Friday, September 20, 2013

40 Days to Better: Day 19

An originally unplanned day off from running.  Although after running four days in a row that included my best track workout in a long time and my best 10K on the roads possibly ever, I'm not worried.  Tomorrow I will do either 10 or 13.1 in my continuing quest to run a great half marathon on October 12.  We will see what the new day brings when it gets here.

In the meantime, I have a thought from yesterday.  I have mentioned before that I had a very insightful leadership coach.  This type of person can go by different titles.  She works in an organization within the University called talent management and organizational development.  The key is that when I took the position she helped me to assess the situation and to consider ways to improve the probability of success though my leadership around or through certain complexities in the organization and in interpersonal issues.

Along the way she has also recommended a number of books including The Answer to How is Yes by Peter Block.  (I don't have any particular reason the support Amazon, but the link I have provided was just the easiest way to get to the book.)  The book has brought up a lot of issues for me.  The basic premise is that a person should focus on what really matters rather than on just getting everything done that is forced on them by the outside world.  We have the opportunity to play a role in constructing our own reality.  The concepts of intimacy (presence and reality), idealism, and depth are important.  The author realized intimacy (as defined above) dealing with his own body through returning to a sport.

The fact that the author writes about what matter and dealt with this through (at least in part) sport make it seem like the coach chose this just to help and challenge me.

The section I am in at present is even more challenging.  The author describes instrumentalism.  What he calls acting as part of the system designed to maximize the production of stuff.  (I'm paraphrasing.)  He strongly contrasts economics (about maximization and productivity) with art (generally capturing the idea of seeking meaning).  The author writes about these as if they are mutually exclusive.

Perhaps he only means to suggest that in their archetypes they are mutually exclusive.  Perhaps I would agree with that.  Where I struggle with this part of the book is that I was trained for five years in graduate school as an economist.  But I (and many others who study economics) love the arts.  In fact, I see seeking meaning (e.g., this blog itself) as valuable.  In fact, economists around the world have been trying to figure out how to place a dollar value on ideas.  (Perhaps that is the quintessential example of what Peter Block is trying to get us to avoid--why does an idea need a dollar value other than for the sake of calling it productivity?)

I don't think that people who seek to do things efficiently are necessarily any less likely to seek meaning.  I don't think that people who do things to maximize their wealth and well being necessarily are any less likely to be able to set their personal ambitions aside and to think about the well being of the whole.

Is there a tension?  Of course.  But at least for me that tension is healthy.

That tension guides me to make sure that what I am doing in all parts of my life is consistent with a higher purpose.  Consistent with some sense of spirituality.  Consistent with being better than just being "all about me".  Consistent with being the best I can be for all of those for whom I choose to be present and intimate (in Peter Block's sense of the word).

Recognition of that tension can then help to continue to guide me to being better.  I have to manage that tension.  Even within doing "what matters" there are competing goals.  There are competing interests.  There are competing ways of realizing what I feel in my heart I have been called to do.  There will always be tradeoffs (says the economist in me) while I find ways to realize what matters most.  On my lon term road to better the "most" part (beyond the well being of my wife and children) evolves over time and my capacity to realize it in a variety of ways changes as I gain experience and as my body ages.  

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