One teacher at a time

Educational reforms are more likely to get fully implemented one teacher at a time. Transformation of systems calls for lots of social capital to emerge. As Robert Putnam discovered in his research about social capital formation, the work is labor intensive and individualized. His follow-up book to Bowling Alone: Better Together, explored how much listening to others' stories served as the catalyst for the formation of committed communities. Change agents did not impose their expert solutions on disenfranchised citizens. They nurtured bottom-up, emergent solutions among the citizens. They dealt with changes one citizen at a time and realized lots of initiative, cooperations and personal risk-taking as a result.. The change agents were truly helpful.

In my many experiences of mentoring others, I learned it 's not always effective to be helpful one-on-one. My good intentions do not translate to intended outcomes. What was meant to be supportive of others turned out to be less than helpful. I've learned by experience to watch for the telltale signs of my good intentions backfiring. When becoming less efficient about education reform, we need to assess the opportunities to care for one teacher at a time. Here's what I suggest we watch for:

1. Is my help breeding helplessness? Acting powerful can render others' powerless instead of handing off the possibility of being equally powerful. Providing help can generate dependency, rather than independence.

2. Is the direction of the change congruent with the person's destiny? Helping others change themselves can go against an inner current. People may generate a people-pleasing facade that tells me what I want to hear. The lack of genuine involvement suggests the change goes against who they really are. Giving the espoused changes lip service signals me that they are headed in a different direction in their lives.

3. Is the learning getting integrated? Efforts to change minds, cultivate new lines of reasoning and formulate new responses can get derailed. Too much explaining gets stuck in the idea stage. Practicing new ways to think about challenges can turn into analysis paralysis. There's needs to be time to "just do it and see what happens when you do".

4. Is the given-and-take balanced? Being helpful is a set-up to give too much, care too deeply and invest without limits. This turns into a lop-sided deal that feels compromising and sacrificial. When ever I begin to idealize my caring as some kind of martyr, I know the deal is in trouble. The one-sided arrangement needs more reciprocity to realize the intended outcomes.

When the answer to these questions comes up "no", the situation calls for different change. An alternative change model may apply. A different strategy may be more effective. The context may need attention. The change agent needs to make a different change before working further on the original change.


Conceived by teachers

Educational reforms repeatedly fizzle out after an initial burst of enthusiasm. Progressivism appears to get defeated by conservatism. Why? There are many explanations that address the power of the status quo, nature of bureaucratic governance and the persistence of comfort zones. It recently occurred to me how reforms conceived by teachers are destined to fail because teaching is based upon premises that defeat transformation.

Teachers portray their wonderful educational reforms as something that can be taught. Getting the improved approach depends on learning it from a teacher, expert or authority figure. It's not something one could learn on their own and get it right. It's not something where teaching interferes with learning from experiments and experience.

Teachers deliver their models of improved education through books. They capture the possibility on printed pages that make pronouncements, provide procedures and prescribe methodologies. The reforms don't naturally emerge from "out of control" conversations, communities of practice or coaching each other.

Teachers create reform ideologies that then require pushing against the status quo. It's setup as a tough sell to a stubborn audience who are highly invested in their own habits, perceptions and world-view. There's no way for the possibility to sell itself, solve other problems or seem valuable in other frames of reference.

Teachers imply a story in their educational reforms that perpetuates factory models of schooling. They assume the process of change can be efficient and systematized. They presume that consistent compliance will get the job done. They imagine the change will never happen by deviant discoveries, personal reflections and creative self expressions.

Teachers who initiate educational reforms find out their approaches didn't work. Yet they don't learn from their setbacks. They blame themselves or others instead. They assume it takes power they don't have, budgets they're lacking or elusive buy-in from their insensitive opposition. They don't change their minds in ways that change their worlds. They don't switch to thinking like change agents, community developers or entrepreneurs. They remain as teachers first and foremost.


Restoring resiliency in education

When forests experience an episode of creative destruction, they lose their efficiency, rigidity and momentum toward total collapse. They may endure partial devastation from floods, droughts, insects or fire. They become more resilient as a result. I find this to be a great metaphor for anticipating education reforms.

