Why We Whine

People complain.  As highly attuned beacons and processors of what is happening inside of ourselves and in our environments, people know when they are experiencing what they want to experience.  When the reality they experience differs from what they want, they complain.

If the energy they want to engage towards a purpose that pulls them is not engaged towards that purpose, the energy and the frustration of its misapplication leak out, in the form of emotions, of whining.  We can look at whining as an annoyance, of someone else hefting their pains, their difficulties, on us.  Something to be avoided.  Or we can receive the feedback.

Feedback is when the universe lets us know what happened when our vision of the possible and a pathway to manifest the possible intersect with reality, when they become real, when they tangibilize.  When a person’s purposeful energy is not engaged as expected, towards their own purpose or towards the one they were invited to contribute to, they get frustrated, their unengaged energy wells up, and it begins to leak.  That hissing sound of the tightly lidded, over-boiling pot is called whining.  It is feedback.

The question is what to do with the feedback.  To know what to do, we have to inquire, to ask a question.  What is going on?  The leaking of frustration might come out with a lack of clarity.  As an emotional expression, sometimes it is hard to express the frustration in clear terms, in terms of the lack of engagement towards one’s intended purpose.  A process of inquiry explores the feedback, the misaligned purposeful energy.

One can inquire with another, co-hosting their process of discovery.  One can inquire on one’s own, with coaching support.  One can also inquire as a group.  The point is to see that there is feedback, which can be ignored, or the feedback can be received, allowing the possibility of a shift in agreements, so that the purposeful energy can be engaged.  The whining is feedback, the choice is whether to receive it or not.

Note: Hat tip to LS for the inquiry.

Low-Value Traps

Recent reports on global disengagement and lack of wellness suggest that people across the globe have persistent “low-value” experiences–they spend all day gaining little value from their efforts, feeling like they contribute little value to their organizations and communities, and experience little sustainable value in the material things they purchase.

If this is such a widespread and common phenomenon, why have people not figured this out?  It seems like the sufferers of this include the poor and the rich, those with little formal education and those with lots, and those in the global south and the global north.  It seems that they are caught in a “low-value trap.”  A low-value trap is when the experience of low value in a specific social system persists over time, where people feel “trapped” in long-term experiences of low value, of not getting much or contributing much for a lot of time and resource spent.

The authors of a recent book on the science and practice of resilient social-environmental systems  suggest a nice metaphor for this trap.  “Imagine a crater at the top of [a] mountain…The ‘trap’ would be water stuck in the crater, unable to get over its walls and thereby take advantage of the multiple development paths represented by the descending valleys” (Pursuing Sustainability, 2016, Princeton Univ Press, p 66).  For a more mathematical treatment of these crater traps, see “local minima.”  The point is that, within the crater, it is very hard to get out, because in the crater you tend not to have access to the very resources that you need to climb the walls, so most efforts to climb the walls only result in falling back to the bottom of the crater.

The very resources one needs to experience high value, in what one gives to and receives from human interactions, do not seem to be available in the low-value trap.  We need support, recognition, and the ability to make a unique contribution, yet these resources are usually not available in the low-value trap.  Are we stuck, then, or is there a way out?  The emerging science of agreements fields suggests there is a way out.  A way that is both simple and hard.  We simply need to see the agreements that we have unconsciously accepted, making them conscious and choosing whether and how we enter them.  This is hard, because we human beings seem to be designed to continuously and consistently fall asleep to these socially embedded agreements.  Over the past decade, in our work with organizations, networks, and leaders in over a dozen countries, we have developed a prototype, a 4-step process for seeing, choosing, and enacting these agreements, getting out of the “low-value trap.”  While hard to see at first, especially when you have spent years experiencing the low-value trap, you do have the resources needed to get out of the trap.  It is a choice.

Seeing “What Is” — The Economics of Abundance

Seeing what is, what we actually have.  Versus what we would like to have or what we would like to think we have.  What there actually is.

This is the invitation I am finding all over the place these days.  People inviting us into a conversation about what actually it is we have, and whether that is what we want.  I also find that what look like different conversations might actually be about different dimensions of the same conversation.  I will use four examples to highlight what I am seeing, and I will use the 4-step Harmonic Vibrancy Move process to frame the conversation.

The first step of the HVMove process is to see if we experience a gap, a gap between where we are or what we have and where we want to be or what we want to have.  The chorus seems to be singing that there is something better available to us.  Whether we talk about being disengaged, large systems change, income disparities, impact resilience, or efficiency gains, many people are clear that we are not experiencing the abundance that is available to us.

