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October 18, 2021


The wisdom to get out of your own way

In this week’s Systems Change Newsletter…

  • Invitations & Announcements
  • Catalytic Thinking Exercise: : The wisdom to get out of your own way
  • Resources to Further Your Practice
  • Story of the Week:  Catalytic Thinking in ACTION

Invitations & Announcements:

Next week we will formally announce a new opportunity to practice Catalytic Thinking with the important subject: succession planning. In addition to participating in facilitated Catalytic Thinking sessions, there will be live Q&A sessions, peer support, and much more. If you want to be notified when that program goes live, let us know here.

Catalytic Thinking Exercise: The wisdom to get out of your own way

 In the last few eJournals, we’ve been focusing on three factors at the core of Catalytic Thinking - gratitude, service, and responsibility. This week we’ll focus on what it means to be of service through the lens of wisdom. (To see the whole series, click here.)

Wisdom is about more than knowledge and facts. Wisdom is about how we think about that knowledge, and perhaps even question it. Through the lens of wisdom, we are better able to objectively determine what is really going on in any situation.

Most of us think we are already seeing things objectively - that the way we see things is the way it is. And yet, we humans are so good at believing our own version of reality! Something happens, and we immediately spin stories about what happened. We lay blame, we misunderstand, we stop listening.

  • Of course he did that, he's just a ____________.
  • What do you expect when you leave a ____________ in charge?

When we make assumptions and spin stories, we reduce any opportunity for exploring possibilities outside those assumptions. Believing we know how things will unfold, we are on the road to creating that exact result – a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies rooted in our beliefs and assumptions. And what future will THAT create? A future much like our past

Talk about getting in our own way!

Only when we can separate objective reality
from the stories we are telling ourselves about that reality,
can we truly be of service.

If we are to create a future different from our past, we will need tools that help us question our assumptions, seeing reality beyond the stories we tell ourselves, finding wisdom along the way.

Try this
Practitioners of Catalytic Thinking know that the simplest way to see beyond our assumptions is to change the questions we are asking ourselves. That’s because our assumptions and beliefs are actually answers to questions we don’t even realize we’re asking. For example, our assumptions about whether the world is round or flat answer the unspoken question: “What will happen if I head to the horizon?”

Making those invisible questions visible, we shed light on the assumptions that are guiding our actions. When we do, we often find that our actions are not guided by wisdom at all!

Is that really true?
What if it is NOT true?
What might be a different explanation?
And if it is NOT true, what does that make possible?

Even just one of these questions can open up our perspectives.

Am I positive it's true or do I just think it's true? What are other possible explanations? What if those explanations are actually the reality? What might that make possible?

Asking these questions gives us permission to take a deep breath, to slow down, to look down from above the situation with different eyes. Once we have allowed room for wisdom to emerge, we find that the door opens to being compassionate, as wisdom and compassion go hand in hand.

Being of service through the lens of wisdom, possibilities present themselves that were previously hiding in plain sight. You can see why serving with wisdom is built into every step of the Catalytic Thinking framework!

Resources to Support Your Practice:

  • WATCH:  This simple tool helps take the assumptions out of decision-making, allowing us to see the situation with greater wisdom. Short video here…
  • LISTEN:  In this podcast interview, Allyson Hewitt talks about the power of seeing things through fresh eyes. Listen here…
  • WATCH: This lecture on Compassion as a Tool for Racial Justice is part of a free 4-week series by the University of Arizona’s Center for Compassion Studies. Watch it here…
  • WATCH:  Serving others can mean many things, as we all learned from this 1962 Twilight Zone episode, “To Serve Man” For a little fun, watch it here…

Story of the Week: Catalytic Thinking in ACTION

Several years ago, one of the participants in our in-person immersion course was bemoaning that her office-mates at work loved to gossip. During our time together, she considered every new tool and resource as a possible solution to that problem.

Her aha moment came upon hearing the questions above. What if it’s not true?

She jumped out of her seat, a huge smile on her face, exclaiming, “That’s it! That’s the question!”

We looked at her, waiting for the explanation. She painted a scenario, then said, “Next time, I know just what to say.”

“What if that’s not true? What if she’s NOT a b___?”

We all cracked up. And yet, to this day, that single line has come back over and over, every time we hear that sort of name-calling. What if she’s not? And what might that make possible – for both of you!?

Got a Catalytic Thinking story to share with our readers? Let us know here!

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eJournal Archives:
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Creating the Future's Mission
Teach people how to change the systems they find themselves in,
to create a future different from our past -
all by changing the questions they ask.

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