Why We Need A Better Way of Thinking, Being, and Relating

Big WaveAthena Doctrine Research There's a tsunami of change building.

Best-selling and award-winning authors John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio surveyed 64,000 women and men in thirteen countries across a wide swath of cultural, political and economic diversity. They gathered data from Canada to Chile and Mexico to Indonesia.  Everywhere they went they asked a lot of questions about life today, about what makes us happy and gives our lives meaning.*

What they discovered was quite sobering.  People are talking as if they live in an age of "extended anxiety".  Among many of the statements surveyed, both men and women weighed in on these:

"There is too much power in the hands of large institutions and corporations."  86% agree "My country cares about its citizens more than it used to."  76% disagree "The world is becoming more fair."  74% disagree "Life will be better for my children than it is for me."  51% disagree

And then two clinchers:

"I’m dissatisfied with the conduct of men in my country."  57% agree

"The world would be a better place if men thought more like women."  66% agree

When the authors began to unpack these responses with the interviewees, what they discovered was not the fomenting of a global gender apocalypse -- where people were dogging and downing one gender more than another -- but rather where people were hungering for expression, a "way of being," a way of living life where certain core values were central to it, where certain fundamental characteristics were front and center to the way we do business and life.

As it turns out, these core values and ways of thinking happen to be characteristically feminine attributes.  Here's the way the authors describe it:

A Growing Shift in Roles and Values

"There’s a growing shift in the roles of masculine and feminine values in the twenty-first century. We live in a world that’s increasingly social, interdependent and transparent. People around the world are showing that traditionally feminine leadership and values are now more popular than the macho paradigm of the past ... Everywhere, people are frustrated by a world long dominated by codes of male thinking and behavior: Codes of control, aggression and black- and-white thinking that have contributed to many of the problems we face today, from wars and income inequality to reckless risk-taking and scandal.  The most innovative among us are breaking away from traditional structures to be more flexible, collaborative and nurturing. And both men and women from Medellin to Nairobi are adopting this style, which emphasizes cooperation, long-term thinking, and flexibility. Informally, and in countless ways, they are following the Athena Doctrine, named after the Greek Goddess, the warrior whose strength came from wisdom and fairness."

Why the Shift Is Happening - What's Broken and Needs to  Be Fixed?

When you consider the major institutions of the world, both current and past, what values have tended to dominate?  How have those institutions primarily engaged the world?  Power has been in the hands of a few rather than the many.  Hierarchical systems prevailed.  Influence was perpetuated by decree perpetuated by status and office.  Conflicts were fought by warriors where the strongest always won and the weak were dominated.  The world was based upon a win-lose paradigm.  Status, wealth, economic advantage, opportunity, education, religious influence, leadership -- all of these were centralized and controlled by a few, all in the name of God, of course -- and the few most often were men.

The "game" of institutional conquest had rules that were stacked in favor of the few or those who had the stomach to enter in and fight their way to the top at whatever cost.  Today's politics is a classic example.

Because women have been devalued in history, many of the characteristics and attributes and ways of thinking and being that women can bring to the world have been correspondingly devalued.  Businesses call them "soft skills" as opposed to hard skills.

So if you highly value things like empathy, collaboration, fairness, flexibility, win-win paradigms, compassion, unselfishness, and transformation, who wants to get into the dominant game with its warrior-like rules and mentalities?  Who wants to feel like you have to "prostitute" yourself in order to play the current game?  Who wants to sacrifice your fundamental core values for the bottom line of money, power, and status as the only end game?  Surely there must be more to life than that?

No wonder women aren't flocking to get into politics, for example.

No wonder so many people feel disenfranchised within religious communities.  Many religions refuse to allow women to fill top leadership positions, including being ordained to ministry, stating, "It's just not God's way" as if men have a corner on how God's will is suppose to be lived out.

As a result, the institutions of the world continue to play the game the way it's always been played, with a few at the top determining the rules and the outcomes and the style.

A Tsunami of Change - Different Values and Ways of Thinking and Being

But what the authors of the The Athena Doctrine are showing in their extensive research is that the game is changing.**  There's a tsunami of hunger and corresponding transformation that is sweeping around the globe.  It's a wave of change that insists on including experiences like delight, beauty, flow, vulnerability, authenticity, social responsibility, intuition, imagination, innovation, cooperation.

Both women and men are standing up and saying, "Enough is enough!  There's another way of doing business and life that centers around a whole different set of values that can be as effective or even more effective as those of the past.  After all, many of the primary institutions of the world are irreparably broken.  The old ways of doing things is over.  Things have to change.  We want to live different values in everything we do!  We want to help make the world a better, more humane, and more equitable place where there's room at the table for everyone, for the sake of each other and our future generations!"