A resilient forest is less efficient. In social systems, this equates to the constituencies remaining or becoming "high maintenance" and labor intensive. The upkeep becomes more costly. Everything needs more personal attention. More time is taken for outreach, bridging and bonding. There is more listening and relating. The issues are more diverse and complicated. The synergies are less consistent. The outcomes are more varied.

When any system becomes less efficient, there is more creativity, innovation and novelty. The niches that had been locked up in done deals become explorable and exploitable. Experiments come back into the mix. There is more disequilibrium and instability. Yet the chances are greatly increased to respond to the long list of issues that efficient college systems cannot handle.

The loss of efficiency means there are fewer mechanisms that tightly-couple cause and effect or provocation and response. The loose-coupling says "not so fast" instead of "consider it done". The system considers new options and innovative combinations of current resources.

Increased resilience implies the downfall of legacy subsystems. Time-honored arrangements for coordinating activities and resources fall by the wayside. Meanwhile, there's an uprising of new growth, new species and new reciprocities. There's an upside to the down cycle.

When education systems experience episodes of creative destruction from Web 2.0 and cultural changes, these dynamics could easily come into play.


Efficient college systems

An efficient college education system is like a forest on the brink of collapse. The internal dynamics are very similar.
  • An efficient college can deliver course schedules, required content, handouts, tests and grades. It cannot cope with the students who do not learn from getting told what to think, getting deprived of self-expression and getting treated like passive consumers.
  • An efficient college can make classes more efficient by providing seven Teaching Assistants to deal directly with students assembled into 4-500 seat lecture hall. It cannot accommodate students who thrive on dialogue, coaching or thinking for themselves.
  • An efficient college can require reading comprehension as well as accurate spelling, grammar and punctuation in writing assignments. It cannot incorporate the shift away from printed text to oral and visual communication serving the increasingly multilingual culture of shoppers, viewers, gamers and cultural creatives.
  • An efficient college can prepare students for working inside efficient corporations, factories and bureaucratic agencies. It cannot prepare graduates for P2P production, crowd sourcing, and social networking.
  • An efficient college can update transcripts, identify degree requirements not yet completed and advise each student of changes in policies that affect them. It cannot respond to a 50% dropout rate, problems at home, and wait listed courses.
  • An efficient college can deliver college knowledge consistent with instructional methods used a century ago. It cannot embrace PLE, non-linear or life-long learning models.
  • An efficient college can, in a crisis, inform all of it's constituencies of what has happened and how it's blameless. It cannot reform the institution or realize how deeply the changes will affect everything.
Like a forest, colleges are driven to become more efficient. It appears they cannot afford to become less efficient. They move themselves to the brink of collapse by what they cannot respond to, learn from or cope with among their enrollment. They become rigid rather than resilient. They over-commit to confining reciprocities that exclude variety, experiments and creative destruction. Their ecological niches are already filled and tightly coupled into a cohesive institution.


The collapse of efficient forests

When I read The Upside of Down last month, I became captivated by an explanation of how forests collapse. I reread those few pages four times over a two day period, allowing the concepts to tie into my understanding of change models, self-sabotage and renewal following a setback. For starters, here are the facets of a systemic collapse of forests:
  • Forests are sandwiched between the soil conditions and local climate. Forests do not succeed in isolation from their contexts. How well they thrive depends on external factors, as well as internal dynamics.
  • The fertile soil supporting a forest is teeming with potential novelty, variety and innovation. When a need arises for some new experiments, the soil delivers if it's not drought-stricken, water-logged, infested or starved for nutrients.
  • Forests provide a feast for a phenomenal number of animals, plants, insects and microorganisms. Forests offer a wide variety of ecological niches to exploit.
  • Successful invaders of those niches give back to the forest. These reciprocities are mutually beneficial and self-perpetuating.
  • Forests progress toward greater efficiency. They reduce redundancies and commit to particular exploiters of their ecological niches.
  • The effect on the forest of this greater efficiency is devastating. The lack of inefficiency moves the forest toward the brink of collapse.
  • The loose coupling between the variety of reciprocities becomes tightly-coupled. The dynamics of the forest lose resilience and becomes rigid.
  • Any forest can get stressed by an invasion of pests, a prolonged drought or a lightening ignition. Efficient, cohesive forests have eliminated their gaps, disconnects and buffers that could interrupt the wave of destruction. The attack takes down the entire forest.
  • Forests with the resilience to rebound after an attack maintain inefficiencies. Their interdependencies are loosely coupled and open to continual disruptions. They support continued diversity and lack of conformity.
  • Devastation gets localized in resilient forests because it cannot sweep across the entire system. The lack of efficiency, focused commitments and uniformity disrupts the spread of disease, fire or collapse.
  • The openings created in the forest by the partial losses provide additional ecological niches for new species to exploit. The latent novelty in the soil provides new experiments. The forest rebounds with innovative partnerships and mutual benefits.
In the next post, I'll apply these to Web 2.0 and falling by the wayside.


