hit bottom’ or have some form of crisis that ‘breaks the paradigm’ and opens possibilities for making other choices. In AA and most ‘recovery’ literature, the self-destructive behavior is understood to be the symptom. The ‘disease’
By Jim Selman | Bio
There are two kinds of break-ups. The ‘soft’ breakup is where both parties in a relationship more or less stay in communication and talk about their differences, their discontent or their changing needs until they arrive at a conclusion that “This just isn’t working” and agree to go their separate ways. Sometimes they remain friends. In any case, this kind of mature and honest ending allows both parties to let go of past expectations or disappointments, eventually
By Shae Hadden
Choose to wait, wish and hope. At the end of your life, when you
reflect on the chance encounters, strange coincidences, unlikely timing,
events you experienced, you may say that all of your ‘bad luck’ was
Choose to be, do and have. At the end of your life, when you reflect on all the chance encounters, strange coincidences, unlikely timing, and uncanny events you experienced, you may say that all of your ‘good fortune’
By Jim Selman | BioWe’ve all experienced a situation—whether in a marriage, friendship or business relationship—where we find ourselves thinking about the other person and saying, “I love you, BUT…”. It’s in that moment we realize a particular behavior of theirs is not acceptable to us and has become a source of stress and resentment. For many, resentment almost always leads to a downward spiral of self-destructive behavior and the eventual destruction of the relationship.
I was coaching a friend recently who is in such a dilemma. She is and always has been the primary breadwinner in her marriage. Her husband is a charming, lovable, creative man who is prone to spending binges whenever he is traveling or working on various short-term projects. This usually leads to an ‘explosive’ encounter when the credit card bills arrive. These angry eruptions are followed by his characteristic pattern of apologies, remorse and promises followed by feelings
By Jim Selman | BioWhen we know that there is an end to a particularly strenuous period of work, we can feel energized and become even more productive. When we think that the flow of work is endless or that we have no choice in the matter, then we may begin to break down, feel disempowered, become tired. Life begins to feel like a burden.
I have found that resolving these kinds of chronic negative moods about workload and feeling overwhelmed begins by reconnecting with the fact that we always have a choice, even when part of our story is that we do not. When we can ‘own’ that our work is our choice (even if we don’t particularly like what we are doing), then we have taken the first step toward changing how we relate to it. It is OUR job.
The second step is to learn to ‘be present’ when we are working.
By Jim Selman | BioIn a recent New York Times op-ed column, Bob Herbert challenged all of us to get down out of the bleachers and take on at least one of today’s intractable problems. He pointed to the courage of many Civil Rights activists in the ’60s and ’70s, including Andrew Goodman who was murdered by the KKK and of course Rosa Parks. We remember these individuals and many like them because, like revolutionaries everywhere, they put their lives on the line for something worth dying for. They stood ‘in front of the tanks’ in Tiananmen Square; they faced British soldiers in India; they campaigned for unions when children were dying in sweatshops in America; they managed ‘underground railroads’ during the US Civil War, World War II and the ‘dirty wars’ of South America in the 1970s and 1980s; they are fighting today for the environment against oligarchs and big corporations; and they are the last line of defense against wholesale corruption and greed in many parts of the world. Collectively, we call them ‘activists’ because they operate within the rule of law, but without relinquishing their commitment to change.
“Activism” is the penultimate resort to bringing about change when people lack the power to make policy—a form of non-violent war to change a system from within the system. One activist strategy might be some form of insurgency where the only goal is to destroy the status quo without any real vision for change and very little possibility for success. Another is to physically stand between the oppressors and the oppressed. The real power of activism, however, lies not in