The theme this month at my daughter’s school is “Reflective.” They are teaching the children to value and practice the discipline of looking within.
They are planting seeds now that have the potential, with thoughtful cultivation, to bloom into a lifelong commitment to build personal capacity through self-knowledge. The implications for this are massive.
Our organizations today are replete with leaders who do not possess the ability or the inclination to look within. They have decided that reflective practices are too soft and immeasurable for the “real world.” This is defensive reasoning to protect themselves from what they might experience in a real encounter with the person they really are. Because they haven’t dug out any interior space they lack the capacity to deal with complexity, change and the general messiness of the human/organizational experience. As a result, when their bucket gets full the parts they can’t effectively “hold” negatively slosh out onto everyone around them, resulting in anger, contempt, distraction, disruption and the feeding of fear.
Parker Palmer has said, riffing on Socrates line that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” “if you choose to live an unexamined life please don’t inflict it on me.”
It may be that the greatest gift we can give our children is the gift of a reflective discipline. This is, I believe, the only hope for the future of our organizations, places that hold the promise of providing us with the opportunity to fulfill the meaning and purpose of our lives. To give this gift, however, requires that we start with ourselves.
There’s still plenty of daylight. Why not grab a shovel and get to work?