“The moment is simply structured that way.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five
We live in a special moment in time. Our lives are disrupted, our work transformed. This excerpt from my book, What Matters at Work, seems especially ‘timely’ for all of us.
An element that distracts us from Intention is the fragmentation of the modern organization and the activities that support it: One meeting flows into another, each having limited relevance to the next, and the tasks that relate to each conversation get obscured by the urgency of recent calls to action. We are stressed by the mountain of unresolved conversations, often accompanied by vast amounts of time-wasting and sense-numbing mountains of data. We underutilize our talents and devolve into problem-solving approaches that often fail to produce viable solutions. And because bureaucracy channels our efforts in ways that make true connection across perspectives less likely, we often engage in “managing up/down” behaviors that are politically risk-averse, further hindering quality communication from occurring.
The poet David Whyte, who specializes in helping us make sense of corporate life and work through artistic reflection, has offered many writings on the subject of Time. This excerpt seems appropriate here:
Time is a Season
by David Whyte
Most traditional human cultures have seen the hours of the days in the same way as they have encountered the seasons of the year: not as clear lines drawn across our experience, but as an advancing quality, a presence, a visitation, and an emergence of something growing inside us as much as it is growing in the outer world. A season or an hour of the day is a visitation whose return is not always assured. Every spring following a long winter feels as miraculous as if we are seeing it for the first time. Out of the dead garden rises abundance beyond a winter eye’s comprehension.The hours and the seasons are sometimes a flowering, sometimes a disappearance, and often an indistinguishable transience between the two, but all the hours of the day and the seasons of the year enunciate some quality in the world that has its own time and place. To make friends with the hours is to come to know all the hidden correspondences inside our own bodies that match the richness and movement of life we see around us. The tragedy of constant scheduling in our work is its mechanical effect on the hours, and subsequently on our bodies, reducing the spectrum of our individual character and color to a gray sameness. Every hour left to itself has its mood and difference, a quality that should change us and re-create us according to its effect upon us.
Exercise: Time for Intentions
WHY: How do we approach Time so it flows in a manner consistent with our Intentions? Here is an exercise that helps us gain greater clarity:
Step 1: Recall a specific time when you were a member of a group that “flowed…” Time passed in a way that was scarcely noticeable, as you and others so cherished the work you were doing and the time you spent together that you gladly worked beyond normal time frames until exhausted but satisfied, you finally adjourned.
Step 2: Journal this experience. Notice:
- What made this experience so memorable for you?
- How did you feel at the time?
- Are there any aspects of that experience that you seek to replicate today in your work?
- How do these insights inform your interest in focusing on What Matters consistent with your Intentions?