The answer: Go deep and hold the paradoxes.
This wisdom comes from Philosopher Peter Koestenbaum, who works with business leaders trying to lead more effectively. In an article “Do You Have the Will to Lead? in February’s issue of Fast Company (here is the full article), Koestenbaum proposes you must answer the deep questions inside.
Philosopher Peter Koestenbaum poses the truly big questions: How do we act when risks seem overwhelming? What does it mean to be a successful human being?
His agenda: to apply the power of philosophy to the big question of the day — how to reconcile the often-brutal realities of business with basic human values — and to create a new language of effective leadership. “Unless the distant goals of meaning, greatness, and destiny are addressed,” Koestenbaum insists, “we can’t make an intelligent decision about what to do tomorrow morning — much less set strategy for a company or for a human life. Nothing is more practical than for people to deepen themselves. The more you understand the human condition, the more effective you are as a businessperson. Human depth makes business sense.”Â
He is writing about effective leadership, but I think his wisdom can help with working with Disquiet. Following the unease, asking the really important deep questions, and then learning what to listen for is the key to being able to navigate it. What kinds of questions?
Why am I doing what I am doing?
How did I get to this point in my life?
What do I want my life to be about?
What makes me happy?
Taking these questions on is what it takes to set your course. When you read about the interviews of men working with their Disquiet in my study, you will see this is key. You can listen to a couple of interviews here.
That is why you won’t see me coaching someone on how to find the right job, what the keys are to being a good husband or how to plan for retirement. To create and sustain a life that is fulfilling, we have to go deeper to get clarity on the direction for your life. Once that happens, you will have a template for decision making that will make those kinds of choices easier to make.
I like how Koestenbaum advises his clients of the importance of being able to manage the paradoxes. Have you ever noticed how there are never clear cut choices or options? It’s vital to be able to work with what can seem to be contradictory messages coming at you from your Disquiet.
He talks about managing the polarities here:
I believe that the central leadership attribute is the ability to manage polarity. In every aspect of life, polarities are inevitable: We want to live, yet we must die. How can I devote myself fully to both family and career? Am I a boss or a friend? A lover or a judge? How do I reconcile my own needs with those of my team? Those paradoxes are simply part of life. Every business interaction is a form of confrontation — a clash of priorities, a struggle of dignities, a battle of beliefs. That’s not an invitation to wage an epic battle of good versus evil or right versus wrong. (Chances are, your boss is less of an SOB than he is an agent of the cosmos.) My point is, you have to be careful not to bang your head against the wrong door. Polarities are in the nature of things. How we act, how we respond to those polarities — that is where we separate greatness from mediocrity.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t have to make decisions. Tough choices are a daily requirement of leadership. Leaders have to hire and fire, to sign off on new strategies, and to risk investments — all of which can lead to stress and guilt. The presence of guilt is not a result of making the wrong choice but of choosing itself. And that is the human condition: You are a being that chooses.
Managing polarity teaches us that there are no solutions — there are only changes of attitude. When you grapple with polarities in your life, you lose your arrogant, self-indulgent illusions, and you realize that the joke is on you. To get that message makes you a more credible human being — instantly.
That last point is dead on. There is a humility that comes from making choices and then owning them. This is what it means to work with your Disquiet.
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Tags: Life, Resources, Working with change, working with the Disquiet