Falling by the wayside

When a time-honored institution, industry or political movement is falling the wayside, it functions as its own worst enemy. Its "stinkin thinkin" drives it to self-destruct. It's sense of the right thing to do is the opposite of whatever could promote its survival, longevity and value to a larger community.

As I've explored for the past two weeks here, opposition to educational reforms appears to me to be falling by the wayside. This downfall of legacy systems can make way for reforms to fall into place. The pattern of self-sabotage is evident in the ways issues of danger, people, logical alternatives, personal dependency, consistency of image, government involvement and challenging work are perceived. The positions taken conform to the following flawed strategies:
  • Relying on self-congratulatory feedback: Pleased with the evidence of victory, superiority, conquests and progress. Ever more convinced by the proof that others are wrong, deficient, losers or headed in the wrong direction.
  • Beholden to superficial indicators: Taking situations at face value. Limiting considerations to factual content. Sticking to the confirmed indications while dismissing the speculative, panoramic and prognostic inputs.
  • Building confidence on self-righteous indignation: Being right at all cost in order to make others wrong. Reacting to system feedback as threats. Dismissing connections between combative conduct and fallout, side effects or backlash.
  • Fixated on positional stances: Taking pride in what is already known, decided and determined. Preventing any new growing, changing or learning from occurring.
When these flawed strategies take effect, the well-defended institution appears to be its own worst enemy. It tries harder to make problems worse. It spends more on falling further behind the changing times. It makes superficial attempts to correct deep dynamics of emergent changes. It solves the wrong problems and becomes identified as part of the problem itself.


Believe in school work

Work has not changed. Work is still hard to accomplish. Work continues to take focus, practice and skills. Work always requires stamina, dedication and determination. Work persistently offers pride in workmanship when it's done right. Work remains the opposite of play; work is productive and play is unproductive. Work gets results that don't happen if we don't work at it. Work is what gets rewarded in a free market.

School work prepares students for real work. There's no reason to change school work and every reason to oppose educational reforms. Any change in school work would make it less productive, less rewarding and less difficult. Reforms could make future workers soft, lazy and lacking in determination. Less hard work could only weaken the free market economy.

Doing school work in classrooms is good preparation for real work. Good soldiers have been prepared by the regimentation of school work. Laborers and factory workers have been readied by the mandated productivity and requirements that build stamina and determination. Office workers have been groomed by the mountains of paperwork and long hours of sitting in classrooms.

It easy to oppose educational reforms by simply believing in school work. Don't listen to wild speculations about the Internet changing the nature of work. Don't fall for the temptation to make learning fun and less preparatory for real work. Don't consider how networks, ecosystems and communities get work done with cooperative and reciprocal contributions. Don't expect anyone sitting on their butt playing games will become prepared for field maneuvers, combat or construction work. Don't allow innovators to breed laziness into our future workforce. Please take this permission at face value.


