Imagine, invites Jonathan Fields, that you have been left a fortune (enough to live in financial ease for the rest of your life), but to be eligible to collect, you must commit your full-time working energies to the pursuit of an answer to a single question of your choosing for the next 12 months. If you give up before the last second of the last of the 365 days, the whole lot goes to a rotten cousin.
This is the invitation that awaited me this morning as Day 2 of Quest 2016.
One question for 2016, I thought. Interesting.
On Tuesday, I shared my lifelong question: How must communities be created to allow individuals, especially individuals who fall outside the norms, to thrive within functional communities?
There are so many questions buried inside that one question. What is a person? How do individuals thrive? How do societies function? What is the relationship between an individual’s internal experience of well-being or distress and the structures and expectations of the communities they live in?
Every strange path I have taken in my life from law to seminary through biology, psychology, and dance and into coaching and writing non-fiction has been in pursuit of a portion of an answer.
The answer I have found is that people come into this world as they are and although they are shaped by experience, there are limits to how much they can be molded. And some shapes allow more individual fulfillment than others.
Ken Wilber’s basic moral intuition that morality involves engaging in the world in a way that allows the most people the most self-actualization ties into my understanding of how people and communities thrive without violence. And my experience of communities structured based on this intuition has shown me how powerful and effective they can be. In the language of corporate human relations, stakeholder engagement really does lead to a healthier bottom line. In the language of relationship coaching, intimacy develops when people allow each other to see their whole selves.
When the rule of law and force keep the peace, violence simmers underneath and may erupt at any time. When peace is kept through people and organizations acting in healthy relationships with each other, the peace is stable and can be long-lasting.
My vision for the world is a world in which institutional structures and cultural norms build on people’s strengths, instead of berating them for their weaknesses, and are based in mutual respect, listening, truth-telling, clarity, and curiosity.
This world can be created, is being created in specific communities, by people choosing to live from this vision. Ripples are being sent out into the world by each person who lives grounded in authentically human action and being.
The skills required to live this way are taught in many arenas, but are actively concentrated in the skills of coaching.
For the past few years, I have been coaching individuals and seeing the transformations in their lives, their work, and their relationships when they shift into living in deep alignment with their values. This work is deeply satisfying to me.
It is not enough.
There is a call within me to work on a bigger scale as well.
The changes in my clients’ lives touch the people around them and some of those people shift in response. I see these ripples and I am glad of them and I know that my work spreads farther than I can see.
My being calls for more. To act bigger and more boldly. To touch more people and more institutions.
There is an issue of scale.
My burning question for 2015 was “How would people’s lives be transformed if the InterPlay form of Side By Side Stories was used as the primary guiding image for healthy relationships?” That question led to many things, including the writing of Side by Side Living: a Manifesto for Healthy Human Relationships.
My one question for 2016 is “How can I get the word out to as many people as possible in as transformative a way as possible so the message is embodied and lived and not just taken in intellectually?”
And step one is to invite you to read Side by Side Living and to share it with anybody you think might find it interesting or useful.
I would love to hear your thoughts about the manifesto. Please share them here in the comments or email me. If you are inspired and want to find ways to live from this perspective, you should consider hiring me as a coach. And if you have an organization or group that might benefit from a presentation, workshop, or team coaching to implement this form of relating, contact me and we will talk about how I can support you.