The second step of the HVMove process is to see what agreements look like where people are having the experience we want to have.  I have shared many examples of the kinds of positive deviance in agreements, experience, and impact resilience we are finding through our Global Initiative to Map Ecosynomic Deviance and Impact Resilience.  Agreements that support the full, unique creative contribution of everyone involved.

The third step of the HVMove process is to see what our current agreements look like, in comparison to the desired agreements seen in the second step.  Here I have recently found a four-part harmony giving voice to different dimensions of our current reality, each highlighting both the economics of abundance and the dimensions of our current reality that bring out the scarcity.  In the agreements evidence map, I refer to these four dimensions as the economic, political, cultural, and social lenses on the human experience.

The fourth step of the HVMove process is to see what to change in our fundamental assumptions and our agreements around the structures and processes that guide our interactions.  Much of the conversation I find today tends to focus on how to deal with the existing scarcity-based systems or how to reject them.  Through the Global Initiative, we have also found thousands of examples of positive ecosynomic deviants, people who are figuring out a different response.  Starting from an assumption of abundance, not scarcity, they are designing whole systems based on creative human beings who interact with each other in very creative ways, achieving much greater engagement, efficiency, effectiveness, innovation, impact, and resilience.  We are trying to figure out what they are figuring out and share that with everyone else who wants that–who wants to live from abundance, every day everywhere.

Step #4 — Ask What Agreements Shape Your Experience

You can choose the experience you want.  In the third blogpost in this series, you decided what experience you wanted.  In the 4th step, we ask what agreements shape that experience.

Underlying your experience is a set of agreements that determine, in great part, what experience you have.  These are the rules of the game.  In the following 2-minute video and 2 audios, we explore what agreements are and how you see them.

 

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A 23-minute conversation between Jim and Jackie regarding agreements (click on the MP3 file Making an Agreement)

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A 44-minute conversation between Jim and Orland Bishop about agreements, what they are, why they are important, and how people work with them (click on the MP3 file Orland Bishop and Jim Dialog on Agreements).

What agreements can you see that shape your experience?  Could you choose different agreements?  Could you talk about this choice with the other people in the group?

In the next series of blogposts, you and I will explore how to design agreements.

Step #3 — Choosing The Experience You Want

You can choose the experience you want, every day.  In the second blogpost in this series, we mapped your experience on the 3 Circle diagram.

In the 3rd step, you choose the experience you want.  Given what you saw in the mapping of your experience in Step #2, is that the experience you want in that group?  Is that the experience that you feel is available to the group?  The experience that the group could have, if it only decided so.  Here are some blogposts describing ways of seeing what you know about this choice:

In this 3rd step, describe the experience you would prefer.  Describe how this is different than the current experience.

In Step #4, we will look at the agreements underpinning this difference in experience.

 

Step #2 in Choosing the Experience You Have, Every Day — Mapping Your Current Experience

You can choose the experience you have, every day.  In the first blogpost in this series, we made the distinction between low and high vibrancy experiences–the 1st step in choosing the experience you want.

In the 2nd step, we map your current experience.  We will use the 3 Circle diagram to capture the description of your experience, in a way that differentiates the qualities of the experience you have and want.  In the following 24-minute video, you and I take this second step.

 

When you map your experience onto the 3 Circle diagram in the video, what level of vibrancy do you see?

You can validate where you map this experience through the more in-depth, free, online, 12-minute survey we have used globally by clicking here.

4 Steps to Choosing the Experience You Have, Every Day — Step #1 of 4

You can choose the experience you have, every day.

Most of the experiences you have are formed by a set of rules to a game that you have accepted, consciously or unconsciously.  Many of these experiences are not the ones you would choose.  You can change that.

I will take you through a 4-step process that we have uncovered over the past 10 years.  The process brings together what my colleagues and I have learned in our own attempts at choosing agreements, and what we have learned from the one hundred groups we have met in over a dozen countries and from the thousands of people that have taken the vibrancy survey in 94 countries.  The process is simple and hard.  It is simple in that you only have to see the agreements you have and choose the ones you want.  It is hard in that you have to see what was previously invisible and you have to enact your choice.  We use the following 4 steps to make the hard simple.

  1. See what you already know about your experience
  2. Map your current experience
  3. Choose the experience you want
  4. Ask what agreements shape that experience

In this series of 4 blogposts, I will walk you through these 4 steps, after which you will be able to choose the experience you want and see the agreements that support that.  After that you can decide whether you want to learn more about the design of specific agreements, which I will share in the next series on designing agreements.

