Breakthrough Newsletter
By George Pitagorsky

Volume V, Issue 2                                                                            Top   February 2013
In This Issue
Breaking Free from the Boredom of Repetition: Transforming Cycles to Spirals
Breaking Through to a Closed-Off Colleague
BOOK: Managing Conflict in Projects
BOOK: The Zen Approach to Project Management
Breakthrough
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Breaking Free from the Boredom of Repetition: Transforming Cycles to Spirals

by George Pitagorsky  

     

carousel 

 

"And the seasons they go 'round and 'round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game" Joni Mitchell, The Circle Game

 

Whether you are a business executive, technician, or artist, whether you stay at home or go off to work, your life is filled with repetitious cycles. The day begins, you arise, do your routines, morning, afternoon, and evening, go to bed and before you know it you arise and do it all over again. There are weekly cycles, monthly cycles, annual cycles, and more.

 

It is easy to become bored with the repetition. Some wake up thinking, "another day, more of the same". They go to work habituated, tired, and unconscious. Some thrive on the sameness. It frees them of the fear of change; they don't have to be creative. Even those who have lives in which they are faced with unique circumstances day after day can become stuck in their cycles. Boredom sets in and with it lethargy, depression and poor performance.

 

Optimal Performance

Optimal performance is the ability to operate with complete involvement, sufficiently and sustainably achieving often conflicting goals under changing conditions. Doing this requires seeing each moment as a unique opportunity to consciously confront whatever presents itself. The optimal performer is awake, creatively engaging in the activity of the moment. The optimal performer brings a focus and interest to each moment.

 

Dulled out habitual behavior, seeing each moment as just another repetition in a cycle does not promote optimal performance.

 

So, in a world filled with repetitive cycles, circles of daily activity, how do we stay awake? How do we keep ourselves from boredom and lethargy?

 

Circles to Spirals

Let's look at the symbol of the circle dance.

 

Dance, particularly dancing in circles, is used as a meditative exercise in many traditions. The circle can represent a state of endless repetition in which nothing is new. The circle is self-contained and never ending. Yet, in spiritual circles, dancing in circles takes on another more subtle meaning. In the Jewish tradition, there is the idea of bringing newness to the world of habit and tired unconscious repetition.

 

"Each time around is a repetition, but it is also an elevation. On one plane the pattern is a circle, it is all repetition; on another plane it is a spiral ... .In the very act of exact repetition we discover a new taste, a new creative expression in each revisitation of a point we may think we know already. Looked at from above, there is only a circle. But looked at from the side, each ring moves up and each one is entirely new. Each revolution brings us back to the same point in one sense, but in a deeper sense that point has never been reached before."[1] The circle when looked at in this way becomes a spiral. Chanting and spiritual singing work the same way, they go round and round but the circle leads to a higher destination. 

 

Making It Practical

How do we take this symbolism and apply it meaningfully in the practical world of our everyday lives?

 

It is our challenge to remind ourselves each day, perhaps many times per day, that we are in a spiraling dance. Practicing insight meditation is a means for doing that. By bringing conscious awareness with a sense of intense inquiry and interest to each moment we transform the mundane to something special. The acts of turning on the computer or washing your hands can become new experiences each time they are performed, if you bring to them this kind of awareness.

 

By making every act an object of mindfulness we become aware of nuances not seen in previous repetitions. By being consciously aware we can enjoy the movement and sensations of the moment, the water on the hands, the sensation of the fingers touching the keys. As in the dance we become lost in the moment yet fully aware and able to keep our balance and perform the steps in harmony with the other dancers.

 

In the context of work, the spiral is heading towards optimal performance; learning from each iteration to do it better the next time around. In the context of personal growth, the spiral takes us to increasingly subtle and joyful experiences of each moment.

