The Art of Living [appreciative inquiry #052]


[from book part 7 – APPRECIATE YOUR SELF]

If you would ask me now, I would say that the art of living lies somewhere between self-ish and self-less. And probably nearer to -less than to -ish…

Some twelve years ago, working for quite a large corporate company, I was invited for a two-day ‘change management course’. I appreciated the trainer/facilitator for focussing on the human part of the change. At some point we did an exercise. All participants were asked to write down the first thing to do when the company would encounter a sudden, total crisis, causing customers to leave, and jobs to vanish. I remember writing down something like ‘perhaps I can support a less fortunate colleague’. The trainer picked me out because I seemed to be the only one out of thirty participants that thought of giving attention to another person other than oneself. I felt proud and was astonished at the same time. For me, this hypothetical ‘crisis’ was not like a real crisis. So far so good.

Only a few years ago, my wife and I were so lucky that we could share a week holiday in Barcelona with all of our six kids present. Considering the children’s ages ranged between 16 and 26, it was long ago that we were ‘a complete family’ during a Holiday. One night, we took the funicular to Tibidabo mountain, to enjoy the magical view and to visit the theme park. Friends of our kids had suggested the haunting attraction called Hotel Kruger. There was a long queue, the waiting time was 90 minutes, and at first we considered skipping it. Then we saw people coming out of the exit door, screaming and very terrified. Hotel Kruger seemed to be quite a challenge, and we decided to join the line. They admitted groups of eight to ten people, and there was a ten minute delay every round. At some point we noticed that less people came through the exit door compared to the amount of people we had seen entering the hotel. And we wondered… Only one group in front of us; it was nearly our turn. Then a sign was presented: “25 minutes break”. Okay, we granted the people in there their coffee break. At last, we entered. And it really was a scary experience. Hotel Kruger was crowded with very realistic actors. Half way our path through the building, we could choose to leave through through the back door, or to proceed the haunting journey. Some of us were in doubt, but we decided to stay and go on. And a few minutes later we also ran through the exit door, screaming and very terrified. The shivering conclusion? We all, including myself, we went for ourselves, and we didn’t try to help out our family members… Of course, we knew it was not real, but it was realistic. I felt quite ashamed about my poor parenting skills…

So, what is the art of living? Isn’t it about raising children and hoping they will make the world a better place? For parents, this means being a role model, especially when it matters. That would be the generative thing to do. And I’m still figuring it out for myself, somewhere between selfish and selfless… My hope for you is first of all that your challenges stay between the experiences of an amusement park and the insecurity of being an employee. And secondly, I wish you the courage to stay the helping, generative, role model, even when times are tough. You really would make a change, and you would really contribute to the wellness of society in general.


What is your opinion about being generative?

How would you like to contribute to the wellness of society?

You’ve just read one of the 100 chapters of my book Appreciative Inquiries of the 3.0 Kind.
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