Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cynicism, ideals, and faith

In his book, The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge writes:

In combating cynicism, it helps to know its source. Scratch the surface of most cynics and you find a frustrated idealist--someone who made the mistake of converting his ideals into expectations. Then they found themselves disappointed, hurt, and eventually embittered because people fell short of their ideals.

How can we be idealists and not be personally toppled when others disappoint?

For starters, there is no need to suppress our disappointment--because it's going to happen.

From there, I've learned to have three seperate sets of expectations:

  1. Expectations of an envisioned outcome

  2. Expectations about the actions and speech of others

  3. Expectations for my own conduct and perspective

Although I can exercise a varying degree of influence over the first two, they are ultimately out of my control. The third alone is up to me.

In work, school and relationships, I've found that if I am clear about the third, and have expressed the first and second, no matter how the outcomes may shift, or how others may behave, I can appreciate the results and learn from the process with my own integrity and peace in tact--usually. As a result, my ability to influence the first two realms has expanded as I've grown clearer, calmer, and more confident.

Thanks to Fred Kofman who has helped elucidate these distinctions for me.

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