‘The whole is greater than the sum of the parts’, A phrase attributed to Aristotle, and one I have used in my work so often.
So assuming true, what could that mean today, to me, to you?
A system by definition combines a number of different elements. And as a whole, they are, or can produce results that are more than the sum of parts.
Oftentimes, when I coach people, we touch on the different systems in their lives and how patterns and dynamics can keep you locked-in the system in a certain way without being aware of it.
Bringing awareness to it, changes the game.
Patterns and dynamics that often stem from our family of heritage, accumulate and become increasingly ingrained over time. Research shows that these original survival instincts from our childhood become a set of repetitive, automatic responses and ways of being that determine our responses even before we can think of how we want to respond. These automatic responses, our habits, can actually dominate most of what we say or do when confronted with a new situation.
To illustrate this, I often use the neutral mobile as a metaphor. A hanging mobile is constructed to take advantage of the principle of equilibrium. A system is always looking for a certain balance. And as Jade Oakley, artist of life-size mobiles in Australia (see visual to this post) puts it;
‘When I make a mobile, each element is ‘pushed’ to the point where it is most unstable, and most beautiful. Only when the elements have reached their ‘tipping point’, the artwork take on a kind of magic, a sense of effortless levitation in space.’
So, if the whole is greater than the sum of parts, this would imply that whilst the elements in my life, and in our system, have come to a screeching halt, or have collapsed all together– bringing the mobile out of balance – this doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole (system) has to collapse. The elements can cause a new equilibrium and save the whole.
Response-able for my part
What I am being asked to do then, and the only thing I really cán do, is to re-examine the elements, the different parts, of life as I know it; To re-balance and re-define them so I can choose if I want the whole to remain functioning ‘as (was) is’ or change to something new. And what my part in it really is.
To re-examine my own set of repetitive, automatic responses and ways of being that determine my responses. And I can totally do that, right? We can do that.
We are response-able for what we do with our lives, what we bring to the table and into the world. Response-able for the quality of our responses. We can choose if we want to bring anger, frustration, judgment and negativity to the people around us. Or, we can consciously choose a state of mind where we act from a place of acceptance, equanimity, kindness, empathy and compassion. To carry ourselves with grace.
Now this sounds easy right? But actually, it takes a little effort and time to really see and be with our own responses. To honestly take a look at yourself. To take a new perspective towards yourself that is gentle and to see your responses for what they are and not judge yourself. To show yourself some kindness and compassion first. Thén you can turn towards everyone else and respond in the same way.
So, for those parts that lie within my sphere of influence, where I have some control, where my response-ability is, I can choose in this new normal.
Choose my response to the new order of things and my place in it. Choose a response to the imbalance in my life, by creating a new one. Choose my response to people around me with kindness and compassion. Choose to sit on my mat, meditate, contemplate. Choose to do what is appropriate in this time and what is within my reach. And let go of what is not.
“When I let go of what I am; I can become what I might be.” Lao Tzu
As I shift my perspective in every way, I can start from a place of calm and #centredness, over and over, moving from an inward to an outward movement. Starting right here:
* I can continue to stay at home and Recalibrate;
* I can continue to find a Positively Healthy personal, physical and mental Way of Being;
* I can continue to Connect with others with empathy and compassion and (re)become other-focused.
* I can continue to develop something Good, however small, for myself that also benefits someone or everyone else, that benefits nature, that benefits the planet;
What do you think? Can we continue doing this? Áren’t we doing this?
What are you doing?
How can I help?
‘Meaningful Communication and Compassionate Leadership are at the heart of Barbara’s work. She writes about compassion and takes a positive approach to health. She supports leadership and teams in their personal development. To cultivate what are often referred to as ‘soft skills’ and what she calls the ‘hard skills’; Presence, practicing Deep listening, a Non-Judgmental Attitude, (self)Compassion, (self)Awareness.’
“By connecting to yourself first, you become more resilient.”