Archive - January 2013

02.01 20130

A Cup of Kindness

The end of a year makes us reflective of the past and brings hopeful thoughts for the future.  Hearing Robert Burn’s poem “Auld Lang Syne” represents to many people an act of catharsis, allowing them to release themselves from the past, but the poem also offers an alternative solution to forgetting the past…  “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind”, or should we “take a cup of kindness yet” and toast the auld lang syne?” Many people celebrate the New Year with the tradition of forming New Year’s resolutions.  New Year’s resolutions are used as a way to try to rid ourselves of bad habits…we swear to move past them and never think of them again, but this always is harder than it sounds.  Often a New Year’s resolution doesn’t make it to February…why?  I believe it is because we start the year saying to ourselves what we should not repeat, what we should not do; instead, we should find what is right in our world and vow to continue with that…dwell on the good memories and make more of them. Someone in my life used to talk a great deal about the interesting concept of negative target acquisition.  The concept of negative target acquisition is used to teach people to fly.  The concept speaks of when you focus on the obstacles, then you are more likely to hit them…you should focus on the path not the obstacle.  When you fly towards a tree, if you say to yourself “don’t hit the tree, don’t hit the tree,” then subconsciously you stir towards the tree instead of away from it because it is what is occupying your mind.  Rather, you should say to yourself “lift up and fly to the blue sky, fly to the blue sky,” then your focus immediately shifts to what it takes to be successful.  Dwelling on what is right puts us in the position to aim for limitless possibilities. In the Agile business world, the process of New Year catharsis happens every two weeks.  Retrospectives are an important ceremony in the Agile environment, where at the end of a sprint of work, the team stops to reflect on what went wrong and what went right, both the positives and the negatives.  To be agile means to be adept at change.  Agility requires constant reflection and adjustment, but retrospectives can become like our New Year’s resolutions…just a tradition with little hope of meaningful change.  The ceremony can become a tool to beat ourselves up about things we would like to change but quickly give up.  I believe we should use this time of retrospection to give equal weight to what we are doing right, to focus on the blue sky and to continue on a path moving upward.  We should focus on what went right in the past two weeks and continue that, but this time with even more momentum.  Let’s use retrospectives to move to places that we have never been, instead of ruminating on what is not useful. When we point out specific items we are doing right, then we can focus on repeating them.  To be effective we must look for ways to retain the positive of what we are doing and instill it as a part of the character of our group.  If we solely focus on the negative…not eating those extra calories or not sitting on the coach instead of exercising…we quickly lose our resolve and go back to our old way of being.  To be real, we must focus on what we are doing right and reinforce it within our group, so that we no longer experience negative target acquisition. Both in our personal lives and in business, we will be most successful when we open the door to let out the old and the bad, but primarily focus on keeping the good and building upon it, while letting in the new.  Let’s toast what was good and resolve to keep it with us to guide us to a better future.  Top of mind is what to do right, not what was done wrong.  Take a cup of kindness for what was right.  Celebrate the positive and resolve to continue with it.  Join me in resolving to fly up toward the blue sky.  Let’s place our focus on staying the positive path. Cheers!    

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