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Strategies for Exploring Positive Questions for Professional Development

Journal Entry

I've been writing and thinking over the past few days about using positive questions for professional development. First I looked at some questions for creating an internal and external learning environment and then I looked at questions to use in exploring what you want to learn

Today I'm thinking more about different strategies you can use to explore these questions. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Frankly, I've found that at different times, different strategies may work better, depending on the person. I've also found that it can make sense to use multiple strategies to explore the same question. Sometimes I get more from that experience. 

Reflective Journal Writing

Readers of my blog know I'm a big fan of reflection and of journal writing. For me, it can be really helpful to use old-fashioned pen and paper to write down my thoughts, but some people may prefer to open up a Google doc to reflect on these questions. Another thought is to use the Oh Life tool, especially if you're interested in exploring several of these questions over time. And, of course, a blog can be another way to do this. 

Story-telling and Conversation

Another strategy I encourage is to find a trusted colleague or group of colleagues and to try responding to these questions out loud, by telling the story of your response to someone else. This can be incredibly powerful for a few reasons. First, many of us (especially the extroverts among us) do best if we process things by talking. Just the act of saying our stories out loud can get our thoughts flowing. But I think it's the act of telling the story to another person, who is paying focused attention to you, that can really get the thoughts flowing. They can also reflect back to you some of the themes and ideas they hear that maybe you miss as you're talking. If you can record this conversation as it's happening, even better. That way you can go back to it later on. 

Visual Tools

I've had great success using visual tools to explore positive questions. My favorite right now is the Exploring New Options Image Center. But you could also use a vision board technique, visual journaling, or even mindmapping. The idea is to free up your verbal left brain, which can take you down well-worn paths, into your right brain where more creative solutions may be available. If you're someone who usually writes, I actually encourage you to try a visual technique. It will open doors that you didn't realize were there. 

Combining Strategies

It can also be helpful to combine several strategies. A process that has worked well for me is to first use a visual tool to explore the question(s) and then to talk about the story I've developed visually to another person. The process of me talking and the person reflecting back to me some of that they've heard and the themes that have emerged, gives me new ideas. I often take notes during this conversation so that I have a record of it and, if possible, will record the actual conversation to listen to later. I will then journal in a written journal about the image I've created, my conversation and any new insights I've found. Sometimes I'll listen to a recording of my conversation if I have the time and I think I will get more info from the experience. 

I've worked with other people who may journal first, then talk about it and then return to their journals to record additional insigts. 

The idea here is to tap into multiple strategies that may help you dig deeper into what you want to learn and how you want to learn it. While one strategy may be all you feel you need, using multiple strategies can definitely help you dig more deeply. 

Thoughts? What other strategies could work? What works best for you? 

Positive Questions for Professional Development: Developing a Vision for Learning

Tablica do badania wzroku z reklamy Vision Express

This week I've been exploring the power of positive questions in professional development.  Yesterday I looked at some questions for setting the stage for learning. Today I want to propose some questions that can help us better define what we want to learn.

Professional Development Action vs. Activity

This is related in some ways to my earlier post on action vs. activity. I've found that it can be easy to engage in professional development activities that give us the illusion that we are developing ourselves because we are learning something. But if that learning isn't tied to a larger strategic vision of how we want to develop ourselves and in what ways we want to grow professionally, then we can find that our efforts don't really get us anywhere. So for me, taking the time to really look at what I want to learn and how it ties to a larger vision of where I want to go for my career is the difference between engaging in professional development activity vs. professional development actions. 

Asset-Based Learning

While we're on the subject of positive questions, I think it's also helpful to focus on our assets. That's the premise of Marcus Buckingham's First Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths and I think he makes a great case for building professional development on the notion of playing to your strengths, rather than trying to overcome your weaknesses. Clearly in specific occupations you will need to develop specific skills. At the same time, I think there can be a lot of latitude for looking at finding your niche within your occupation, assuming that you're working in something that plays to your strengths, of course. 

