Beyond possibility: shaping the environment to call forth that which you wish to call forth

Inventing possibilities is not sufficient

It is not enough to invent possibilities; inventing possibilities does not lead to a transformation in the experience of my/your living.  If you/I are to experience a transformation in our experience of our living then the access to that transformation is inventing possibilities that leave us moved-touch-inspired.  Why?

It takes something say “activation energy'” to get us to be/act differently to the default that you/I have become accustomed and addicted to.  To use the analogy of the rocket, it takes a certain amount of energy to overcome gravity and get the rocket those two inches off the ground.  If that “activation energy” is not there then the rocket will continue resting on the ground.   Put differently, our habits run us – they run us without us even being aware that they run us.  Like the rocket, it takes a certain amount of mindfulness/effort/energy (“activation energy”) for you/I to break loose from these habits.  And you/I are most likely to put in the required effort when we are moved/touched (emotionally) and inspired to act.

I am inspired by the possibility of communication & relatedness with my children

A couple of months ago I invented the possibility of being intimately related to my children and vice versa such that we spent more time together and enjoyed the time that we spent together.  I was so moved-touched-inspired that I told my children that I would be available and present for them every day between 7pm and 9pm – to do whatever they wanted to do.  And that is exactly what I did.

How did it turn out?  Not as I had expected.  In the main the children were looking for me to play entertainer – to come up with ideas that appealed to them and then put on the show.  I soon ran out of ideas!  Truthfully, disappointment was present.  And I was struggling with how to generate that interaction and thus relatedness between us.

The hidden power of the context/situation/environment to call forth and shape behaviour

Then one evening I came home and noticed that the dining table had been converted into a table-tennis table.  It just so happens that we can all play table-tennis and most of us do enjoy playing it.  What showed up?  We showed up at the table-tennis table playing table-tennis.  Not only between 7pm and 9pm but also at other times.  The ‘table-tennis’ was calling us to play table-tennis and in the process relatedness was showing up – indirectly!

One day, I came home and noticed that the dining table was once more the dining table.  Then what showed up?  For sure no table-tennis showed up because there was no table-tennis table in the house.  I notice that the interaction that had been called forth by the table-tennis was no longer present – the children were in their rooms doing their own stuff.   And I was left missing the interaction with my children.   Now here is the puzzling thing.  I left the dining table as the dining table rather than make the effort to convert it a table-tennis table.  And over the course of a week or so I got used to the ‘lack of interaction’.  

A week or so later I came home and the table-tennis table was there again.  Delighted, I invited one of my children to play table-tennis.  He agreed and the interaction was there once more:  noticed that in the course of playing table-tennis we talked and laughed with one another – the relatedness was present once more.

Shape the context/environment/situation to call forth that which you wish to call forth in yourself and others

If you/I wish to transform our lives and our experience of our living then we have to act.  The default way of acting is to rely on willpower – to will ourselves to do what is necessary.  And over the longer term it does not work.  Experience and research studies show that willpower depletes itself and once depleted we find ourselves enmeshed in our defaults – our habits.  Yet there is another way, smarter way, to call forth the behaviours we desire.  What way?

I say the most powerful way is to shape the context/situation/environment to call forth the mode of being/acting that we wish to generate.  So if you wish to generate conversation, interaction and relatedness, for example, then stop that subscription to pay-tv, unplug that tv, put in a table-tennis table, make it a custom for everyone to sit around a table and eat together, introduce and play the game of three questions three answers……… If you want to exercise your ethical values then work for a enterprise that shares/exhibits/calls forth those ethical values.  If you want to be more laid back then live in a culture/people who are laid back…

And finally

When Martin Heidegger (‘the philosopher of being’) was offered a prestigious post in Berlin (the capital of Germany) he refused even though it was his dream job.  Why? Because he knew that the cosmopolitan/sophisticated/urban environment would shape him in ways that he was not up for being shaped. He also knew that the provincial and agricultural context/environment in which he lived/worked was the environment that nourished him as a person and as philosopher of being.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.

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