Curtailing a necessary evil

Government-funded schools pose a dilemma when you're opposing educational reforms. On one hand, democracies need educated citizens to participate in the election processes, recognize demagogues and dismiss propaganda. On the other hand, government is given to excessive growth, special interests, boondoggles and pork barrel projects. Assume that state-sponsored education systems are a necessary evil to be curtailed, but not entirely eliminated,

When education systems are given additional funds, they yield more costly, bloated bureaucracies. They take the money and run up bigger budgets, expenses, and salaries for the upper echelons. Their lack of market mechanisms, accountabilities and principles of private enterprises -- prevent them from becoming more efficient, productive and useful. If there is to be any reforms in education, make them more business-like. Cut out the fat, trim the budgets and streamline the procedures. Impose uniform standards. Hold everyone more accountable. Eliminate the slackers and reward the high achievers.

When bureaucrats promote educational reforms, they are looking to line their own pockets and pad their own budgets. Opposing education reforms is fiscally responsible. Taking exception to costly "improvements" sends a message that school systems need to deliver "more bang for the buck", not "more bucks for the bang".

When educational reformers want more money, think of what it will cost taxpayers for years to come. Don't consider what good could get done with the increased funding. When reformers want new programs, think of how they will be mismanaged by do-nothings. Don't entertain the value, impact and results those programs could deliver. When advocates of change accuse you of blocking improvements in education, see through their their do-gooder claims to fame -- to their selfish underlying motives. Don't perceive compassion, community-minded spirit or commitment to quality education in the reformers' frustrations with your stance. Please accept this permission without question.


Take pride in your consistency

Some things never change. You may have the same habits and reactions you endured years ago. You may deal with the same feelings, worries and regrets you've always experienced. You may hold the same opinions, values and priorities as always. You may be a living example of how human nature stays the same.

Many educational reforms claim to transform students to realize their hidden potentials. They assume that human nature can be changed. They raise others' hopes with this wishful thinking that defies your life long experience with constancy. You're right to oppose educational reforms that make these false promises. You know that some things never change.

Of course you don't want to appear as bad as you get sometimes. It pays to keep up appearances of being a better person than you become on your off days. It works to take pride in the ideals you're living up to and put anything out of your mind that discredits this favorable impression. Maintaining an unwavering consistency will give you credibility and respect that flip-floppers cannot attain.

Never mind those who accuse you of being a hypocrite for the unchanging human nature that you're keeping hidden. Drop the worries about the impression you're making of being two-faced or self-contradictory. Do not consider that you may be sending mixed messages in spite of your pride in your consistency. Forget how the disrespect you're getting shown could reflect the lack of respect you have for inconsistency, vulnerability and humanity. Please accept this permission without question.


Take exception to dependency

Be wary of educational reforms that make people less self-reliant. Undermine so-called improvements in instruction that make students more dependent on getting patronized and placated. Avoid creating future citizens who are dependent on government handouts or subsidies. Expect students to be given challenges that are especially difficult and battles that require determination and courage. Fight to maintain strict standards, tight regulations and demanding expectations.

Take offense to coddling those who obviously lack ambition. Counteract those who foster dependency on themselves out of some neediness, immaturity or lack of confidence. Rebel against those who trap you in dependency on their obstructions, interference and entanglements. Restore your control over your own destiny.

Expect others to pull themselves up by their bootstraps by setting that example to follow. Put people under enough pressure that they stop shirking their duty to amount to something. Convince people that wallowing in self pity is getting them nowhere. Come on like gangbusters when others propose to cut the slackers some more slack.

Ignore your critics that claim you're insensitive. Disregard the accusations that your intolerance breeds helplessness and passivity in others. Dismiss the concept that empathy breeds self respect and unleashes hidden ambition. Seek first to get understood. Withhold understanding until people stand on their own two feet. Please accept this permission without question.


Deal with reforms rationally

Educational reforms are too far-ranging to get emotional about them. Taking an irrational approach will be no help at all to your cause. The threat of educational reforms calls for as much logic, practicality and rationality as you can possibly muster.

Keep a lid on your own irrational urges to lash out, over-react or appear hysterical. Disregard how you might be feeling hatred, anger, envy or even self-pity -- in the face of this opposition to sane solutions. Anticipate how guilty you would feel if you unleashed your own vengeance on the vengeful. Act as straight-laced and self-controlled as the situation requires. Raise the bar on how arguments usually play out erratically. Provide an example of reasonable and rational responses to their provocations.