Positive Questions for Deciding What to Learn

Again, some of these questions come from the excellent Encyclopedia of Positive Questions. I've also been using Appreciative Living for inspiration. As with yesterday's questions, feel free to pick and choose. In some cases, the questions are pretty similar--just taking a slightly different look at things. 

  • Find your positive core--list every professional strength, skill, experience and attribute you can think of. What are the BEST things about you  as a professional? What themes do you see? How could you develop on and expand those strengths? What additional skills could you develop that would make your positive core even better? 
  • What do you feel are your greatest strategic advantages professionally? Which of these gives you the greatest sense of pride and purpose? How could you further develop these? 
  • Imagine your career 5 years from now. What are you doing? Where are you working? Who are you working with? How does it feel? Once you have a clear picture of your career, describe the steps you've taken to develop yourself professionally to get there. What have you learned? How have you learned it? With whom have you worked?
  • What are your personal learning challenges--the things you're curious about, that you'd like to learn more about, that will help you to become a bigger, better person? How do you see learning about these things fitting into your vision of yourself and your career? How do you see these things contributing to your organization or to your business? 
  • What are the important questions in your industry or your line of work? Which of these important questions get you excited and passionate and filled with energy to learn more about? 
  • Think about the shifts happening in your profession, your industry, your personal and professional life. Which of these shifts generates the most hope for you? Which of these nurtures your hope for building a better world and a more positive future? How could these ideas fuel your learning? How could you learn more that would help you take advantage of these changes? 

The goal here is to look for those things to learn in which you find energy and passion. Professional development that's driven by inspiration is necessarily about finding learning opportunities that get you excited to know more. You want to engage in inspired learning, not desperate learning. 

How do these questions work for you? Are there other questions we could ask? How could we use this in the context of an organization? 

Positive Questions for Professional Development: Setting the Stage

Back To Work Learn

This week I'm exploring how positive questions might transform our approaches to professional development.

Originally I was going to start by playing with some questions about what to learn, but in thinking about the whole issue of professional development, it occurs to me how many of us may need help in setting up for ourselves a more positive environment around taking control of our own learning, especially when we work for someone else. Even those of us who are self-employed may find that we need some positive questions to get us motivated to create a more effective learning environment for ourselves. So here goes. . . 

Acting from Inspiration, Not Desperation

In exploring positive questions, one of the key points for me is the idea that it is better to act from inspiration, not desperation. That's what the brain research tells us and that's certainly been my experience as well.

Learning from desperation means that we feel like we HAVE to learn. Maybe our boss told us we needed to attend a training. Or we are worried that if our skills become outdated we'll be laid off. Or maybe we've already been laid off and now we're trying to play catch-up.  Desperate learners are coming from a place of fear and anxiety. That "fight or flight" mode is antithetical to learning. 

Sometimes desperation goes on too long. Then we move into a place of de-motivation, where we are no longer in touch with anything that we enjoy about learning or about our jobs. We may not feel anxious or worried at this point. Instead, we don't even really care. Learning is something that is done TO us, not something we do for ourselves. 

When we are inspired learners, we are learning from a place of excitement and passion. We WANT to learn and are excited to develop ourselves and our new skills. We see how our learning is connected to our own long-range vision and the things that get us pumped up about our work. And we see learning as something that we need to do for our own growth if we are to achieve the vision we've set for ourselves. 

Priming the Pump

The question of course is how to create that inspiration? Some of the questions I have below came from the awesome Encyclopedia of Positive Questions. In several cases I've also built on those inital questions. 

In thinking about these, it's important to try to be as detailed as possible in responding to them. I've found that the more detail I'm able to add, the more fodder I have for inspiration. You may find that you want to answer all of the questions or pick and choose, based on your personal experience. 

It also helps if you talk about your answers to these questions with another person. Have them listen to your story and then share with you some of the themes they may have heard. This can be a really powerful way to get at inspiration.