So as Gandhi once said, It's time to "be the change you wish to see in the world."

So how does all this relate to strengths-based living?  Stay tuned.  More to come.  We need a fuller picture.


* The Athena Doctrine:  How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the World, John Gerzema & MichaeL D’Antonio

** If you would like to see slides of the main parts of their research, go to this link.

Clearing Space for the New

old bookshelvesI was struck on New Years Eve Day with the rather immediate sense that some clearing away needed to happen as I approached the new year.  My wife Shasta and I were sitting in our office doing some work.  As I leaned back in my chair to catch my proverbial breath in the midst of my concentrating work, I looked around at my book cases filled with hundreds of books that surround me every day.  I glanced at some of the titles this time with a bit more awareness and realized that many of them no longer represented who am I these days.  And at the same time, I noticed the high stack of books on my desk that I'm currently reading which have no space in the completely filled bookcases. Almost instantaneously, we both decided that we needed to do a book cleansing.  One hour later, we had nine bags of books ready to be donated and all the spaces had been dusted and cleaned and rearranged.  The whole office had this clean, visually appealing look and feel.  We commented that we both even felt lighter inside (once the shock from the magnitude of what we'd done began to wear off).

Believe it or not, we had just engaged in one of the most significant spiritual practices for healthy spiritual growth that is particularly apropos around the new year.

I realized that all of the energy in those old books was a competing energy with my inner spirit, mind, and heart these days.  Not that there's anything wrong with having competing energies.  It's healthy to expose ourselves to things that stretch us or force us to reevaluate our beliefs and ideas and thoughts.  But if the old energy is taking up all the space so that there's no room for energy that is more in alignment with who we are now, we're inhibiting our growth within the new.

Here's the way Danielle LaPorte (author, speaker, coach) put it in her recent newsletter blog post:

"I think it's a universal law that you have to clear space for newness to enter; let something die for something to be born; cleanse to heal; let go to receive; just like we clear our lungs to take in new air."

I like the way she puts it, especially the example of breathing.  Imagine what would happen if we never exhaled; we only inhaled.  I've tried it to see.  I didn't get very far.  My lungs felt like they were going to explode from the pressure of all that air inside.  Turns out, lungs have a set capacity. So you have to clear your lungs to take in new air.  And you can't live without new air.

All of the wisdom traditions share the belief that there's something extremely powerful and transformational when we let go and clear space.  The new has a hard time entering our lives until we do this work of clearing.

Notice similar metaphors Jesus used.  He taught that you have to die to self for the new person to emerge; the seed must be placed in the ground and then die in order for the plant to appear; you must be born of water and the spirit to enter the kingdom of God (cleansing, immersion, being buried, before resurrection and new life).  Powerful spiritual metaphors about clearing space for the new.

This is the foundational ritual and practice I'll be facilitating in the first retreat weekend (of three total) on January 25-26.  The journey of "Igniting the Fire of Your Spiritual Life" retreats will necessarily begin with exploring what space needs to be opened up in your life.  What do you need to let go of in order to receive?  What space do you need to clear in order for the new to be invited in?  What needs to be exhaled before inhaled?  How do you need to reframe your beliefs in ways that more deeply serve you and others through you?  Spiritual growth and development must begin with this process.

I want to invite you to participate in this retreat cycle this year.  There are 5 more spaces open.  Here's the link for all the information, logistics, and registration:  "Igniting the Fire of Your Spiritual Life."  I guarantee you this will be a transformational journey for you in this new year.

On New Years Day, Shasta and I spent a couple of hours journaling our reflections to 20 questions looking back at 2012.  Some were more challenging than others; like, "What was the single most difficult event/experience in 2012?  What are you still hanging on to from that experience?"

As I journaled, I began to sense a movement inside of me.  It felt like an expanding; like space opening up.  I realized that I was letting go some of the pain from that experience.  I was exhaling the limiting beliefs I had formed around it.  I was breathing easier.

Do you need to clear more space in your life in order to let in the new you're longing for?  What kind of exhaling do you need to do?

The artist Picasso said,

"Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction." 

In other words, unless you're the God of the Hebrew creation poem who created out of nothing, for you to create you must first replace, take away, deconstruct, destroy, let go, exhale, and then build, innovate, renovate, design, construct, and create.  It's about deciding what you can add to and what you need to take away and replace with.  It takes boldness, willingness, surrender, focus, and earnest persistence.  But it's always worth it!

Are you ready?