Keep in mind that both sides cannot be right. Don't compromise or concede your reasonable stance. Shoot down their attempts to bring in extraneous issues under such nebulous concepts as contexts, systems or diversity. Define the terms to your favor and stick with them. Disregard their accusations that you're labeling, stereotyping or profiling others. Draw the line between clear cut alternatives and undermine their attempts to muddy the water.

Don't consider how reforms could be "not all bad". Don't complicate your conviction with added criteria or iffy speculations. Don't get caught in the middle between polarized stances where you cannot be right, in control or on top of the situation Don't examine issues that present dilemmas and two-way streets. Please accept this permission to be right without question.


Regard people as wicked

Educational reforms are easy to oppose when people appear wicked to you. This is not to say that everyone has evil intentions. Some have merely gotten lazy and shun hard work. Some have abdicated responsibility and avoid hard choices. Some are wallowing in self pity and are looking for a free ride. Others became cunning and are finding ways to cheat the system. But there are also those who are living out their dark side and acting evil in our world.

Look down on those who are making excuses instead of fighting the fight against wickedness. Don't go soft on these losers. Don't fall for their lame excuses for backing off or backing down. Do not show them respect when they obviously lack the self respect to act responsibly. Do not listen to them when their wicked ways has got the better of them. Do not feel sorry for their plight, bad luck or unfortunate situation.

Feel free to deceive these people. Figure there's no harm done and nothing to lose when their wickedness already ruined everything. Tell them what they want to hear. Feed them whatever lines that will get them to silence their objections. Give them the spin that makes you look good, better than them and the best for the opposing reforms the right way.

Separate yourself from what you're seeing. Don't think it makes you wicked to see wicked people. Don't point three fingers back at yourself when pointing your finger at them. Assume you are superior to those who have fallen for temptations that make educational reforms appealing. Take the upper hand when others are trying to drag you down from your morally higher ground. Please accept this permission to be right without question.


Live in a dangerous world

The easiest way to oppose any educational reform is to live in a dangerous world. Simply focus on the terrorists, military combatants and criminals among us. Picture all the non-violent deaths by diseases, disasters, starvation and fatal accidents. Top it off with the apprehension that people acting like "it's not a dangerous world" are especially dangerous. Become totally convinced that you live in a dangerous world.

Obviously, educational reforms are extremely dangerous. You are definitely justified to oppose reforms, defeat them and discourage their proponents. Reforms could de-stabilize your fragile sense of security. Reforms might undermine the foundation that the purpose of your life rests upon. Reforms could even generate momentum and devastate the current stability with a tidal wave of disruptions.

Don't you forget how dangerous the world really is. Do not let your guard down or relax your vigilance against dangerous invasions. Keep alert for any sweet-talking, seductive spin-meisters who make particular reforms sound appealing. Don't kid yourself that the world has become any safer or secure from such extensive dangers.

Most of all, do not see the world as damaged. Do not consider that the people acting dangerous have been damaged by the world. Deny that any damage is being done by your outlook. Do not allow others to weaken your conviction that the reforms are exceedingly dangerous. Push against those who push you to make changes. Please accept this permission to be right without question


Giving permission to the opposition

In this blog series, I'm going to focus on opposition to educational reform. The underlying principles and strategies also apply to broader reforms (government, political, agrarian, economic policy, etc.) They also can be used with very localized reforms (classroom, teamwork, family, etc.). In each posting, I will offer a different way to give permission to those who oppose reform. You can either accept this permission for yourself or give it to others.

When we feel opposed, we lack permission from our opponents. We feel coerced, dismissed or devalued. There appears to be no way to trust the others, reconsider their stances or combine our approaches. We act provoked, defensive and closed minded when permission is withheld. The next thing we know, we're taking offense of the obvious offenders, blaming others for our unhappiness and making enemies of potential allies.

When permission is given, we feel understood. We are free to reflect on our own positional stance and those pressures that necessitate a standoff. We feel we are in the presence of someone who is not going to antagonize us, pounce on our thinking or embarrass us in front of others. We begin to trust them, reconsider our stances and see how we might realize the best of both approaches. We become less apprehensive in the context created by the permission given to us.

