Breakthrough Newsletter
By George Pitagorsky

Volume V, Issue 6                                                                          Top   June 2013
In This Issue
Breaking Habits
BOOK: Managing Conflict in Projects
BOOK: The Zen Approach to Project Management
"Productive insight; clear (often sudden) understanding of a complex situation."  Free Dictionary

Pop the bubble of conditioned thinking and emerge into the creative realm of "no absolutes," continuous change, uncertainty and unlimited possibilities.

Then, there can be innovation, adaptation and optimal performance.

Performance & Open-minded Mindfulness:
Open-minded: questioning everything, accepting diversity and uncertainty. 

Mindful: consciously aware; concentrated.

Foundation for blending process, project, engagement and knowledge management into a cohesive approach to optimize performance.
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Our aim is to stimulate the kind of thinking, dialogue and understanding that leads to optimal performance. 

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Breaking Habits

by George Pitagorsky  


Bad Habit  

Have you ever done the same unskillful thing repeatedly and complained about the undesirable results? Have you blamed fate, your parents or others for what happen and why it happened?


Maybe it has been something like over eating only to find yourself uncomfortable and, over time, get increasingly fat. Maybe it has been buying something that seemed to be just what you needed to make you happy only to find yourself disappointed and broke. Or, maybe it has been falling into an argument with a spouse or partner over some minor issue and watching it spiral into a major battle. If you are in business, maybe you have chronically underestimated what it takes to get some project done.


This poem, Autobiography in Five Chapters brings out the way we can address this phenomena:


Chapter 1

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.


Chapter 2

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.


Chapter 3

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.


Chapter 4

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.


Chapter 5

I walk down another street.

~ Portia Nelson ~ 


Once we take responsibility for our actions and recognize their consequences, we are able to break out of the cycle of habitual behavior. Of course, chapter two can go on for quite some time until we finally acknowledge that we are caught in a habit and we recognize that we can change our behavior. With those two realizations, there is ownership and accountability. "I didn't dig the hole but I am responsible for falling in and I can do something about it."


Note the difference between taking responsibility for falling in and beating yourself up for it. "Yes, it was my fault but I can't do anything about the past. I am not a bad person for continuing to fall in, just habituated. I can't change the past. I can change the future."


In chapter three, there is a breakthrough but there is no magic. It is not at all easy to change a habit. It requires knowing that change is possible, persistent effort and patience.  


In chapter three you realize that you don't have to fall into the hole again, but that if you do you are not lost. You see what you have done, know where you are, get out of the hole and resolve not to fall in again. If you do fall in again, you do not despair, you just resolve to keep on doing the hard work of changing your behavior.  


In chapter four, you walk around the hole. You stop reacting to the urge to overeat or the pain brought up by some recurring memory that triggers a habitual response. You have broken the habit by cutting the roots of unskillful behavior and are free to go down the old street anytime you want, mindfully aware of the hole and able to not fall in.


Then, you walk down another street. If you have learned well from the first four chapters then you become mindfully aware of the holes or other obstacles that might be on that new street. You avoid building new habits and don't even fall in the first time through. If you do you can make the best of it. Mindfulness and the wisdom of knowing that you can manage your behavior and make skillful choices combine to set you up for being awake and aware in whatever you do. 


The Buddha taught a simple but profound lesson to his son.  He said,


If you are about to do something that you know is unskillful, don't do it.


If you are doing something that you realize is unskillful, stop doing it.


If you have done something that was unskillful, own up to it, take responsibility for it and resolve not to do it again.


What is unskillful behavior? It is any persistent thought, speech or action that that does not support your goals.


Align your thinking, speech and action with your goals, and apply wisdom, resolve, effort and mindfulness to achieve optimal performance.


[1] Nelson, Portia, There's a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery


� 2013 Pitagorsky Consulting  


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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.
Project Management Institute


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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 
International Institute for Learning, Inc. (IIL)