These are some questions that have helped me and have worked with others. Note that each begins with asking you to think about a specific situation in the past that can prime the pump:

  • Think about the most exciting and challenging professional development/learning experience you've ever had. What was it? What did you do? What happened? Who was involved? What made it interesting and challenging? How did it benefit you? How did it benefit others, including your employer? What can you learn from this experience about what you want MORE of in your professional development? 
  • Think about the BEST learning experience you've ever had--a time when you felt like you were in a great learning environment that supported your growth and development. Describe the experience and environment in as much detail as you can? When/where was it? Who was involved? What did you do? What made that experience so exceptional? What does it tell you about what you want more of? 
  • Think of an organization you worked at or another kind of learning environment that inspired you to learn. What made this such a great place for learning? How did you and others grow and change as a result of being in this environment? How could you bring some of these ideas or conditions into your current situation? 
  • Think about a learning experience where you felt competent and capable and where your learning just seemed to flow. What happened in that experience? Who was involved? What were you learning? What helped you feel competent and capable? What can you learn from that experience about the kinds of things you need in a learning environment? How could you bring some of these ideas into your current situation? 
  • What would my learning look like if it came from a place of inspiration, not desperation? How would I learn? Who would be involved/ What would I learn? How would I know that I was engaging in "inspired learning"?

These are just a few to get you started. Let me know what you think, if you have other suggestions for questions and how these work for you. I'm also curious about your thoughts on how organizations might be able to use some of these questions to create a more positive environment for ongoing professional development.

Professional Development from Inspiration, Not Desperation

Explosion of positive energy

I've been thinking a lot lately about positive questions and their connection to professional development. Last week I talked about the power of positive priming and how brain research shows that when we have negative expectations for learning and development, we are less likely to learn from our experiences. I also discussed positive questioning and how reframing the questions we focus our brains on can lead us to better solutions and more effective planning. 

What I've been noticing lately is how much of our professional development seems to be deficit-based. For many people, professional development only occurs when there is a "lack"--they lack a skill management thinks they need to have or there's a performance issue that companies decide to tackle through training. Training also seems to occur at times of crisis--we seek to develop our skills when we are worried about losing our jobs, or maybe we've lost them already. 

What would happen if we looked at professional development as an asset-based, positive activity? What if, instead of looking for professional development based on what we lack, we approached it as a way to build upon our strengths, to grow and expand? What if we looked at how to create the most supportive and inspirational development environment for ourselves so that we found ways to have more of what we want and need to grow personally and professionally? What if professional development came from inspiration, not desperation? 

This week I plan to do a series of posts on the idea of using positive questioning to frame our professional development experiences, both individually and as organizations. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this--experiences you've had in using positive questioning for professional development, ideas on how you think it could change how we do professional development, etc. Let me know what you think. Conversation is the heart of learning!

Action vs. Activity

Action hero

Over on his Learnstreaming blog, Dennis Callahan writes about the difference between signing up for social media and joining: 

Having a social media account (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin) doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve joined.  It means you’ve signed up.  It’s like signing up for the gym.  You can say that you belong to the gym but if you don’t get on the equipment and exercise, what benefit is there to your body?

I've experienced this a lot with myself and with other people. We sign up for something (always with the best of intentions), but then don't actually USE the thing we've signed up for. Then later we'll say that it didn't work. 

I've come to see this as the difference between action and activity.

Action vs. Activity

Action is purpose-driven and strategic. It is based on knowing where you want to go and acting in an intentional manner that gets you there. There is a sense of discipline in it because it is grounded in vision and alignment with your goals. 

Activity is something else. It is the illusion of action without the driver of purpose or the discipline that's grounded in vision. It is action without strategy. 

So signing up for social media is activity. It makes you feel like you're doing something. Joining--really engaging with the tools and the people you meet--is action. It is moving beyond a sort of disjointed awareness that you need to do "something," into a more purposeful practice that is at the heart of real action. 

