Tuesday, 14 September 2010

At last .....

I'm running a personal development course at the end of October. I'm really excited about it. However, it strikes me that its stumbling genesis is typical of my way of going about getting anything done. It also illustrates perfectly how those of us not blessed with the 'planning and organisation' gene, lurch into action.

First step is to nurture an idea which just remains wishful thinking for ages and ages (about 2 years in this case). Then I start mentioning it as a possibility to friends. Saying it outloud to people somehow makes it feel a bit more real. Then I start prefacing any mention of the idea with half-hearted attempts at commitment - e.g. 'I really must ..' or 'I am determined to ...'. Eventually there's a kind of internal commitment to the project with a vague timetable, e.g. 'I'm going to run a personal development course in the autumn'. This is followed by a hiatus borne out of an illusion of momentum, because I've decided to go ahead with the project. It's as if I believe that, by making the decision I've started the ball rolling and everything will magically come to pass, without me having to do anything. It's like the relief that comes after creating a neat 'to do' list, before you've tried to do anything on it.

Then comes the panic-inducing reality check, usually instigated by looking at my diary. In this case, it dawned on me towards the end of August that if I wanted to run something in 'the autumn' and I needed to get off my backside and organise it.

Even then, I need to engineer some unavoidable imperative to get me into full action mode. In this case it was booking the venue for a certain set of dates. Finally, a deadline, which is the only thing that gets me moving. After that,  it's extraordinary just how much I can get done. After two years of thinking about it, in the space of two weeks, I've designed a 6 week personal development course, arranged the venue, designed and produced a leaflet and poster, started advertising the event, and even created a website. Phew.

12 years ago, when I was studying for my counselling diploma, I came across a wonderful illustration of the planning vs 'emergent' approach to things. It was based on the Myers-Briggs personality types, and in particular the Judging/Perceiving dimension: the 'judging' types, being those who prefer life to be planned, stable and organised; the 'perceiving' types being those who  tend to go with the flow, prefer flexibility and are happy to respond to things as they arise. I've long since lost the reference, but the illustration of the differences between the judging and perceiving approaches to a task was so apt and so vivid,  it's stayed with me.

Judging vs Perceiving approach to tasks

Those of you who are 'judging' types will be baffled by the representation on the right. For those of you who, like me, are more 'perceiving' than 'judging', it will be all too painfully familiar. It is informally known amongst my 'perceiving' friends as the 'squiggle', recognisable from school essays, university assignments, work projects, PhD theses and even the housework (when we have visitors coming).  The question is, despite the apparent inefficiency and chaos (and the discomfort of going through this fraught process) is it any less effective than the nice linear version? The answer is probably irrelevant, as I seem unable to circumvent squiggle mode, however many personal development courses I run!

 On this occasion, my squiggle has produced this:

More information here (result of another squiggle!)