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The Co-Active Way in Difficult Times

  • POSTED ON MAY 30, 2019
difficult times

It’s been one week since Donald Trump was elected the next president of our not-so-United States, ending one of the most vitriolic and nasty presidential campaigns in recent history.

To say that it is a time of unrest for our country is a vast understatement. However, while it may be tempting to reframe this event as another chapter in our personal great America story, the same narrative is unfolding around the world in the U.K., Turkey, Southeast Asia and many other places. A wave of nationalism is sweeping the planet, and the election of Donald Trump will likely pave the way for other countries to adopt a nationalist agenda as well.

As a truly human narrative, this goes to the very core of who we are becoming as a race of people. So what is the “Co-Active way” in all of this? For a body of work dedicated to collaboration, inclusion and working together, this nationalist and separatist agenda can feel very disconcerting and terrifying.

I remain firm in my belief that we human beings are all unavoidably connected. It’s very clear that what happens in one part of our world affects us all, and it’s impossible to cling to the illusion that we can just separate ourselves, put our heads down and tend to our own knitting.

At the same time, we cannot truly know the best way forward. It may well be that this sweeping tide of nationalism is the very thing we need to evolve to the next level of our collective human consciousness.

I am not talking about being complacent, “getting over it” or simply going along with it. It is my prayer that these times will bring us ever more awake to what is trying to happen, within ourselves and within our world.

Instead, how might we create from what is happening in and around us? How might we use the intensity of this time to grow and evolve?

As Barton says so eloquently in last week’s post, we need to be curious. We need to listen to one another. This curiosity and deep listening sets the stage for us to learn how to engage in the kind of dialogue that allows us to put forward our different points of view without risking relationship and interconnectedness. This kind of dialogue is truly transformative.

For me, that has been the most distressing thing about this past election cycle. While this trend has been growing in the U.S. for some time, this past campaign was so filled with anger and blame and personal attack that we never really got around to a debate based in ideas and issues. It is impossible to truly work together when the issues at hand become fodder for attacks on the other person, rather than disagreeing, however vehemently we might, with the other person’s point of view.

When we can represent our own point of view firmly while at the same time listening with curiosity to points of view very different from ours, our disagreement becomes productive and creative. We are often able to find what we at CTI call the third way — not your way or my way but a path that is unique, crafted out of respect for our shared humanity and creative beyond what either one of us could have realized on our own.

This “third way” concept lies at the heart of what it means to be Co-Active, and while it is not the only answer, it is an important key. Perhaps the way to a better and brighter future for all is to learn to work together by engaging in robust disagreement and conversation that can occur only when we are willing to open our minds, open our hearts and open our will.

We can only do this from a place of self-authority. Complying or going along or tolerating doesn’t get it done. More than ever, we need to step fully into life, even when — and especially when — it is hard. We must embrace what is happening now, while at the same time holding firmly to our vision for a world that works for everyone.

We are hearing stories every day here in the U.S. that are frightening and heart-breaking. Hate crimes are significantly on the rise since last week’s election news. People are being attacked and told to “go back where they came from.” Some of these people are U.S. citizens who have lived all their lives in this country.

Every evening, there are stories of protest marches in most major U.S. cities. Depending on their political position, people feel either euphoric and vindicated or devastated and terrified. While it is understandable to want to shrink away from the hate and the fear, we must remain strong in our convictions and open to other ways of thinking. We must embrace “both/and” rather than “either/or.”

Most of all, we must realize that someone is not going to come along and fix it for us. This past U.S. election and the tide of nationalism on the planet is not about conservatives and liberals or Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. It is about each and every one of us and about our collective will and consciousness.

We make that collective will real every day through our actions and our orientation towards our fellow human beings. This can be expressed in ways very large and very small. My Kimsey family represent a wide range of points of view, some of them very different from the ones I hold dear. In the past, we have avoided discussing our differences because it felt too challenging. However I believe the time has come for us to talk together frankly and to listen to each other deeply. I’ve scheduled a zoom call with my family and am excited to practice staying clear, grounded, loving and open. I’m eager for the interesting dialogue that I believe will unfold.

I love Otto Scharmer’s (author of Theory U and Leading from the Emerging Future) U theory of transformation, which tracks a path of opening our hearts, opening our minds and opening our will.

At this critical time in history, we must open our minds, suspending old habits and striving to see things with fresh eyes. We must open our hearts, holding firmly to our point of view without being attached. We must open our will, to find the courage to move forward in clear and effective ways… together.

Karen Kimsey-House Photo
Written By

Karen Kimsey-House

Karen Kimsey-House, MFA, CPCC, is the Co-Founder of The Co-Active Training Institute (previously Coaches Training Institute), the world's oldest and largest in-person coach training school. She also co-created the Co-Active relationship philosophy, which underpins CTI's world-renowned coaching and leadership programs. Karen has also written Co-Active Coaching and Co-Active Leadership. She continues to lead CTI workshops and is a dynamic keynote speaker around the world, committed to pioneering Co-Activity in challenging environments and troubled populations, and is on a mission of global, transformative change.

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