“Reality is diverse.” – Nancy Kline
I’ve had the memory of this quote pop into my head frequently over the past year. It comes from Nancy Kline, the author of Time To Think and the creator of a really useful change process called, “The Thinking Environment.
It’s so simple that you could pass it by and nod and say, “Sure. Obviously reality is diverse,” and not really get it. I know I did when I first heard it about two years ago.
But today, as I stop and think about it, I think I get it and it seems like one of the most profound and useful truths I’ve ever stumbled across. (Isn’t truth often like that… so simple that you miss it!)
Stop for a moment and look around you and notice just how rich the diversity is in your reality.
- Think of your life and career journey and the life and career journeys of the people you know… diversity.
- Think of what you value and what the people around you seem to value… diversity.
- Think of your unique strengths and what the other people in your life do so well… diversity.
- Think of what you and others believe about the world… diversity.
- Think of the qualities of each of your relationships with your friends and family members… diversity.
- Think of what’s worked for you and what works for others… diversity.
It’s all so diverse. And we didn’t even get started thinking about the diversity of other creatures and natural environments that we share this planet with!
Going though the motions
It seems to me that we’ve forgotten that reality is diverse and we often slip into a “I’ve seen it all and my lens is the only lens” mantra. When we think that reality is as we expect it to be, we switch off our awareness and curiosity, we stop asking questions, we make decisions based on assumptions rather than reality, and we travel through life mindlessly, missing many of the nuances and sensory delights that are right there in front of us. We hold onto stock answers for life’s mysteries, we follow popular lifestyle templates instead of living according to our own unique lifestyle preferences, we hang out with people who are like us and avoid people who seem to think differently to us, we feel offended when other people don’t agree with us and we bash on with using the same formulaic responses, even when they haven’t served us well.
And when we’re faced with significant loss, we get stuck on “This shouldn’t have happened…” and “It’s not fair…” and “Why me?” Loss almost mockingly reveals our “Book Of Rules For The Way The World Works” and reminds us just how limited and over-simplified our rules were.
What if we really understood that reality is diverse?
If we appreciated the diversity we deal with everyday, I think that we’d be alert, aware and attentive, noticing and learning, and improvising new creative responses all the time – much like toddlers do. We’d be deeply curious and fully engaged. We’d notice and celebrate the diversity in our lives. We’d be less shocked when something unexpected happens and more comfortable with not knowing and with flowing with the uncertainties in our lives. We’d ask more questions before we leap into action. And I’m sure that we’d be slower to argue and to try to force others to think what we think, because we’d understand that they wouldn’t think the way we think. Because, of course they don’t see it the way you see it – reality is diverse.
If we really understood that reality is diverse, we’d stop “should-ing” ourselves about what we should think and feel and do while we’re grieving and we’d drop the anxiety about whether we’re doing it right. We’d understand that so long as we’re following what we need, we’re doing it right, because grieving is not a 5-stage templated process that we all go through in the same way. It’s unique. It’s diverse.
If we understood that reality is diverse, we’d feel alive, intrigued and entertained much more often. And I think we’d feel more free to be ourselves and follow our own intuitions about what we need when we’re grieving. We’d live, love and grieve on our own terms without even feeling like it’s an unusual, rebellious thing to do. We’d feel more whole because we’d be willing to embrace all of our own diverse layers of personas, thoughts and feelings that we go through after loss.
And I think we’d be more able to recognize, accept and live wholeheartedly through the rich diversity of losses and gains in our lives.
Try it on for a moment
- When you’re feeling alone and weird, like nobody understands you, how would it change your perspective and approach if you recognized that reality is diverse?
- When you’re arguing with your spouse or children, how would it change your perspective and approach if you recognized that reality is diverse?
- When you don’t know what to do and are anxiously looking around for a map, formula or guru to show you the way out of your pain or what to create with your grief, how would you change the way you invest your energy, attention and money and empower you to listen to your own inner voice if you truly understood that reality is diverse?
- When you’re wondering why you were the one to endure that tragedy or to lose your loved one too soon, how would your pain be transformed if you recognized that reality is diverse?
- When you’re feeling alienated and crazy and worrying whether you’re grieving “right,” how much more liberated would you feel if you remembered that reality is diverse?