Spirit in holiday flavors

Originally published on www.worldwit.org — Liz Ryan’s social network


So we are caroling to the animals at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, and it’s quite a family affair with Santa Claus and humans disguised as reindeers and penguins, and earnest people singing holiday songs. There’s even free hot chocolate and cookies for everyone. But I am feeling disoriented because Santa Claus is being interviewed and he is talking about ‘time management.”

Time management? Give us a break! Whatever happened to holiday spirit? You know spirit like in sacred books and all the spiritual traditions of the world. NOT spirit like the car, the movie, or the gun. Santa, please say it isn’t so!

Some would say that spirit has been lost in the supermarket for a long time, and that Santa himself is one of those common signs of its impending extinction.

But I would counter that Santa originates from many great spiritual traditions of gift giving, and that spirit is actually ubiquitous. You’ll see it everywhere if you look for it. Even in business.

Like the cover story for Business 2.0 in November. In case you missed it, the topic was, “The Art of the Brilliant Hunch. Science is starting to understand why the best decisions come from the gut. Here’s how to make tough calls under pressure. ”

Boy, did I glom onto that headline. That’s because I know and you know that following the gut is always the best, but not necessarily the easiest, policy. When we ignore those gut feelings to do something one way, and we do it the other way and everything goes wrong and away from the direction of our intentions, we know the real bellyache is sure to follow. And our pain is amplified by the fact that we knew better!

The Business 2.0 article cites some interesting research on intuition. The bottom line, according to the article, is that emotions start the decision-making process, people are superb pattern makers, and we excel at abduction (rather than induction or deduction. Thank goodness for that because I never could keep those two straight.) The informed gut rules, the article said, in complex, complicated and chaotic situations, rather than in situations where formal rules can be applied.

Readers were also treated to several worthwhile capsules of how hunches work in business including advertising, publishing and broadcasting. My favorite factoid was that Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, shook uncontrollably when he came up with the idea of Starbucks. (My hypothesis is that the shakes came not from the power of the idea but from psychically connecting with the future caffeine overload of a nation of office workers.)

It was s good piece of journalism, bearing good news and befitting a fine publication like Business 2.0. The argument was based on scientific fact and expertise, and I applaud Editorial Director Thomas A. Stewart for his persuasive case.

Seems to me, though, Stewart missed pinning the tail on the hunch by about a foot and half. That’s because so much of his argument was draped against that common worldview of business, where relations are assumed to be contentious, competitive and warlike. Yeah, business is like that sometimes, but does it have to be?

It’s in my nature to shift perspective and ask: What happens when we change the worldview from one of scarcity and conflict to one of plenty and affinity?
Then the real mystery becomes less about how we make decisions in chaos and complexity, and more about how we become attracted to and then passionate about an idea. And sometimes that idea – like Starbucks – has multi-billion dollar legs.

I say the beauty of the hunch is expressed most brilliantly in the creative act of bringing something new into the world.

It’s like that hunch I have that the Business 2.0 writer was picking up some energy from the cultural stew when he decided to research this article because, well, he had a hunch! Still, where did that genesis spark come from? How was he attracted to the story idea and how was it attracted to him? Pattern played a part, paycheck played a part and editors played a part, but none of these constitute the Velcro that sealed the deal.

I believe the answer is spirit, the spirit unique to each of us that brings specific gifts into the world. And, yes, the kind of spirit that has to do with looking at the world wide open, and asking,” I wonder ..? And yes, that holiday spirit that celebrates all that is good in life, and the way we are all, each and every one of us, connected with each other.

So, here’s a holiday invitation offered in the spirit of peace and new beginnings. It’s adapted from the writings of Sonia Choquette, a well-known spiritual counselor in Chicago.

The next time you are called into a meeting with parties holding close cards and disparate interests, ask yourself this question: “How are we alike?” And look for what is true and what is real. Most of all, trust what you discover.

Radical, I know.

And if you are feeling really brave, check your assumptions at the door. Even if you have worked with these people for 20 years, walk into the meeting with this one directive: Never assume that you know anyone. And during your meeting, listen to what your intuition is telling you. Really listen – deeply. And trust it.

And most of all, here’s an invitation to a different kind of time management.

Let’s stretch the time period for holiday spirit to 365 days of the year.
And make each day a celebration of what is unique in each of us.

Let’s start the New Year off right.