Sometimes we have great days, sometimes okay days, and sometimes downright awful days. Most of us seem to experience all three. Some experience more great days, others more okay days, and others more awful days. When we experience great, okay, or awful days, we experience similar realities, right? Our emerging picture of the social topography of human agreements suggests that maybe we are not all having the same experience at each of these levels: maybe these are very different experiences.
We have started to map the terrain of human agreements, along with the experience, impact, and resilience achievable at each level of this terrain, from valleys to hills. We can simplify this terrain with 4 levels: the top of the hill, the middle of the hill, the bottom of the hill or on the plain, and the valley. These four levels correlate with the four levels of vibrancy.
- At the top of the hill, people describe a very engaging, energizing experience of high vibrancy in all five primary relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit), usually achieving very resilient and high impact.
- In the middle of the hill, people describe an engaging, often energizing experience of vibrancy in most of the primary relationships, usually achieving quite resilient and effective impact.
- At the bottom of the hill or on the plain, people describe experiencing oscillating between somewhat engaging and somewhat disengaging, with some vibrancy in a couple of the primary relationships, achieving some impact for their effort.
- In the valley, people describe a very disengaging experience of quite low vibrancy in all five primary relationships, usually achieving some impact only with extra effort.
Same experience? Four levels, all experienced in the same way? From most of what we read these days and the from the descriptions of most people we meet, it would seem that the description of these four levels of engagement, experience, resilience, and impact is the same; different degrees of overcoming scarcity and being able to engage people, towards greater impact and resilience. We have found, however, two completely different descriptions of what is happening at these four levels. It seems to depend on your starting point: scarcity or abundance. It turns out that the world looks very different at each of these four levels depending on the map you are using–a map based in scarcity or a map based in abundance. Let’s see what the two different maps show us about these four levels of the topography of human agreements.
Starting from scarcity, we tend to find three levels described.
- The first is the “normal” state of affairs, disengaged, highly ineffective people who lack motivation and need to be managed so that they can be more efficient in their contribution to the group effort. This would correspond with the valley experience. From this perceptive, there is not much there. No motivation, no special capacities, and the need for a high degree of management of interchangeable people.
- An improvement on this typical level comes when one moves up out of the valley onto the plain or the bottom of the hill. Here people tend to bring some basic capacities, are able to work side by side amicably, sometimes being more engaged and achieving higher efficiencies. From this perspective, people bring more capacities to the game and are able to make better contributions. Some motivation, strong capacities, and the need for coordination among efforts.
- The top of this game comes when one moves up to the middle of the hill, where people tend to cooperate much more, working together to achieve more together than they can apart. Here people tend to bring great skills and experience with a thirst for learning and cooperation, energized and engaged, working hard to achieve much greater impact and often quite a bit more resilient to the changes life throws at the group. From this rather-rare perspective, there is a lot there, ready to contribute dynamically to the task at hand.
Starting from abundance, we also find three levels described.
- The first is the “normal” state of affairs, highly committed people coming together in service of a deeper shared purpose, bringing their best, unique contributions every day. This is their normal day, just showing up as they are, creative, committed human beings wanting to make their contribution to something beautiful that they care about deeply. From this level, which corresponds with the top of the hill, leadership focuses on co-hosting, supporting everyone in bringing their best every day together. The abundant potential available through each person and through their interactions is evident to all.
- And sometimes life throws a curveball and people forget to be at their best, and they forget or fall asleep to their own unique gifts and those of others. In the middle of the hill, these people describe how they are usually aware of the group’s deeper purpose and of each other’s gifts, and they often tend to focus more on what is happening in the moment than on the possibilities each other is seeing in the moment. Less on how to collaboratively realize a common potential and more on the process for achieving what was seen. Still lots of possibility, with more focus on how to manifest it.
- Then there are the times when everything seems to fall apart. It is hard to say connected to the potential and to the shared inquiry. This bottom-of-the-hill experience might focus more on just getting the job done, on just moving forward. It is often difficult, because while still aware of the others, their needs, and the group’s deeper shared purpose, the experience oscillates between somewhat vibrant and somewhat not vibrant. Here it is hard to see the potential and unique contributions the people know are there. Still lots of potential available, it is just harder to see and harder to connect to.
Two different maps, each with three different “typical” levels. And completely different realities. Whether the human-agreements map you carry is scarcity or abundance-based seems to completely change the reality you experience.
- For the scarcity map, normal starts in the valley and great effort is expended to get up the hill. When energy to push up the hill fails, the resting position is back in the valley. It also seems that push as hard as you want, when starting from scarcity in the valley, you can only get up to the middle of the hill.
- For the abundance map, normal starts at the top of the hill. As life happens and people “fall asleep, they can slip down to the middle or bottom of the hill, but life from this perspective, when someone wakes back up, will pull them back to the resting point at the top of the hill. From this perspective, it seems that the lowest position normally experienced is the bottom of the hill, not the valley.
So, it seems that we all can have great days, okay days, and awful days. And, it seems, we can mean completely different things by them, because we are experiencing completely different geographies of what is “normal” and of what is available at each level of the topography.