 

Step #1 — See what you already know about your experience

You are hardwired to know.  You know when you experience low vibrancy in a group or place, and you know when you experience high vibrancy.  This knowing can show you everything you need to choose a different set of agreements.  The first step is to understand what you are hardwired to know, the difference in your experience of low and high vibrancy groups.

In the following 7-minute video, you and I take this first step.

 

In the next blogpost, we see how to map your current experience.

HV Move Process “Guardrails”

When guiding someone through a Harmonic Vibrancy Move process, to support them in consciously choosing their agreements, I have found it useful to remember a small set of guardrails.  This minimal set of “guardrails” supports us in staying on the desired path as we encounter the infinite complexities that arise in any process.

I use the guardrails as reminders, as supports for seeing, choosing, and enacting agreements with individuals, small groups, and very large groups.  These guardrails provide reminders for the principles we want to co-host along the transformational journey.  The five guardrails I use are: (1) abundance-based (2) co-hosting of (3) a collaborative (4) inquiry into (5) the agreements, experience, and outcomes available within the system.

  1. abundance-based.  Am I being abundance-based, open to the potential, to the possibility available in the group and to how to manifest it?  Are the processes I am facilitating supporting abundance-based inquiry?
  2. co-hosting.  Am I engaging my own hosting intention in the process?  Am I remembering that the others, nature, and spirit are also hosting this with me?  Am I facilitating that co-hosting?
  3. a collaborative.  Am I inviting the unique contributions of all participants?  Are we collaborating to produce a synergistic harmony from the combination of our contributions?
  4. inquiry into.  Am I coming from a place of knowing or asking?  If I don’t know and you don’t know until we see it together, I must foster and co-host a space, a process of inquiry, an inquiry into the possibilities we see when we bring together our individual contributions.
  5. the agreements, experience, and outcomes available within the system.  We engaged in the Harmonic Vibrancy Move process, because we saw that something greater than our current reality was available to us.  We know that the vibrancy we experience tells us about the quality of the underlying agreements we have, and the outcomes available.  Am I checking in continuously with myself and with the others to see what our experience is indicating about our agreements and outcomes?  Are we open to seeing new possibilities, in our experiences, agreements, and outcomes, and seeing pathways for manifesting the new possibilities?

If you have developed other guardrails for co-hosting a group through the Harmonic Vibrancy Move process or would like to share your experiences in using these guardrails, please include them in the Comments section here.

Guest post — Field Observations on Building “Agreements Evidence Maps”

Guest blog by Eyal Drimmer, counseling psychologist with focus on personal, group and organizational transformation and development

To support my work with groups on their Agreements Evidence Maps, I compiled a working paper with relevant information to build an Agreement Evidence Map (click here to access the Google Doc).  The document is based on the text from chapters 4-6 of Ecosynomics: The Science of Abundance, different blog posts as well as some of my own thoughts and structures.

I offer it to the Vibrancy community working with Agreements Maps, and invite you to collaborate on enriching the document. The final destination of this collaborative effort is the building of a comprehensive Agreement Maps Handbook (max. 20 pages). Feel free to add your experiences and ways of working with Agreement Maps, to change or restructure the document or to leave comments with impulses and suggestions. You can work on the Google Doc in your Internet browser without installing any software and your changes are automatically saved.

Relating to Value Exchange

The third application of the four-step harmonic vibrancy move is to how people exchange value in networks of human interaction.

Gap Description
The harmonic vibrancy aspiration for value exchange is the daily experience of prosperity through the exchanging and sustaining of value – everyone experiences abundance of what she values, a value-full life.  The harmonic vibrancy reality is that people report that they do not, in general, experience abundance in everything they value, and they do experience abundance in some things they value.  While what is of value to people is a question as old as humanity, industrial-based economics has defined a narrower set of values, suggesting that money is a value-neutral mode of wealth assessment.[1] While highly contested, within economics, as the key metric for value, money is a strong driver of value-driving behavior today.  Money stores value as a medium of exchange.  Currently money is scarce, because it is defined as scarce, with specific banks chartered with creating a limited supply of money, at their discretion.

From an ecosynomic axioms perspective, on the X-axis, the current monetary system gives people a greater freedom, independent of their heritage or relationships – anyone can have unit of currency: however, it is left to the individual to step into her own potential.  On the Y-axis, mutuality makes currency available to anyone, but bares no witness to the other’s gifts or potential.  On the Z-axis, money promotes movement within the collective, but it does not take, pay attention to, or care for the collective or the individuals.  On the A-axis, money removed the direct relationship to the divine.  There is no relationship with money and nature.