This distinction between action and activity is important for professional development because we can become consumed with activity--more useless acts with no connection to our real goals or purpose--and then wonder why we aren't really getting anywhere. We aren't getting anywhere because we are moving for the sake of moving, rather than looking at engaging purposefully so that we're taking real action. 

This is why I think reflective practice is so important. It keeps bringing us back to the WHY of what we do. It helps us be more intentional about our activities so that they are not just movement for the sake of movement, but transformed into purposeful action. 

Dennis asks a great question--how do you move from signing up to joining when it comes to social media? I want to enlarge it and ask, how do we move from activity to action in all facets of our professional development? 

Improving Happiness at Work: Positive Practices and the Power of the Positive Question


An interesting article in the Harvard Business Review on The Happiness Dividend has me thinking this morning about how we can re-train our brains to be more positive at work. According to the article:

the single greatest advantage in the modern economy is a happy and engaged workforce. A decade of research proves that happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcome: raising sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%, as well as a myriad of health and quality of life improvements. 

The issue is not whether happiness should matter at work--it clearly does. The question now, is what do you do to increase employee happiness?

According to the article, individuals can make a difference for themselves:

Individuals can begin to do two things on their own. First, recognize that happiness is an advantage at work. This will encourage you to seek happiness in the present instead of waiting for a future success. As a result, your brain will have more resources necessary to accomplish your work. Second, you can literally train your brain for higher levels of happiness at work by creating habits shown to increase job satisfaction. In the training with KPMG, we suggested five:

  • Write down three new things you are grateful for each day;
  • Write for 2 minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours;
  • Exercise for 10 minutes a day;
  • Meditate for 2 minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out;
  • Write one, quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising a member on your team.

I particularly like the idea of starting my day with an email thanking or praising a colleague. It forces us to start thinking more positively about our co-workers, reaching out not only to critique work, but also to recognize the positives in others. 

The Power of Positive Questions

In my own work, I've been looking much more at how using positive frames can change the nature of the work that I'm doing. I've been experimenting with a variety of appreciative inquiry practices, particularly the power of positive questions. 

Behind positive questions is the notion that what we focus on is what we get. So if we ask questions that focus on problems and how to "fix" something, we are likely to go down a more negative road to solutions. If we reframe questions so that they are positive, asking us to think about the best situations we've experienced, we can find new solutions and ideas that might not otherwise be available to us.

The difference can be profound. Think of where your brain goes when I ask you this question:

"Why is morale so low in our company?"

vs. this question:

"How can I bring out the best in the people I work with?"

Each of these questions is tackling the problem of low morale. But the first sends me down the old road of problems and complaining. I can feel myself start to focus on all that's wrong in the organization.

The second question asks me to move beyond that and start thinking about the positive solutions. Rather than focusing on what's wrong, I start thinking immediately about things I could do that will help. The differences are subtle, yet huge. 

The Encyclopedia of Positive Questions is a fantastic resource for developing and using positive questioning techniques throughout the organization. At the beginning of the book, they offer a variety of ways to use positive questioning, including: 

  • Getting staff meetings off to a good start
  • Coachingfor high performance
  • Transforming "problem talk" into "possibility talk"
  • Creating dialogue to foster shared meaning
  • Demonstrating positive intent and trust with customers
  • Creating a learning organization
  • Building high performance teams
  • Conducting project reviews that make a difference
  • Building self-esteem
  • Planning a course of action for the future
  • Creating your own interview guide

I've also been looking at using positive questions as a strategy for engaging customers in positive action planning and project development, building off of previous successes, rather than getting bogged down in problems. 

If you're interested in doing more exploration into the power of positive questions, here are some good resources to get you started:

  • Positive Questions to Lift the Day--a nice list of questions that could be used by individuals or by organizations. What would happen if you engaged people in responding to one of these questions each day? 

