A few times in life, and even more if we’re living consciously, we can sense a tailwind accelerating us toward our vision. Like stepping on a conveyor belt, we catch on to the trajectory that aligns us to our most precious visions/yearnings/creations.
Such is the case with my little farm, locked fifteen years in the vision stage, that showed up in my now reality at the very same time that Covid-19 swept around our planet like wildfire. A fifteen-year dream, manifest in America’s rural South, is all kinds of wild, fun, mystery, work, injury, reward, laughter, some tears… wonderful! The urging of concerned people for me to stay home was energy wasted, for I’ve been waiting my entire life for a reason to do so.
It’s only in the past two years that I have been curating everything in my existence to reflect this vision of a farm/studio/retreat space, a vision I intended in 2005 at a Master Reiki Retreat in New York’s Catskill Mountains. This curation process was meant to be playful, joyous, light-hearted intention-setting. My thoughts were that in ten to fifteen years, Denver real estate would deliver me a handsome sum and it would be worth my while to sell, or whenever I’m ready. But not for quite a while. I had a life in Denver. A lovely one.
Little did I know that by the action of curating for my future, I was actually bringing the future into the Now.
by Lauren Berley, republished from February 1, 2014
ICD can drive us like a runaway eight-horse draft hitch. But learning to funnel these traits productively empowers us to make great strides.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ICD (Intensity, Complexity, and Drive) and as I am learning to balance these traits, I have no choice but to look in the rear view and see an illuminated picture of how things went down, and why. It’s a pretty big relief, not so much because things make more sense looking back, but because Lord knows how grateful I am that those things will NEVER happen again. Moreover, I will no longer be a misunderstood, hypervigilant, overwhelming, flammable person.
Those traits have no power over me anymore, because I can see them clearly and shuffle them around. In essence, I can access them when I choose, instead of blindly misallocating them while spinning like the Tasmanian Devil in Doing mode.
I’ve been experiencing some discomfort lately, a gnawing confusion, a sense of straddling two worlds, as I described to my friend, a brilliant organizational coach in Europe. She suggested I Google author Peter Senge’s (the Fifth Discipline) description of “Creative Tension” to see if it bore any resonance. Here is what I found.
“The gap between vision and current reality is also a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision. We call this gap creative tension.“
I found this video on YouTube. Peter Senge uses a rubber band to illustrate what happens in the space between reality and vision, relating it to historical markers and Dr. Martin Luther King’s exemplary “I Have a Dream” speech.
Oddly, I can follow this construct quite fluidly in big-picture examples and visions, but parsing it into application within a personal creative practice is taking me a minute. But I think I’m starting to flow into it. Basically, what I’m getting from this is that the “pain point” that is reality would exist without friction/energy independently and void of relationship to the vision/creation, thereby remaining in an unchanging state. So with the advent of a vision, the space between reality and that vision is energized by the “need” to transport reality toward that vision. I like it. Science.
So why does the concept become so off-putting to me when applied to a corporate or organizational structure? See if you feel me here…
In his article (link above), Chris McGoff states that:
“Peak performance leaders pay close attention to the amount of creative tension being experienced by their people and they know how to increase or decrease this tension as appropriate.”
He continues to explain that there are three crucial components to creative tension, and that to establish and maintain creative tension, there must be agreement on the following:
1. Current reality.
Your people must have a collective understanding of the way things are today. They need to be brutally honest and recognize the absolute truth about their current situation. Shared understanding of “what is” generates a sense of authenticity and credibility.
2. Desired future.
Your people must have a shared vision that moves and inspires them. The vision must be articulated in such a way that people are motivated to do whatever it takes to realize it. The vision is less about employees or the company.
A powerful vision is about the world and the opportunity to help cause this great world you desire. You will need to decide what needs to change about the current reality to achieve this vision.
3. What’s at stake.
In addition, and critical to the establishment of healthy creative tension, people must be convinced that something important to them is at stake if they don’t resolve this gap. Your people must have a shared and felt sense of consequence should they not rally and achieve this vision as well as a clear understanding of the benefits of moving ahead.
What is the off-putting part? Well, as I was reading along in the Inc. article, I must have been simultaneously processing the concept of creative tension, from the Peter Senge piece above, and relating to it. So, by the time I was reading the second piece with even more of a corporate/organizational frame around it, the notion that organizational leaders “know how to increase or decrease this tension as appropriate” feels “Big Brother” to my sensibilities.
It seems that if you were the organizational leader, you might want to spend a little time getting to know the team and asking the right questions to identify that there are varying levels of tolerance and performance in response to tension. Some of us work in this manner innately, and are able to reconcile and balance our experience to perform our best in this self-generated model. But the notion of a person in leadership applying intentional tension “as appropriate” to increase output performance is precisely why I have never worked in a large organization. That entire set-up would be a big fail in my department, I can assure you. No, I can promise you. The dispensing of deliberate tension by a leader to an already-high-achieving self-bar-raiser would be not only unnecessary, but undoubtedly counter-productive.
I didn’t start this post intending to push against the interesting information I have mined from the Organizational Coaching scene. I’m just saying that it has taken ages for educators to evolve into the fact that education is not and will never work as “one size fits all,” so why would organizational solutions with adults be any different? The way we process information, prioritize mental tools, tasks and steps… not the same or everyone.
For years, I was an utter slave to mind chatter. It has, quite honestly, ruled my life. Once I identified it, I became even more frustrated by the amount of energy I had given up to this nagging and gnawing that always seemed to show up right when things were getting good.
Buddhists call it the “monkey mind,” and, my guess is, you know it well. No matter how many times you sit down to focus on something, it tugs at you like a nagging child at your pant leg. Persistent and incessant, the mind operates as its own organism with individual needs, separate from the brain you thought you were using to focus, and it won’t stop until we are exasperated and look it dead in the eye, with a big “Yes, Dear!”
Yoga and meditation are ages-old methods for calming the monkey mind, practices that guide the practitioner toward a peaceful, blissful, and more reasonable state from which creativity can flow freely. But let’s face it: You’re trying to work, and in this moment, that’s what you’d like to be doing. Not yoga. Not meditation.
The creative personality can be dichotomous, sometimes an even split between introvert and extrovert, and balancing those aspects is conducive to a general state of well-being. But more common is the person whose personality is better defined as either introvert or extrovert.
To an extrovert, expression seems to fly out of every pore seamlessly, and the absence of an audience is a less effective work space. We all know them. The life of the party, the one first to jump up in front of a group, the one who stands out. They are magnetic, intoxicating, and, in the best of scenarios, walking their walk. To an introvert, merely observing and coexisting with an extrovert is either energizing or draining, depending on the introvert’s relationship with himself.
To an introvert, the creative process occurs in solitude. Because of this, in the best of circumstances, the space is nurturing, safe, and free from static. In it, the magic happens. In it, all is possible. It is that space of no one and nothing, the unfettered relationship between human and creation. This is the somewhat-elusive ideal.