"The unedited musings of a
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,
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
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
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
(paraphrased from Flawed Advice and the Management Trap, C.
- 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
- Actionable knowledge must specify the values or governing
variables that underlie and govern the advice or design of the
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