A Cool Tool

One of the beautiful aspects of walking the fine line between a career and an unschooling lifestyle is that I get to combine the best of both worlds. I can take some things I've learned in my years on the corporate treadmill and apply them at home, and use a ton of what I do in my personal life to enhance my days at work and benefit others. In fact, talking about walking this line was the whole inspiration for me to start blogging to begin with.

A few years ago, I came upon a tool at work that was completely appropriate for use in my personal life - it didn't need to be rationalized or justified or explained, it just plain fit for both. It goes by a high-falutin' name - "appreciative inquiry."

Appreciative Inquiry is an approach used in Industrial and Organizational Psychology (can't you just feel the "geek-o-meter" rising?) with a very simple premise: when approaching a problem, it's best to first explore what is good about the situation. Rather than start with a presumption that something is wrong and needs to be fixed, AI suggests that we should start with a presumption of what is good and therefore needs to be maximized, celebrated, and kept through whatever change we want to make. Confused? Here's two examples:

WORK: You've just been named the manager of a new team that has been performing poorly for months.
OLD STYLE: You determine what the group should be doing, then examine their current performance to see where they're falling short. You take actions to correct the deficiencies.
AI STYLE: You determine what the group excels at, both collectively and individually. You capture the best of what they do and find ways to share that among the rest of team. You place people in roles that play to their strengths.

HOME: You've just had it with your spouse. You don't like the way they talk to you, they're not on board with unshooling, and the spark is just plain gone.
OLD STYLE: Assuming you even decide to address the issue (you're just so damned pissed!), you talk to them about what you need and what they're not doing that they should be doing so your needs can be fulfilled. If it doesn't work, you decide to either sacrifice your happiness and stay, or get a divorce.
AI STYLE: You make the list of what your spouse does well - not what they do for you that you like, but what they do well. List talents that they have, or dreams they share, or clothes they look good in, or the way they kiss, or that they are an expert at folding shirts or changing tires. You help them find ways to do these things more, you celebrate them, and you never try to change them. And then, you take a look at how that works for you.

This is hardly a new concept; it's known by many other names (The Secret, The Power of Positive Thinking).

But damn, it works. Our traditional approaches automatically draw us into negative thoughts, and then we assess how we think about things - when we're already in a negative mood! It's virtually impossible to see things in a positive light when we're in a negative mood, but we almost always start that way.

Imagine the power of first defining what we appreciate, what we admire, what we would keep and celebrate at all costs. It allows to define the things that are good first, which puts us in a happy mood, which helps us see with great clarity all that is beautiful and good about our lives. And then we can see if we still want to change things. If so, we'll be doing it from a place of honesty and goodness.

Isn't life awesome?

1 comment:

  1. You cannot even imagine (or maybe you can) how your description of the home problem resonated with me. My guy is awesome at so many things, but was p!ss!ng me off in so many others, so what do I do? Attack, of course. I wish I'd read your blog entry first. I'll implement this direction this week.