  What do you think? Have you used positive questions or other practices to improve happiness at work? 

The Power of Positive Priming

Excited! You Bet!

Intuitively I've always understood that when we think we are stupid, we are less likely to learn.  I'm well aware that my struggles with math throughout my lifetime began with a 3rd grade teacher who was convinced that girls couldn't work with numbers. But it's interesting to see how brain science now supports something many of us have experienced.

From an article in Time Magazine on the optimism bias:

Cognitive neuroscientist Sara Bengtsson devised an experiment in which she manipulated positive and negative expectations of students while their brains were scanned and tested their performance on cognitive tasks. To induce expectations of success, she primed college students with words such as smart, intelligent and clever just before asking them to perform a test. To induce expectations of failure, she primed them with words like stupid and ignorant. The students performed better after being primed with an affirmative message.

Examining the brain-imaging data, Bengtsson found that the students' brains responded differently to the mistakes they made depending on whether they were primed with the word clever or the word stupid. When the mistake followed positive words, she observed enhanced activity in the anterior medial part of the prefrontal cortex (a region that is involved in self-reflection and recollection). However, when the participants were primed with the word stupid, there was no heightened activity after a wrong answer. It appears that after being primed with the word stupid, the brain expected to do poorly and did not show signs of surprise or conflict when it made an error.

A brain that doesn't expect good results lacks a signal telling it, "Take notice — wrong answer!" These brains will fail to learn from their mistakes and are less likely to improve over time. Expectations become self-fulfilling by altering our performance and actions, which ultimately affects what happens in the future. (My emphasis)

This has serious implications for those of us in the training biz. How well do we prime learners to feel successful before they get started? I'm not talking about reminding people of previous learning on the topic or showing how this new topic is linked to something they already understand. I'm talking about priming learner's brains to be focused on themselves as capable, motivated learners. This can be especially challenging when working with staff in more toxic work environments.

One of the reasons I've become interested in appreciative inquiry is because of its power to prime our brains for the positive, thus allowing us to see more positive solutions and learn new skills. Last week I did a training for a group of individuals who are in a difficult work environment that isn't generally supportive of learning. I've typically experienced challenges in getting these learners motivated, often because training has only been offered to them when there's a perception that they are doing their jobs wrong. They feel defeated before they even attend the session.

This time I decided to begin the training with an exercise designed to prime them for the positive. First, I asked them to think about the best customer service experience they'd ever had as a customer. Something where they felt that they'd received amazing customer service. Then, using Christine Martell's VisualsSpeak tools, I had them find a few visuals that illustrated their stories. Finally, I had them share their images and tell us the story of their experience. 

The change in the energy of the room was palpable. They got excited about their stories and easily saw how the themes they identified were applicable to their own work. They were primed to begin learning and were engaged and positive throughout the training. 

Clearly the research indicates that positive questions and stories can prime our brains for learning. The question is, how deliberately are we doing this when we design training? And what are the challenges when we are working with staff who may operate in a less than positive environment? 

What Do You Want MORE Of?

Abundance Plus

On Facebook yesterday, LaDonna Coy posed an interesting question:

Noodling--what would happen if we were actually able to figure out what we want in life (instead of what we don't want) and then focus on it? What would that make possible?

I've been doing a lot of reading in and work with appreciative inquiry lately and this is one of its key principles, called the Poetic Principle. In a nutshell, it says that what we choose to focus on in a person or situation becomes our reality. The more attention we give to what we've noticed, the more it becomes what we experience. 

Here's a thought experiment to test this out. If I tell you to STOP thinking of a purple elephant, you can't. In fact, the more I tell you to stop thinking of a purple elephant, the more firmly embedded that purple elephant will become in your mind. The only way I can get you to stop focusing on the purple elephant is if I give you something else to think about--like a pink hippo. 

