Winter Light

Last summer, the famous Swedish director Ingmar Bergman passed away. He was a master at describing the dark sides of the human mind and capturing the Scandinavian mood. Winter in the southern parts of Sweden is especially bleak. The lack of snow makes the long dark days almost unbearable.

My friend Julie Barnes got tired of all the negative conversations going on all around us, why she started the “Zest for Life Discovery”. She recently sent an email to all the members of the UK Appreciative Inquiry Network, inviting us to participate in this inquiry. These are her words:

  • “Instead of talking up a global recession, I’d like to create more conversation about abundance.
  • Instead of being afraid of terrorist attacks and creating more divisions between people, I’d like to talk about our similarities, our common hopes and wishes and start valuing our differences.
  • Instead of berating our young people as trouble-makers, fighters, drinkers and obese over-eaters, I’d like to hear about what makes them happy, what they are good at and what they are passionate about. What Bertrand Russell calls a ‘zest for life’.
I’ve been working on some appreciative questions and want to try them out. I’m inviting people to ask some or all of these questions in conversations with others – formally and informally – with family, friends, colleagues, clients, acquaintances and complete strangers. Start the conversation and see where it takes you – and them. I’ll be interested to hear from you:

  • About these conversations – what are people saying and feeling?
  • About these questions – how can we improve them?
  • What more can we do to promote conversations like these? Eg sending the questions to Gordon Brown? Writing the story for a national newspaper? Building these questions into a conversation at least once a day?

Zest for life questions
Try asking your family, friends, colleagues, clients, acquaintances and complete strangers these appreciative questions. Listen attentively, prompting for full responses and focusing on the positive. Note down key points and quotable quotes.

If you are being interviewed, answer fully from your own experiences. Enjoy this opportunity to talk without limits, about your greatest happiness, achievements, passions and delights.
  1. Zest for life
    When do you feel most alive; what gives you your zest for life? When are you most passionate? Tell me about a time in your life when you felt most alive, zestful and passionate. What were you doing? Who was there? What did you do? What made you choose this example?
  2. Being your best
    When are you at your best? Describe a time when you felt at your best; perhaps when you felt happy, fulfilled, and confident. What were you doing? What did others do? How did it feel then?. How does it feel now as you recall it?
  3. What do you value? What matters to you?
    In these stories, what do you value most about yourself and about others? What else do you value?
  4. What can we learn?
    What can we learn from these experiences of being our best? How can we take what we know and apply it to create more of this in our lives/ in the world?
  5. How can it be better?
    You wake up after a long sleep and find that the world is a better place. What is happening, how is it different, how do you know.
  6. What is happening right now?
    What do you see beginning right now which gives you hope for the future?
  7. What does the world need from us?
    What is the world calling us to be and to do? What might you do, right now?
  8. What do you wish for?
    What three wishes do you have: for yourself, for others, for the world?”

Please heed the call and send your answers to Julie Barnes!

For those of you also interested in the scientific aspects of happiness, have a look at Professor Martin Seligman’s work.

“A too powerful ego is a prison from which a man must escape if he is to enjoy the world to the full. A capacity for genuine affection is one of the marks of the man who has escaped from this prison of self… Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.” From “The Conquest of Happiness” by Bertrand Russell

No comments: