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8. What is my unique contribution to the whole?

Margaret J. Wheatley Berrett-Koehler Publishers PDF

What is my unique contribution to the whole?

Most cultural traditions have a story to explain why human life is so hard, why there is so much suffering on earth. The story is always the same—at some point early in our human origin, we forgot that we were all connected. We broke apart, we separated from each other.

We even fragmented inside ourselves, disconnecting heart from head from spirit. These stories always teach that healing will only be found when we remember our initial unity and reconnect the fragments.

If fragmentation and separation are the problem, how is it possible that our uniqueness could bring us back together? It seems that everywhere we use diversity to further separate from one another. We are organizing against each other, using ethnicity, gender, tightly-bound identities.

Even when we aren’t warring with each other, we increasingly define ourselves by labels. We stick labels on ourselves, we ask others what theirs are. ( Are you a Leo? An ENTJ? An A type personality? A theory

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Beyond Hope or Fear

Margaret J. Wheatley Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

As the world grows ever darker, I’ve been forcing myself to think about hope. I watch as people far from me and near me experience more grief and suffering. Aggression and violence have moved into relationships, personal and global. Decisions are made from insecurity and fear. How is it possible to feel hopeful, to look forward to a more positive future? The biblical psalmist wrote that “without vision the people perish.” Am I perishing?

I don’t ask this question lightly. I am struggling to understand how I might contribute to reversing this descent into fear and sorrow, what I might do to help restore hope to the future. In the past, it was easier to believe in my own effectiveness. If I worked hard, with good colleagues and good ideas, we could make a difference. But now, I sincerely doubt that. Yet without hope that my labor will produce results, how can I keep going? If I have no belief that my visions can become real, where will I find the strength to persevere?

To answer these questions, I’ve consulted some who have endured dark times. They have led me on a journey into new questions, one that has taken me from hope to hopelessness, and finally, beyond hope or fear.

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Medium 9781576750506

Motions of Coherence

Margaret J. Wheatley Berrett-Koehler Publishers PDF

These motions of life have direction. Life moves toward wholeness. It seeks coherence. This is a journey of paradox that pursues a clear direction. It is paradoxical because the path seems first to move away from wholeness to developing a self that is unique and alone. But even the creation of unique selves is an example of coherence. Every self makes sense. It creates a world and an identity that feels coherent to itself. From infinite possibilities, it chooses what to notice and how to respond. All living beings create themselves by this sense-making process of perception and response. As we look at any living being, we are observing its particular coherence, the logic it has used to create itself.

Life’s movement toward coherence is more easily seen in the great energies that attract individuals into systems. Individuals extend themselves outward and create coherent networks that make more of life possible. The Galapagos finches that had slightly longer beaks brought their uniqueness into a system plagued by drought and helped neighboring birds survive. In this paradoxical way, diversity is life’s means for discovering new ways of being together. Life pursues a path of differentness to a destination of wholeness.

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Margaret J. Wheatley Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


Ancient Thera, Modern Teacher

Organizing: There is a Simpler Way

The New Story is Ours to Tell

The Irresistible Future of Organizing

The Promise and Paradox of Community

Relying on Human Goodness

The Best in Art and Life

Leadership: We Make the Road by Walking

Goodbye, Command and Control

Relying on Everyone’s Creativity

Bringing Life to Organizational Change

Working with Life’s Dynamics in School Systems

When Change is Out of Our Control

Leadership in Turbulent Times Is Spiritual

The True Professional

Obstacles: Where the Road Gets Hard

The Real Work of Knowledge Management

The Uses and Abuses of Measurement

Name, Connect, Nourish, Illuminate

Transforming Aggression into Creativity

Seven Hundred Years to Go

Personal: Attending to Our Footsteps

Living Our Interconnectedness

Willing to be Disturbed

Reclaiming Time to Think


Raising Our Children

Ending Our Silence

Everything Has a Deep Dream

My Own Footsteps

Consumed by Either Fire or Fire

Maybe You Will Be the Ones

America’s Dark Night

Beyond Hope or Fear

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Transforming Aggression into Creativity

Margaret J. Wheatley Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Organizations today suffer from a severe disability when it comes to solving problems. In virtually every organization, regardless of mission and function, people are frustrated by problems that seem unsolvable. Every attempt to resolve a problem results in unintended consequences that dwarf the original one. Relationships worsen as people harden into opposing positions, each side insisting on its own solution, unwilling to consider alternatives. Too many problem-solving sessions become battlegrounds where decisions are made based on power rather than intelligence.

Consider the language used to describe problem solving. We “attack the problem,” “tackle the issue,” “take a stab at it,” “wrestle it to the ground,” “get on top of it.” If colleagues argue with us, we complain that they “shot down my idea,” “took pot shots at me,” “used me for target practice,” or that “I got killed.” In the face of opposition, we “back down,” “retreat,” or “regroup.” (Occasionally, we use gentler metaphors—we may “float an idea” or test it to see “if it has legs.”) Such aggressive descriptions of problem solving point to a startling conclusion. We experience problem-solving sessions as war zones, we view competing ideas as enemies, and we use problems as weapons to blame and defeat opposition forces. No wonder we can’t come up with real lasting solutions!

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