We cannot give permission when we are afraid of our opposition. We instinctively prepare to fight or flight rather that consider our effect on others. It feels urgently justified to argue, antagonize and shoot down the other viewpoint.

We can give permission when we rise above the situation and expand our horizons. We play at a level above the presenting problem. We see the wisdom in having the effect that comes about by giving permission. We anticipate the possibility of "winning without a battle" as we fail to give the opponents the argument they're looking for. We replace our fears with strategic insights and visionary intentions. We create an experience of freedom before it's evident in the situation with our opposition.


Opposing educational reform

The past two weeks have juxtaposed the political rhetoric of the Democratic and Republican parties in the US. Their conventions to nominate their party's candidate for the next President of the US has paraded each party's best orators before arenas of enthusiastic audiences and network television coverage. As I watched both conventions, I was spellbound by what I was seeing. It became apparent to me why educational reforms have been urgently opposed for over a century. I've written 15 pages of notes to myself during the past two weeks that will become the next series of blog posts here.

Political rhetoric is different from political action. Talk is cheap and easily forgotten. Verbiage is designed for winning arguments rather than making significant changes. Yet rhetoric reveals underlying intentions, motivations and frames of reference. It's especially easy to see where one propagandist is coming from when put in the context of so many allies and opponents.

Understanding the intentions, motivations and frames of reference of any opposition provides exceptional leverage. "To know oneself and one's enemy" is essential to win a war without a battle. The more insight we have into opponents, the more obvious it becomes how they function as their own worst enemy. It becomes clear how to let them self-destruct, fall on their own sword and act out their urges to sabotage their own success. Educational reforms could fall into place while the opposition falls by the wayside.

Knowing one's enemy is easy compared to knowing ourselves. When we don't know where we are coming from, we're afraid of our own shadow. We point fingers at our own reflection in the mirror. We don't see how much we have in common with our enemy or why we need the battle in the first place. Coming to know an opponent's intentions, motivations and frames of reference usually involves some deep learning.

If "winning without a battle" is new or vague to you, here's some other posts that explored this possibility:


Freedom via not-knowing

Most of us have been raised to figure things out by thinking about them. We'll define our lack of freedom as a problem and try to solve it. We won't realize we are maintaining the problem by this approach. There's no end to incessant trying when we make a thing of thinking. Freedom will be found by not thinking ourselves into a fixation.

Likewise, most of us are proud of knowing something. We get embarrassed when we don't know something as if it's test to see who has the right answer. We make freedom into something to know and not be mistaken about or misinformed. Freedom will be found when we know enough to not know what it is or where to find it. That has been the goal of this series of blog posts.
  • When we don't know something we exhibit curiosity about what is unknown. We value what is missing in our understanding. We treasure being innocent. We are living the questions.
  • When we don't know something, we are empty of preconceptions. We provide space for new ideas to come to mind. We are open to receive new insights. We are a container to be filled with what we don't already know.
  • When we don't know something, our minds are fluid. We can explore previously inconceivable possibilities. We are flow out of rigid concepts into more imaginative combinations and configurations. We yield to obstacles and move beyond them gracefully.
When we know enough about our freedom, there's lots we don't know. We may know what it is in concept, but not know where it is right now in our lives. We may know how to find it, but not where to look for it in this moment. We may know different ways to create the experience of freedom, but not know which way to explore next. When we're not knowing too much about freedom, we're free to be more free and to free others.

Enough said.


Freedom via successful searching

We all have experiences with finding what we're looking for. Search engines and shopping online have made it even easier for us to successfully search for something we want. When we desire more freedom in our lives, it's not as obvious how to succeed at finding it.

Freedom is more difficult to find because most people are devoted to captivity, control and power over others. Good luck finding a job listing for candidates seeking freedom on the job. How many hotties have you dated that hoped you were looking for freedom from their neediness, clinging and dependency on you? How many family members want you to be free of your past history with them, confinement by their belief systems and identity formed by how they mirrored you with their own biases?

It's typical to become afraid of freedom. Other's fear of getting liberated becomes contagious. We catch on to mistaken ideas about the dangers of freedom. We worry about becoming too different, getting ostracized and feeling alienated. When we act on fears like these, our fears prove to be true. We confirm our initial premises and believe in them even more.