Other’s Experience
Another understanding of value exchange is emerging, where money is the symbol of the flow of vibrancy through humanity, as it manifests in our agreements.  The word money comes from the Latin word monére for warning or reminder – a reminder that money is not a noun, rather a verb, the flowing vibrancy.[2] Money reminds us, in each interaction, that we are presencing the flow of vibrancy through one person towards another, whether through what they produce or the service they provide.  This presencing is an agreement, a human agreement.

Ecosynomics proposes that the human experience of harmonic vibrancy is described by a rich set of values, greatly reflected in human relationships to one’s self, another, collective, spirit, and nature.  Ecosynomics suggests that value exchange facilitates the flow of resources that sustain and generate these dimensions of human experience that people value.  There are certain values that the individual or collective can readily nurture and sustain, while other values depend more on the gifts of others.  For those gifts, there is the reminder, money.

Ecosynomics also shows that intention matters.  In a string of agreements, how the value exchange enters the agreement influences what is done with it and what is possible to do with it.  Tens of thousands of collectives across the globe are experimenting with different definitions of what they value and how they exchange value.   Asset-based community development is identifying the assets the community values, those they have, and those they can develop further without sacrificing those they have.  Complementary currencies are experimenting with: (1) the agreements about how money works (i.e., whether it is interest-bearing, scarce, and has an asset basis); and (2) the culture within which the money works.  Sarkozy, the President of France, commissioned leading economists to develop metrics that move beyond GDP to include well-being.[3]

Axial Description
A collective’s ability to work with and shift its agreements around what is valued and how to exchange value depends to a great part on their level of harmonic vibrancy, as reflected in the different axes.  Some agreements function well in low levels of vibrancy, on any axis, such as bartering.  A need is exchanged for an offer.  Higher levels of vibrancy work best with subtler forms of value exchange, supporting each other to take on more significant contributions to one’s own development as well as that of the collective.  A collective’s capacity to see and step into value-exchange agreements that nurture prosperity is influenced by its current position in the harmonic vibrancy zone and its capacity to move towards greater vibrancy.

Harmonic-Vibrancy Move
Clearly there are many implications of this shift from value exchange as a scarce monetary system to value exchange as a reminder of the infinite capacity residing within the emergent system.  The industrially developed world is based primarily on an assumption of value exchange as scarce.  If value is in fact abundant, and not scarce, then how people exchange value would change in significant ways.[4]

The first observation is that even within existing agreements, different possibilities show up in conversations that are based on scarcity than those based on assumptions of abundance. For example, in a small textile US-based company, a conversation about value exchange for an employee can focus solely on the perceived scarcity around financial compensation, leading necessarily to a request for greater pay to alleviate the scarcity.  Leadership has also experimented with a broader conversation encompassing a rich set of values generated for the person by being in relationship with the community of the company.

A second observation, from the perspective of value exchange in harmonic vibrancy moves, is that the individual or the collective cannot be satisfied by a partial value set.  For example, people do not make most decisions based only on how much they make.  They also decide whether the work is satisfying, the people they work with are nice or not.  Now, some jobs are so awful that wage is the only determinant, but this is not so for most ways that people engage with others to create value.

Finally, seeing money as a reminder of flow opens people to seeing what manifests for them externally as a reflection of an infinite potential of an internal flow of creativity.  A counter view is that one’s inner sense of wealth is a reflection of the amount of scarce, finite money to which a person has access (see Figure 1).[5]

Figure 1: Projections of Money and Value

 

[1] Elsewhere we distinguish between value-neutral and value-ignoring, suggesting that money is not neutral, devoid of intention, rather it drives values, and that this is a residual effect of scarcity agreements around money.
[2] The etymology of “money” is uncertain, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, with possible connections to the Latin monere, which means “to warn, remind,” see (“money, n” The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 4 Apr. 2000 .).
[3] For more on complementary currencies, see (Lietaer, 2001).  For more on Sarkozy’s well-being commission, see (Stiglitz, et al., 2008).
[4] For a perspective on the corporation as value creator versus value appropriator, see (Ghoshal, Bartlett, & Moran, 1999).
[5] For deeper insights into the effects of perceptions of money, see papers on the dynamics of money (Ritchie-Dunham, 2009) and the impact of intentions on strings of agreements around money (Ritchie-Dunham & Hulbert, 2009).