Landmark Education and the Landmark Forum

May 27, 2010

The Power of Acknowledgment and the Landmark Forum

Filed under: inspiration — Tags: , , — landmarkeducationinaustralia @ 7:05 pm

I think that the biggest thing I got out of the Landmark Forum was the real power of acknowledgment and acknowledging people. It might seem pretty obvious that acknowledging people is important and worthwhile, but I think our culture has a limited view of acknowledgment that prevents most people from having it be as difference-making as it could be.

I just saw an incredible video which illustrates this principle perfectly. It’s not directly about Landmark Education or the Forum, but it could have been. If you don’t want to read all my philosophizin’ then just watch the video below:

Mostly, how we view acknowledgment is that we judge people on how effective they are at something, or how much they helped us, and if they are really effective or did a really good job helping us, then we acknowledge them. If we give more acknowledgment than that, then either our acknowledgment is cheap, or worse, phony. Have you ever notice that it means more to you when you get an acknowledgment from someone who rarely gives it than when we get one from someone who acknowledges or thanks everybody?

In fact, I would say that we seek acknowledgment from those least likely to give it, because to get that particular acknowledgment would indicate that we had been truly successful in something. In this way of looking at it, acknowledgment is basically a positive evaluation of someone’s performance – a judgment on how they did.

In this paradigm of acknowledgment, someone who does a consistently average job at something will never get acknowledged. And if we see someone who consistently gives out acknowledgment without any evidence of extraordinary performance, we actually become contemptuous of the acknowledger – it’s like when we’re children in school and there’s a big race and afterwards every child is given a medal, even those who came in last, because we don’t want anyone to feel bad that they didn’t win. In this model of acknowledgment as performance evaluator, freely given acknowledgment reeks of condescension or rewarding mediocrity.

But there’s a different way of looking at acknowledgment – viewing it as an act of creation rather than an act of evaluation? What if you acknowledge people in such a way that it actually has them be bigger, happier people just out of getting the acknowledgment? What if you acknowledge people without worrying whether the acknowledgment is “true” in most people’s eyes? Inside the model of acknowledgment = evaluation, this is positive thinking, namby pamby self-esteem boosting at its worst, having people feel better rather than confront reality.

But in the acknowledgment = creation way of looking at things, having the lots of evidence for your acknowledgment isn’t the most important thing. What’s important is the actual impact your acknowledgment has on people. What’s important is that people actually step into being who you acknowledge them as, not from a phony, inflated sense of self-worth, but as a fully authentic, honest expression of who they are. If this doesn’t make sense, watch the video above. I can attest to the miraculous difference acknowledging people as a creation can make – it can heal wounds, create joy and love where it wasn’t there before and actually make the kind of positive difference with people that we all desire to make.

Acknowledgment = creation is something I took from the Landmark Forum, not as a concept that was taught, but as something I realized was true for myself. Enough said, watch the video!


January 15, 2010

Transformational Education is NOT Positive Thinking

Filed under: inspiration — Tags: , , , , — landmarkeducationinaustralia @ 10:20 pm

Everywhere I look these days ‘the power of positive thinking’ is getting attacked. A recent book recounted the experience of how awful it was for someone undergoing cancer treatment always being told to look on the bright side. Acclaimed anti-war author Christopher Hedges has said that new-age magical thinking differs little in its reality-denying effects from religious fundamentalism. Whether its called positive thinking, or whether its the think-it-and-you-will-have-it sort of magical thinking one associates with The Secret (disclaimer: I know little about ‘The Secret’ and don’t have a strong opinion about it), this sort of thinking has been termed annoying at best, and delusional or destructive, at worst.

You know what: I agree, for the most part. There are times when positive thinking is totally inappropriate. Positive thinking is a very bad idea when one is trying to feel better about something so that one doesn’t have to deal with it. A great article I read recently made the point that most people who seek enlightenment are really just looking to feel better. To pretend to be positive in the face of death and tragedy is grotesque.

Now, of course, there are a great many times when having a positive outlook is both entirely appropriate and very empowering. But it has to be authentic. I think sometimes people miss the difference between positivity and authenticity. The former has no real place in transformational education, at least in the way I’ve been exposed to it, mostly through the programmes of Landmark Education, while the latter is at their heart. Only by being honest about the way things actually are can one invent something new.

Now, I do believe that we have a say about how we view life, and that our say has a lot to do with our power and our actions in life, and that this say does have a lot to do with transformational education. This is very different from positive or magical thinking, however. Both of those are rooted in a denial or de-emphasis of the negative. They come from a viewpoint that positive is better than negative or that thoughts equal reality. A more practical approach is to ask, what kind of outlook would give me power in this situation? Sometimes a negative outlook might give one effectiveness. Sometimes a positive outlook – either way, it’s not the point. And such an outlook has to be authentic, which is to say, created from a place of openness, not denial. You can create a new outlook and not have it be phony. But you would have to be honest about what’s there for you first.

And I don’t believe that merely thinking something makes it happen. That’s hopeful nonsense, it seems to me. However, if one genuinely takes a new attitude about something, then our actions change, and then reality changes – this is common sense and not anything like positive or magical thinking, as I see them.

I hope this is all making sense. It bothers me, I suppose, when someone mistakes breakthrough thinking, transformational education, for new-age claptrap or other nonsense. If I haven’t made the point well enough, here’s another person who makes the same about life coaching (that it’s not positive thinking).

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