What happens to most of us is that we spend a lot of time thinking about the things we DON'T want in our lives. In fact, I've asked people, "What do you want in this situation," and more often than not will hear, "Well I can tell you what I don't want!" But the more attention we pay to what we don't want, the more likely we are to find it. So, as LaDonna suggests, we have to ask ourselves, how would things shift if we were able to focus on what we DO want, rather on what we don't want? 

One way to do this is to look at a situation or person and ask ourselves, "What do I want MORE of here?" Often when we are in negative situations--we have a problem with a client or a colleague, a spouse or a child--we will start thinking of all the things we want less of. If only she were LESS stubborn or he were LESS confrontational. Then, of course, all we see in that other person is how stubborn or confrontational they are. All we see is the purple elephant. 

By shifting our attention to what we want MORE of, we can start to shift our perceptions in a more positive direction. We can also start to shift outcomes. It's another version of "you get what you measure."

As part of our discussion, I shared with LaDonna one of my favorite Robert Kennedy quotes:

“The gross national product (of a country) does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.
– Robert Kennedy, March 18, 1968

For me, this captures beautifully how we need to shift our attention. What DO we want more of, in our personal and professional lives? In our communities, schools, churches and workplaces? I think we could accomplish so much more if we defined what is important, healthy and meaningful and shot for those things, rather than focusing on all the things we don't want. 

So--here's our question of the day. What do you want MORE of? I'd love to hear from you in comments on this!

The Power of Writing It Down


Long-time readers of my blog know that I'm an inveterate user and admirer of technology. I'm consistently drawn to its possibilities and have benefited tremendously from all that technology offers to us. But, during my recent social media sabbatical, I was reminded again of some of the more old-fashioned strategies for learning that served me well in the past. One of them was the power of physical writing, as opposed to typing information. 

In college, I studied by reading through my class notes and texts and taking additional copious notes on what I read. When test time rolled around, I was usually able to recall where on the page I'd written the relevant material and could call it up when I needed to.

During my social media diet, I returned to writing things down, rather than typing them in a Google doc and re-discovered the pleasures of putting pen to page. In particular, I started hand-writing goals and plans, rather than typing them, and noticed immediately that they somehow stayed with me longer than when I used my laptop to record my thoughts.

This Lifehacker article explains why:

Writing stimulates a bunch of cells at the base of the brain called thereticular activating system (RAS). The RAS acts as a filter for everything your brain needs to process, giving more importance to the stuff that you're actively focusing on at the moment—something that the physical act of writing brings to the forefront. In Write It Down, Make It Happen, author Henriette Anne Klauser says that "Writing triggers the RAS, which in turn sends a signal to the cerebral cortex: ‘Wake up! Pay attention! Don't miss this detail!' Once you write down a goal, your brain will be working overtime to see you get it, and will alert you to the signs and signals that […] were there all along."

And then this:

Dr. Virginia Berniger, who studies reading and writing systems and their relationship to learning processes, found that children's writing ability was consistently better (they wrote more, faster, and more complete sentences) when they used a pen rather than a keyboard; these are, of course, subjects without a penchant for using either tool. We also previously covered the WSJ article that connected handwriting and cognitive abilities; in one of the studies cited, adults learned new symbols and graphic shapes better when they reproduced them with pen-and-paper instead of typing them.

The difference, Berniger notes, may lie in the fact that with writing, you use your hand to form the letters (and connect them), thereby more actively engaging the brain in the process. Typing, on the other hand, involves just selecting letters by pressing identical-looking keys.

So the act of forming the letters engages and rewires our brains in a way that typing doesn't. It helps embed the information and leads us to greater action. 

What about you? Do you notice a difference when you write information down, as opposed to what happens when you type it? Is this something where you've even noticed a difference? 


7 Dangerous Things Every Adult Should Do

On yesterday's post about creative anxiety and risk-taking, Holly McDonald left me an excellent link to an article on risk-taking at the Open Education blog, which, in turn, led me to Gever Tulley's TEDTalk on 5 Dangerous Things You Should Allow Your Child to Do. 

