Spring 2003 Self- reflection: moving through change
Newsletter #8
From Diana's Desk

About Diana

Look at your Life

      I just returned from three weeks in Montana, big sky country, hiking with family and friends in Glacier National Park and finishing in Banff. For us, the Rockies were both breathtaking and accessible as we combined riding though and looking up with hiking to glaciers and looking down upon emerald lakes and sparkling snowfields. One bonus to the trip was very little TV or newspaper news. I truly experienced a summer suspension, a real blessing after an especially full spring schedule. I hope that each of you has a chance to have your own summer suspension, to cleanse and renew. I am back now and in a reflective space as I contemplate a fall schedule just as full as was my spring.

      I want to describe to you a process that I use in my workbook to help readers and clients deal with change, whether imposed or desired. It can work for individuals, groups such as families and teams or entire organizations. The principles are the same.

      Often we are not aware that we want or need a circumstance in our lives to change. Or perhaps an outside force, our family, a relationship or a work situation is pushing change upon us. It may start with a vague feeling of discontent, or a mood shift, or being scattered and less able to concentrate. Energy may fall away; things are just not comfortable and "right". Claes Janssen has a model that describes the cycle we go through when this happens. He calls it the 4-Room Apartment. Picture a rectangle with four equal sections. First, in the upper right apartment is Contentment. Things are going along pretty well. Then some inner or outer force enters and nibbles at your consciousness but you push it away. You have entered that lower left apartment, Denial. But you can't keep denying the reality, so it isn't long before you find yourself in the third room to the right, Confusion. Things get pretty messy before they get better. Finally you come out of the confusion and enter the Renewal phase. That certainly feels better. Then you comfortably slide into Contentment. But it will cycle through again. That is life in action.

      My Balancing Your Wheel of Life workbook is intended to help you with discoveries about your life and values and to connect those values more closely to the way you lead your life. It can help to overcome the denial and handle the confusion that Janssen presents in his model. The exercises are designed to move you through a four-step process of Self-reflection, Discovery, Insight and Action. Each reading and exercise calls for a pause for self-reflection and going inside to uncover your thoughts and feelings. I suggest that you don't labor over them in a too intellectual way, but get quiet and focus on the questions and the answers that arise for you without prolonged pondering. Our best answers to life's questions are just there waiting for us to uncover them. Don't forget the outrageous and humorous are very acceptable in this stage of self-reflection. Allowing yourself a little "looseness" may get to your real feelings and thoughts. Think of it as personal brainstorming.

      Self-reflection will lead to discovery. It may come in the form of an "ah that is what I have been doing" or, "I never thought of it in that way before" or, "that is what has been happening." Then the next step is insight. Insight gives the meaning to your discovery. Often these two stages happen so closely together that it may be hard to separate the two. The discovery is the "what is" and the insight is "what does it mean, and, what can I do about it?" The last phase is action, where, based upon the previous three, you write down a possible action you will take to make this real in your life. In addition to the four steps in the workbook, there is opportunity for journal learning. There are spaces for writing whatever occurs to you, your thoughts, feelings, memories that come up for you or your dreams and plans. This is all personal to you. There are no right or wrong answers. You are in effect, learning from yourself what you already know but may have forgotten.

      Lets look at these within the context of the 4 Room Apartment. Usually in the denial phase you're not very effective in getting tasks done, or in feeling good about yourself. The signals can be very subtle, however. With practice you can become aware sooner and pick up this denial. Then the most important step is to pause and allow time for some self -reflection, that personal brainstorming. The same process is important for groups and organizations too. The tendency is to rush to a "fix" without first fully exploring what the issue is. Without the self-reflection, we can make assumptions that can prove awkward at best to disastrous at worst when acted upon hastily. With a decision to be self-reflective, you are setting an intention to fully explore the situation that generally leads quite readily to discoveries. For those of you in organizations, this may seem similar to quality improvement activities, where you experience a problem or difficulty, brainstorm for ideas with others (collective self-reflection) to discover what is happening, collect appropriate data and gain insight through analysis of the information. Only then are you ready to develop a plan for action.

      There are two crucial stages to this whole process. The first is setting the intention to self-reflect, putting the process in motion, and second, acting upon your insights as you propose and then carry out actions to promote change. Carolyn Myss writes in Sacred Contracts that the greatest responsibility rests with those who have made these discoveries for themselves that lead to insights but have not acted. She states that our spiritual growth depends upon our acting upon this knowledge. Psychology would call this cognitive dissonance, when we know what needs to be done but don't act. This results in spiritual and psychological distress. This state is so stressful that you are drained of energy and my even become physically ill. I see it in organizations when some people see the need for action in response to change and others don't. It can be downright painful to work in such a setting for those who have made the discoveries and insights and see what needs to happen for the group to grow with change.

      A person or an organization can choose to try to stay in contentment, trying to keep the barrier of denial firmly in place, but very little growth will happen. I believe we are meant to be challenged, to grow and to learn. For each of us, that brings more of our true selves forth. For organizations, they are better able to fulfill their mission (as well as be more rewarding places to work). All of our self-reflective work helps us to become more of who we really are. May Sarton's thoughtful poem gives insight into this, our human journey towards congruence.

Now I Become Myself

Now I become myself. It's taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces…

      Summer is a very good time to put self- reflection into practice. I wish you delightful discoveries and terrific insights and the will to take the action to be your very best self.

With warmest regards,




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