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November 2008

MOTIVATION AND MEDITATION

My favourite synonym for the word motivation is energy. To be motivated is to feel the energy flowing through you; to lack motivation or to be de-motivated is have no energy to undertake the task in hand. Therefore it is important if we wish to be highly motivated ourselves not only to be choosy in what we agree to do, but also to find ways and activities that explicitly boost our energy. For different people this will be different things.

For a number of years now I have planned each year with usually five weekends where I go away on a retreat of some sort or another. I have done one silent retreat, and several have involved meditation. Last weekend I returned from a weekend away at the Ammerdown Centre near Radstock. (https://www.ammerdown.org/) For those who have not experienced it, I strongly recommend you check out what it has to offer.

Specifically, I was on a course called Breath of Life, run by a Catholic priest from Ireland, Father Louis Hughes OP. (https://www.bodymindmeditation.ie/) A remarkable man, and as modest, I felt, as he was remarkable. He took us through some yoga, but more importantly through his Christo-centric version of meditation, and his focus on the breath and the breathing.

Of course we know from Tai Chi, Chi Gung, Yoga and other disciplines just how important the breath is in terms of our health and energy. I myself have spent several years developing my breathing in one way or another. Truly I can say that that mere focus has energized and sustained my health when perhaps otherwise I would have flagged.

But Father Louis had a view on the breath that was emphatically not usual: basically, we all needed to stop breathing! That’s right – stop breathing. Or more accurately, stop trying to control the breathing the way we try to control everything else in our life; allow yourself to ‘be breathe-ed’. Allow yourself to be breathe-ed. The Prana, or the Chi, was breathing through us, and we were responding to it, not the other way round.

This was really a radical way of thinking about it, and it tied in neatly with the ‘Power of Now’ ideas that are currently prevalent: energy, insight, power are here available if we can allow them to be. And the start of this allowing them is in the breath – it is too easy to want to take to control of the breath and beat it like we beat our muscles when we exercise.

So for me I came away feeling seriously challenged: wanting outcomes, desiring results, and yet realizing that sometimes I try too hard. Simply, I need to be more breathe-ed. Over the next unspecified period of time, therefore, I am going to try to allow this process to happen, and to see what happens to my energy levels – and my motivation!

James


CREATIVITY, LEADERSHIP AND BUSINESS

My solicitor recently sent me a Croner briefing on creativity: “Creativity – are we in our right minds?” (Smaller Business Briefing Issue 143). This excellent piece of work draws attention to the concept of creativity and its application. Sometimes being in business can be so operational that we forget Drucker’s dictum that only two things make money for a business: innovation and marketing. Everything else is a cost.

But I think that there is a much bigger argument for promoting creativity in organizations than even the argument that it makes massive financial sense. I first encountered this argument in Dorothy Sayer’s fascinating book, The Mind of the Maker (1941 www.worldinvisible.com/library/dlsayers/mindofmaker/mind.08.htm)

Miss Sayers was a Catholic and I am not, but I don’t think we need to agree with somebody else’s theology in order to appreciate a profound point. What she basically contends is that in the first two chapters of the book of Genesis (in the Bible) we are told that human beings are made in the image of God. She then asks the question, What does this mean?

It means apparently that we – humans – are like God. How? And here’s where her argument becomes quite fascinating. To be like God we have to know what God is like in the first instance, and to know that we have to limit our suppositions to what we know from those first two chapters. In other words, we have all become familiar with monotheistic ideas of God as love, or God the omnipotent or omniscient, etc. But actually, what do we really know about God when we are told in the narrative that we are like God?

We don’t know that God is omnipotent or that God loves – all that part of the story comes later. In fact we know only one thing about God at the point in the narrative where God creates mankind: we know that God creates. In short, then, Sayers argues that the very essence of being human is to be creative – creativity is the very heart of God’s self.

Thus it is, as we return to the work place, if we are not being creative we are – not put to fine a point on it – dying. We are trading our life for money or security or for recognition, but we are not being who we truly are: in the image of the creative One.

And this leads on to a point I was discussing with my friend, Richard Munden, only the other day. As we reflected on the Drucker dictum we realized that for the innovation to occur we had to have people whose creativity had been released; for that to happen we needed leadership.

So, three things make money for a business: marketing, innovation and people; and these three are driven and co-ordinated by effective leadership. And effective leadership is always going to be characterized by creativity.

Whatever the systems and processes – and they are so often the bolt-hole of last refuge - there is no escaping the centrality of the leader and leadership. The leader creates real value, and value is what all businesses need to offer.

James