It's almost guaranteed we will "seek and not find" freedom when we utilize our left brain cognitive strategies to find it. We'll dichotomize freedom as the total opposite of captivity and rule out freedom in our present situations. We'll compartmentalize freedom as having nothing to do with getting work done, ongoing relationships or our life-long learning. We'll make freedom into a category that very few experiences fit into when we take freedom literally.

We'll succeed at finding freedom when we're clear of fear. Our left brain can stop repressing limbic hijackings and partner with our right brains. We can imagine being free right now and get more inspirations about how to increase that. We can get a sense of where there's freedom in this moment and go check it out right now. We can feel gratitude for the freedom we've already found and tune into more possibilities on the horizon. We can innocently wonder about freedom and receive what we need to make our next move.


Freedom via liberating indifference

Don't you care about this?
How can you be so insensitive?
Why don't you show more interest in this?
What's wrong with being deeply involved?

Ordinarily we think of indifference as a bad thing. We've got voices in our heads that espouse the guilt trips listed above. We equate indifference with cynicism, coldness or rudeness. We assume we are supposed to be anything but indifferent.

Our past history can hold us prisoner. We let something that happened to us define our destiny. We let the incident determine our fate and luck. We can hear ourselves pronounce our prison term anytime we speak of what always or never happens to us. We already know there's no way it can happen any differently. Our life is a done deal that cannot be broken or renegotiated. We've cast a spell on our lives that brings along a series of unfortunate incidents.

Rather than think about this self-imposed imprisonment every day, we put our captivity into our unconscious. We keep the defining incident in denial and pretend we are free of our past. We don't realize we're living in our past, repeating our past and confined to what happened in our past. We opt for pseudo freedoms that give us the feeling of escaping without the fact of being free.

The first step in becoming really free is to make what I've just described conscious. We get out of denial and into "what is". We face the facts of what happened and what a big deal we made of it. We become realistic about how we've trapped ourselves in patterns we don't enjoy or outgrow.

The next step is to put the past behind us. It's no longer true for us. It can stop defining our fate and destiny. That previous incident goes from denial to "what is" and finally to "so what". We've become indifferent in a liberating way for us, the people in our lives and our future experiences.

With our past really behind us, we can face forward. We can explore what-if questions. We anticipate what will use our talents, energize our passions and expand our horizons. We discover challenges we want to put ourselves up to and opportunities we want to face. We can imagine ourselves in these situations and play out scenarios of creative fulfillment in our minds. In the process we get the feeling "I can be this, do this and get these results". We've spawned some serious freedom.


Freedom via seeing perfection

When we're not seeing perfection, we're feeling trapped, obligated, endangered or distraught. We've got a feeling like we need to do something else, change our approach or react under pressure. We cannot let go, enjoy this or simply be with it all. It's not perfect as is.

Things are rarely perfect. Anything we identify as a noun or label as a thing cannot be consistently perfect. It may be limited, costly, burdensome, deteriorating or difficult to control. It takes our attention away from freedom to deal with it. We lock it into a fixed category, rigid perception or known commodity. We trap ourselves by making a thing of it.

Processing can be perfect right now:
  • How perfect this came along now, took this much time and didn't come sooner!
  • This fell together into a perfect combination that works together much better than either in isolation!
  • The way this happened to get accomplished seems perfect to me
  • These changes are unfolding perfectly

Perfection is out of our control. We don't make it happen or understand it completely. Perfection is amazing to us because it seems beneficial to us while being larger than anything we manage to accomplish. Perfection enchants us by being somewhat mysterious. It frees us from our usual worries, struggles and regrets. We're free to be grateful for, fascinated with and trusting our situation.

Perfection is neither logical, precise or literal. It's not a category, label or ideal concept. Perfection simply happens. We become aware of perfection when we experience what is happening, how it's happening and why it's happening to us. Perfection is loaded with personal significance. It "has our name written on it" as it happens in our world. It appear meant to be, meant for us and meant to happen right now. We get the perfection without being in control of it.