"The unedited musings of a recovering madman"

Reaching Out Must be Actionable

Read the following quote from the Dalai Lama:

I come from the East, most of you [here] are Westerners. If I look at you superficially, we are different, and if I put my emphasis on that level, we grow more distant. If I look on you as my own kind, as human beings like myself, with one nose, two eyes, and so forth, then automatically that distance is gone. We are the same human flash. I want happiness; you also want happiness. From that mutual recognition, we can build respect and real trust of each other. From that can come cooperation and harmony.

-His Holiness the Dalai Lama
From "The Pocket Dalai Lama," edited by Mary Craig, 2002. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Boston, www.shambhala.com

 This quote above is a wonderful quote.  It is touching and powerful.  Yet, it is not actionable and represents Reaching Out from a single value system.  If the values you hold align with respect, trust, cooperation and harmony, then you immediately resonate with the language and meaning.  However, because this language requires the decoder of the language to have a meaning making system where ego is drawn back from the lead, the metaphor of humans being the same is basically lost.

The most difficult thing to understand in resilience is that resilience or for that matter any other system is viewed through the lens of a value system.  Since there are distinctly different values systems, we all fall victim to defining reality through our own lens of valuing.

Happiness may be at the core of every human, but in order to remove the barriers to happiness, most human beings will have to satisfy the specific needs that confront them.  I do think Maslow's work in this area, as well as others provides us with a simple, yet powerful map.  Even though Maslow's hierarchy of needs has been proven to be insufficient to explain motivation, each and every person requires the resolution of specific needs "as happiness."

What I'm trying to say is that happiness is determined by different criteria for each different person.  So, when the Dalai Lama who has led a priviledged life of education and nobility conferred on him throughout his life, when he says happiness, he has entirely different criteria for defining what it means versus any other person.

When the Dalai Lama "reaches out;" or for that matter, when I reach out, it will be through entirely different value lens.  His definition of happiness will not resonate entirely with me or anyone else, even though each of us has a deep yearning for what happiness might bring for any of us.

In order to make happiness actionable, we have to learn to identify what each person/client defines as happiness and speak to them through that lens.  That is what I mean by actionable.

In order to provide you with an actionable framework, I'll paraphrase Chris Argyris as he states the criteria for creating an action framework:

 (paraphrased from Flawed Advice and the Management Trap, C. Argyris, 2000)

  • Advice that specify the sequence of behavior required to produce the intended consequences
  • Advice should be crafted in ways that make the causality transparent (in other words we know exactly what causes us to get certain effects)
  • Causality embedded in advice in use is testable in normal situations
  • Actionable knowledge must specify the values or governing variables that underlie and govern the advice or design of the advice

If we review the Dalai Lama's inspiring quote, we'll see that it contains very little actionable data.  This doesn't make it wrong, nor bad.  Yet, it is not actionable!

If we want people to be able to follow or use our "reaching out" we have to take the time to consider how we might craft a message or advice, or even a request in such a way as it becomes actionable.

Failing to do so...our reaching out fails to accomplish connection, clarity and commitment.


Mike Jay, August 2003

On The Professional Edge