 


[1] Tatz, Akiva, Gottleib, David, Letters to a Buddhist Jew, p. 252-3

 

 2013 Pitagorsky Consulting  

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Breaking Through to a Closed-Off Silent InfluenceColleague
By Michael Nir     

 

Following is an excerpt from Silent Influencing - Employing Powerful Techniques for Influence and Leadership by Michael Nir

  

"..... revisit the situation of a tough colleague, who assumes a hostile, closed position and is unwilling to join, collaborate, open up, and so on. Realistically, we are not always able to change such a position. However, there are tools and techniques to silently influence this scenario. When I come across a negative closed attitude where there is no cooperation, I know that there is little use in continuing the interaction, since it is usually futile to work against powerful resistance. The first thing is to slow down, take a breath and observe the process. Breathing is a very important and often neglected solution to overcome many challenging scenarios. Awareness of a situation is heightened when we offer ourselves the possibility to take the time to notice our breathing. As we are focusing on our breathing, we magically loosen up and build our personal support, which increases our perception and option for viewing the situation with fresh eyes and heightened empathy, which in turn enhances our propensity for influence and leadership.

 

I might then ask an open-ended question. I avoid asking a yes/no question such as: "so do you agree with the proposed solution?" I also refrain from asking: "WHY don't you agree?" WHY is a problematic word, as it carries a hint of blame to it and would intensify the conflict. I use softer framing with the word HOW, such as: "HOW would you suggest continuing now?" Or alternatively: "can you offer us your perspective?" And even: "I would like to receive your view on the solution." By stating what I want, I lead by example and create an opportunity for others to do the same. Many decision making meetings are at an impasse, as everyone is doing what s/he thinks should be done rather than stating what s/he would like to achieve.

 

Sometimes, to overcome an impasse, I might carry out a shrewd move and offer the resisting colleague an object such as a pen, a document, a paper during the meeting to influence his/her chosen closed position physically. This can result in him/her opening his/her folded hands, or shifting forward in his/her chair. Also, my leaning forward toward him/her will create some physical response in him/her. The change in the outward behavior changes the inner attitudes, just as surface behaviors generally are a reflection of inner feelings."

 

Note the way that Michael moves from impasse to a stepping back, using the breath as a technique for doing so. Stepping back in this way allows for creative thinking and responsiveness, as opposed to reactivity. Then there can be any number of ways to break through to the resistant party - in this case using questioning to engage the person or to simply change the physical dynamic with some offering or movement. 

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Managing Conflict in Projects
By George Pitagorsky
  
Managing Conflict in Projects: Applying Mindfulness and Analysis for Optimal Results by George Pitagorsky charts a course for identifying and dealing with conflict in a project context.
  
Pitagorsky states up front that conflict management is not a cookbook solution to disagreement-a set of prescribed actions to be applied in all situations. His overall approach seeks to balance two aspects of conflict management: analysis based on a codified process and people-centered behavioral skills. 
  
The book differentiates conflict resolution and conflict management. Management goes beyond resolution to include relationship building that may serve to avoid conflict or facilitate resolution if it occurs.
 
Publisher: 
Project Management Institute
Price:
$23.95 
AVAILABLE NOW 

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Zen book cover

The Zen Approach to Project Management 
By George Pitagorsky

 

Projects are often more complex and stressful than they need to be. Far too many of them fail to meet expectations. There are far too many conflicts. There are too few moments of joy and too much anxiety. But there is hope. It is possible to remove the unnecessary stress and complexity. This book is about how to do just that. It links the essential principles and techniques of managing projects to a "wisdom" approach for working with complex, people-based activities.

 

Project management becomes a metaphor for how we can live our lives and, if we follow the wisdom traditions, the way we live our lives becomes a metaphor for how to manage projects. 

 
"The Zen approach to Project Management brings together sound wisdom, a nuts-and-bolts grasp of practicalities, and original insights. It's the Zen that's been missing in all too many of today's business books, and George Pitagorsky is the master we've needed." 
Daniel Goleman, author Social Intelligence 
 
Publisher: 
International Institute for Learning, Inc. (IIL)
Price:
$19.95 
AVAILABLE NOW 

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