one way...or another?

how curiosity may be your greatest ally

There is a wonderful and humorous story that speaks to our tendency to dig in our heels, engage our egos and obstinately dismiss any ideas or suggestions that run counter to our own.

In the story, a radio conversation is recounted between a US naval ship and a Canadian crew as follows: 

Americans: "Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision."

Canadians: "Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision."

Americans: "This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course."

Canadians: "No, I say again, you divert YOUR course."

Americans: "THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES' ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH. THAT'S ONE-FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP."

Canadians: "This is a lighthouse. Your call."

Pretty funny, huh?

And yet, it speaks to a real truth.

Quite often we hold rigidly to our 'course' believing it to be the one and only means by which to achieve what we seek.

We turn a blind eye and deaf ear to our innate curiosity, creativity and clarity of mind as we stubbornly hold strong to our ways...certain in the knowledge that if we push hard enough and long enough we shall be rewarded.

This strategy can be frustratingly exhausting and self-defeating in many cases.

I witnessed this phenomena first hand as a Labor Relations Consultant early on in my career.

During a skills training session for managers, I introduced an exercise designed to challenge their communication and negotiation skills.

In this exercise, the group was divided in two.

Each group was told that they represented the purchasing department of a company and that it was their responsibility to purchase ALL available oranges for the production of the company's specialized product.

Separately, the groups were given an additional piece of information.

The first group was told that their specialized product required the SKIN of the orange exclusively and that the remaining parts of the orange could be discarded.

The second group was told that their specialized product required the PULP of the orange exclusively and that the remaining parts of the orange could be discarded.

I think you may see where this is going.

The two groups were then brought together to negotiate the purchase of the oranges.

Suffice to say, it did not go well. 

Neither group was able to purchase the oranges.

They were in a stalemate and felt they had exhausted all of their options (despite my efforts to covertly assist by peeling and eating an orange as they negotiated with one another).

Here is an illustration of what transpired and what was missing:

As you can see from the demonstration above, each party was stuck in a linear paradigm whereby they could see only two options - win/lose or partial win/lose. As such, they stuck (literally) to those two options.

These days, as a coach, I continue to encounter a similar dilemma as I witness clients become stuck in their efforts and their thinking around challenges or desires in their life.

In their 'stuck-ness' they too become certain, to the exclusion of curiosity, clarity and creativity, that there is only ONE way to reach resolution.

They begin to fixate and flounder as they run up against obstacles and road blocks.

They begin to wonder what they are doing wrong.

They begin to believe that they were never meant to have what they seek.

They begin to trigger old insecurities that squander their innate abilities and gifts.

Their egos become engaged and enraged...

until finally they sputter to a halt...

disillusioned, defeated and disheartened...

unaware that there is another way.

It requires a willingness to be

curious

creative

and

humble.

It requires an openness of head and heart.

Don't be the vessel that blindly charges toward the lighthouse.

You won't win.

Instead...

Engage.

Examine.

Explore.

Play with what is.

Discover what could be.

Investigate what can be.

Right now.

Get curious.

Full steam ahead.

 

* While the lighthouse story above is generally considered to be fictitious, in March 2008, Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence in the U.S. claimed that the story was in fact true.