Monday, August 16, 2010

So Far Away

The other night I was talking with a friend who mentioned that she had lately been losing her way in the midst of conversations. Now, I know lots of people who get lost in conversations. There are many times where people will change the conversational thread so frequently, that I really have to work to follow it. However, the thing that made her getting lost different was that the thread she'd been losing had been her own.

She said, "I'll be talking with a client and suddenly find myself trying to remember what I was telling him."

We played with reasons that this might be occurring: age... diet... stress... etc. Then someone asked me what my theory would be. I stopped for a minute having a right-brain moment and pausing to wait for the right-to-left translation into language. Then I said, "It has to do with the distance between who you are and who you're being?"

Everyone looked at me expectantly waiting for me to explain what the heck that meant (as if I knew). So, I continued as the translation unfolded saying, "I mean, there are times when we say something because it's what we're supposed to be saying and there are times when we say things because they're what's really on our minds. You never get lost when your core motivation is perfectly aligned with what you're saying. You only get lost when your motivation isn't simply the what of what you're saying, but instead a why."

As I continued to process my thought (which had been really more of a feeling), it became clear to me that are many reasons for saying things. We say things to get something we want. We say things to convince others of our position. We say things to hurt others. We say things to avoid conflict. We say things to bolster and encourage. And from time to time, we say things to simply express what's on our minds. In all but the last case, there's a distance between who we're trying to be and who we are. The words we're saying are a means to an end and our thoughts are only indirectly focused on the actual content being distracted by assessment as to whether or not we're achieving our goals. It's this disparity that leads to losing our own threads.

Anyway, I think I must have at least somewhat reasonably performed the translation, because the dumbfounded looks subsided and we all began talking about where and how it occurs.

Basically, if you're totally into what you're saying with no other motive than to express your thoughts, you never get lost.

Serving Two Masters
This morning, it occurred to me that this phenomenon covers more than speech. Basically, how well you do at anything is often tied to motivational alignment. Whether playing saxophone or presenting to a board of directors, whether performing surgery or performing turns through a slalom course, when your motivation is simply to do what it is you're doing, you do it best. When your motivations are less well aligned, they eventually conflict with one another and you have to choose or compromise.

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Matthew 6:24
The experience is also different for the people whom you encounter. When you talk to a salesperson who absolutely loves her product and loves talking about it, you have a completely different experience than talking to a salesperson who loves to close sales, a palpable difference.

Relating to Kids
Over the past months, I've been learning a lot about so-called relationship-oriented approaches to autism treatment. These are often juxtaposed to so-called behavior-oriented approaches. From one perspective, there appears to be a significant divide between the two approaches. From another (perhaps more accurate and factual) perspective, the divide appears to be somewhat artificial.

From a purest, high-level perspective one set of approaches sees autism as a social-developmental challenge, working to help children relate to others; the other sees autism as a behavioral challenge, working to correct or eliminate undesired behaviors. However, if you look at the various techniques put forth by the advocates of these approaches, there is a lack of alignment. Ostensibly, the relationship folks would be using relating to others as the carrot to motivate children, and the behavior folks would be using the punishment/reward model. But in fact, you often see relationship advocates using punishment/reward techniques (e.g., say thus-and-such and we'll have a treat), and vice versa (e.g., I'm going to sit here playing with this puzzle to see if it draws your interest.)

I actually see opportunities for either approach to be effective given the situation. However, lately I've become more interested in the alignment challenges faced by staunch advocates of either side. Very rarely do I see someone completely aligned, e.g. someone who advocates a relationship-oriented approach who always uses relating as the core motivator for activities or someone who advocates a behavior-oriented approach who always employs behavior modification techniques.

As I understand it, children with autism are often quite good a spotting these lapses in alignment. Although I'm anything but an expert on this, it would seem to me that a child with autism would spot the difference between someone truly into relating and someone using relating as a means to an end the way you would spot the difference between a salesperson who loved the product and a salesperson who loved to sell the product.

Line'm Up
Anyway, not sure where this is all going, but it seems to me that if you find yourself getting lost in the thread of your own conversations, or, if you find yourself losing motivation and energy in the midst of a project, or, if you find that others simply aren't buying what you're selling, it could be an alignment issue. Then the thing to do would be to ask yourself, "How well aligned am I at this moment? Am I really excited about the what of what I'm doing or is it more about the why of what I'm doing?"

Happy Monday,

1 comment:

  1. I read this and then read "Self Indulgent Saturday". It seems to me the difficulty in accessing flow may well be explained by the distance you keep between who you are and who you may be trying to be at the time. Perhaps "self indulgence" is just jumping into who you are with both feet.


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