Why Can’t I Get There?

Click above for a brief introduction to this week’s coaching from Craig Clark

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I think it’s impossible for us to appreciate how much our view of the world is shaped by the influences of the environment we grew up in. 

Said in another way: most of what we think is real… isn’t.  

If we stop and think about how we got here, our illusion of reality starts to materialize itself.  We emerged into life after several months in a warm, safe, nurturing cocoon.  I’m guessing that struggling through the birth canal and bursting into bright lights, noise, and being roughed up as we were handled and scrubbed, with our food supply cut off, was a bit shocking.  

I’ve long wondered what was the impact of that experience on our psyche. 

After birth, the impact becomes more observable.  We are totally dependent on the “big people” for food, shelter, warmth, affection, etc.  We learn quickly whether we are made “safe” or not. We learn to make noise when we need something. We start to relate to the big people as a function of our needs, we learn how they respond to those needs, and we find our survival as a state of total dependency.

As we grow, we start to recognize a smile is a good thing, a frown… maybe not?

As we develop, we learn what actions will produce smiles and which ones produce frowns.  Our actions start to fall into patterns that generate smiles and avoid frowns. Those patterns dance with the feed of information that we get from Mom or Dad, et al, about how we are supposed to behave, talk, and appear.  We soon learn how to stay “safe” and accepted in that environment.

Well into my middle age, my mother was astute in letting me know when it was time to get a haircut.  When I would visit, I would get coffee and cookies in the morning bedside, which was her loving way of letting me know she thought I should get up. She was an early riser.

As we grow and have playdates, we start to see what our peers have and do. 

We want things they have. We start to learn about socializing with others and what it takes to get our needs met and how to feel safe when interacting with other children. Our thinking is steadily influenced by how we are interpreting things about the world and others. 

Those influences become beliefs. 

Then comes school, where we are faced with a whole new stream of information about how we are supposed to be, talk, dress, and act. And our behavior will respond accordingly, sometimes in resistance, but mostly to be accepted and feel safe. 

Our whole worldview is shaped by this life-long linear series of learning experiences, as is the reality we live in and think in.  We have now established a whole set of beliefs about how the world is, how people are, and most importantly, how we are.  Our behaviors will follow this structure of a belief-based reality, guided by an internal mental dialogue, advising us on how to respond to our minute by minute interactions with the world.  

We call this thinking or “common sense.” The Toltec Wisemen called it the “Narrator” and refer to this process as our “domestication,” which is not unlike how we develop behavior in our pets and how they respond to us.

The “Narrator, an internal judge, steadily assessing the validity of ours and others actions and thoughts, and pressing in reminders of the flaws we have determined about ourselves based on our observations of others and the right and wrongs we have been instructed in.  To borrow from Einstein again:

“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” – Einstein

You and I have been successfully domesticated.  Did you become an Alpha or a Beta, a pack member or a loner?  Who do you want to be? And what are the default mechanisms that restrain you, the blind spots that result from our peculiar brand of domestication?  This is where outside help can make a profound difference in our growth and development.  

Have a peaceful and healthy holiday season.



Organizational Fundamental #6: CREATE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT. Safety requires accountability, awareness and diligence. Never take shortcuts that compromise yours or others’ safety. Performance thrives in a safe environment.

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