We learn as children to stop taking risks, but I think that as we become adults, we can be even more risk-averse, mainly because we also feel like we have more to lose.

Although I love Tulley's list, in some ways I think that these ideas (like naps) may be wasted on the young. I had some ideas of my own for a new list and put out a call to Twitter for feedback from my network. Some very cool people responded (credited below).

So here is our list of 7 Dangerous Things Every Adult Should Do. Note that none of these suggestions involve sharp instruments. 

1. Quit a Job You Hate Before You've Found Another One

In 1998, I did a weekend career retreat for myself.  Between Friday evening and Monday morning, I realized that I needed to leave my current work situation. I spent that summer immersing myself in self-learning (Amazon became my best friend) and fabulous conversations with interesting people. By September, I was feeling re-energized and full of ideas and began to develop my business. I haven't looked back since. I'm not sure I'd be where I'm at now if I hadn't jumped without a net. Getting out gave me time and space to get clear about what I wanted and to develop my ideas and skills. Even if I'd chosen to work for someone else at that point, I would have been in a better, clearer position to sell my value to a new employer.

Rosetta Thurman agrees with me. She made the same decision and look at her now! This one was on Holly McDonald's list too.  

2. Quit a Job You're Too Comfortable In

Atul Sabnis suggested this one and I think it's a GREAT idea that ties in perfectly with yesterday's thoughts on creative anxiety! This one is much harder to do than quitting a job you hate, although doing work that's comfortable may be more dangerous than doing work you hate.

Running-with-scissors 3. Talk to Strangers

I've written before about the dangers of homophily, more commonly known as "birds of a feather flock together." I think that the web and social networking sites make this tendency even worse, closing us to new ideas and new ways of doing things. Seeking out people and groups who have different beliefs can feel dangerous, especially if they threaten ideas we hold dear. But we can learn a tremendous amount from the experience. If you're in Philadelphia, NYC or Washington DC, you can take it a step further and invite a stranger to dinner.  

4. Publicly Admit You Are Wrong

A few years ago, I was doing a week-long training session on facilitation and "Thursday Syndrome" set in. This is when we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel and people start to get testy. Someone challenged me publicly and I was too tired and emotionally drained to handle it well. I ended up stopping our session early and telling the group that I'd screwed up and we needed to take a break and re-convene the next day. This was VERY hard for me to do, because I was supposed to be teaching facilitation skills and I thought I'd completely blown my credibility. But the next morning, I had MORE respect from the group because they realized that sometimes when you're facilitating group sessions, the only thing you can do is say "I screwed up--where do we go from here?" 

5. Say Yes When You Feel Like Saying No

Holly suggested this one and it's a great dangerous thing to do. Try agreeing to that crazy idea or hare-brained scheme--or even the suggestion that you do something on the spur of the moment. Often when you feel the pull to no, that's just resistance at work that keeps you in your comfort zone, making you think small and miss opportunities.  The next time someone asks you to do something and you feel "no" forming in your mouth, try saying "YES!" and see what happens. 

6. Say No When You Feel Like Saying Yes

Also from Holly, this is the companion to Dangerous Thing # 4. Saying "no" when you want to say "yes" is about setting limits. It's about saying you are going to choose what YOU want to do, rather than what someone else wants or conforming to expectations. "No" can be a liberating word that also gives you the space and freedom to say "Yes!" to other things. 

7. Fall in Love . . . And Allow it to Win

This Dangerous Thing Came from Kate Sloan Fiffer and it's awesome:

Picture 2

Passion is what can drive and sustain us. It does this in ways that "practicality" never can. When we commit ourselves to something for the love of it, rather than because it's practical, I find that the "practical" stuff tends to work itself out anyway. 

So that's our list of 7 Dangerous Things Every Adult Should Do. Have you done any of them?  What would you add to the list?