Tag Archives: depression

On Confidence, Faith, Quality, and Innovation

(Image credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to)

A shaman who has studied with the Apache told me not too long ago that the two biggest demons are distraction and self-doubt. To battle distraction, we learn to become mindful and focus our attention on what we want to occupy us (at the times that we prefer to focus on those things). To battle self-doubt, we build systems and structures and communities to reaffirm our focus, to give us enhanced power and clarity, and to keep us on track.

Quality systems, in many ways, provide mechanisms outside of ourselves to help us battle these two demons (see, for example, Peter Merrill‘s essay on “Restoring Creativity by Involving People” in the Summer 2012 Quality Management Forum, which provides a retrospective on this notion).

But what can we do to aid the inner battle?

“Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe. It is not enough that a thing be possible for it to be believed.”
– Voltaire

You know there is one – don’t deny it. There’s always an inner battle. Just this morning, I saw a post on Facebook that said “Relationship is possible only when two egos are dropped – otherwise four people are involved, two real and two imaginary.” I see inspirational quotes like this all the time… and the reason we keep posting and re-posting them is that we all recognize insights that will help us with the inner battle.

These thoughts have pretty much eclipsed everything else in my mind since the first week of June. Why? Because I realized that I have had a seriously big problem with self-doubt. As a result of self-doubt, I hang on to the fear that the wonderful things that have come into my life are not legitimate. In fact, it’s self-doubt that’s led me to unconsciously sabotage my most promising ventures, initiatives, research ideas, and romantic relationships for quite a while.

Self-doubt has imprisoned me to the current system, blocking my ability to see the new and amazing and life-changing things that might grow out of it, and sapped my physical energy. I’ve had little or no energy to do things because I self-doubt myself out of any positive outcome before I even begin. With no possible positive outcome, everything is meaningless. Why bother trying?

It’s a leap to even share this with the world. An embarrassing one! (Who admits this stuff?) I’ve shared these limiting beliefs with some close friends, many of whom can’t fathom it. “But you’re a badass! Look at all you know, can do, have done, will do.” If I’m such a badass, why don’t I FEEL like one? Answer: I have been possessed by the demon of self-doubt, and as a consequence, I have consistently (and sometimes completely) lacked confidence. But I know I’m not alone… posts at The Daily Love (one of my favorite blogs ever) touch on this theme all the time; this new post, from this morning, talks about how fear is the opposite of faith.

So what can I do about it? What can YOU do about it?

While sorting through hundreds of articles and blog posts about faith and confidence over the past month, I found http://www.ucadia.com/concepts_emotions/concept_emotions_pos_confidence.htm. The answer is TOTALLY DEMING. It’s all about DRIVING OUT FEAR so that the faith and confidence can flow in. We’ve known this since the 1940’s! Wow:

Origin of the word and concept of “confidence”:

The origin of the word confidence is the Latin word confidere (to trust, to have faith in). Hence the original meaning of confidence is literally “to have trust or have faith in an object or person”. [Note from Nicole: if faith is being certain of what you hope for, then confidence would be certainty that you’re going to think, act, be, deliver, express what’s consistent with who you are and who you want to be. Even if you can’t see it or feel it.]

The word “trust” itself is based on “faith in an object or thing is true” — so the key common element at the heart of confidence is “faith in something being true”.

Contrary to the mistaken belief by many that confidence is somehow some kind of personality gift, confidence is a result of a consistent projection of behaviour/belief over some period of time.

The consistency of behaviour/belief is a fundamental determination to confidence. A person who exhibits inconsistent behaviour will frequently also be classed as “lacking confidence”.

A further common mistake is to attribute the opposite to confidence as depression. A person who exhibits inconsistent behaviour may be experiencing depression, but this is not always the case.

Consistent positive behaviour is the building block of confidence.

It makes sense then that a confident person is someone who has a general trust in themselves. In contrast, a doubtful person, does not.

How does this relate to innovation? In short, I believe that innovation cannot emerge from an environment plagued with self-doubt and distraction, and that both confidence and faith are necessary to expel these Apache demons. Peter encourages us to remove the shackles, to release our people (and by association, to release ourselves) if we want to stimulate more innovation in our organizations.

He notes that:

The third principle (ISO 9000:2005 S0.2c) reads, ‘People at all levels are the essence of an organization and their full involvement enables their abilities to be used for the organization’s benefit.’ However, the execution of this principle in ISO 9001 has been poor.

I also realized how influential stories are – works of creative fiction – as catalysts for developing the kind of confidence that breeds faith. Yesterday, I watched the Oprah interview with J. K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame. Around 15:20, the author notes that “In magic, man has to rely on himself” whereas in most of the world’s religions, people are conditioned to rely upon something that they are taught is outside themselves. She says that with magic (which could also be considered our imagination + our emotionally charged, confident, faith-driven vision) “we ourselves have power and can shape our world.”

Want an innovative organization? Where’s your magic? Hint: it’s emotionally charged. Look there first.

Find it, and innovation will find you.

The Secret to Innovation = A Cure for Depression?

I really like Doug Buckley’s Facebook posts (he’s from http://hyperactive.to). Our connection was purely accidental – he tagged a picture of the back of my husband’s head on Facebook as his own, and after a short online debate (where he finally acknowledged that I was probably an expert in recognizing the back of my own spouse’s head) we friended one another. Doug posts great photos and images (like the one on the top left of this post), insights, quotes and music about 40 or 50 times a day. One of Doug’s recent gems was “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” ~ Winston Churchill

The ability to move from one failure to another (presumably, using each as a valuable learning experience) with no loss of enthusiasm! Wow, I thought… not only is that the secret to innovation, but… I am SO not good at doing that. When I’m facing a failure, I do what any sane, logical person in the grips of Chinese handcuffs will do… I pull harder. I rearrange the deck chairs faster. I get really &$^#&^$& angry. Then I pretend like everything’s OK. And when I can’t deal with pretending any longer, I break down into tears (hopefully not around other people).

Then, in the words of Fred and Ginger, I pick myself up – dust myself off – and start all over again.

(I just read this again, and just so you don’t miss the point of that last sentence… after I dust myself off, I’m starting again on the negative pattern of trying even harder. What, you think I’d give up that easily?)

It’s a miserable approach, though, regardless of how noble it sounds. Pulling harder or pushing harder (whatever you’re doing) requires more effort and rarely generates better results. And if you’re pushing against someone else who’s not ready to see your light, or pushing on a project that other people just aren’t ready to play within the bounds of, well… good luck.

I’m a smart person. I’m solution oriented. I can make things happen!! As a result, I doggedly pursue my goals. And when I’m meeting with resistance (especially when that resistance doesn’t seem to make sense to me), I don’t respond very gracefully at all. (Sometimes I even turn psycho-chick, which makes me feel even more disturbed, because I’m pretty level headed in general and I wouldn’t act like that, would I?)

The illusion of control is an affliction that’s unique to humans. Bears looking for salmon will move on if their favorite spot in the river isn’t producing. If people were bears, we’d stick around, keep waiting, commit to a positive attitude, convene a quality circle or tiger team, rehash past data that proves the salmon used to be there (or extrapolate to show they will be there again, really), wish real hard that the salmon are still there, pretend nothing has changed, craft convincing arguments that the cost/benefit of moving to another place in the river is prohibitive (or my favorite, just cost neutral), curse the river, wish we’d never gotten into the habit of eating salmon in the first place, lose all motivation, lose sense of the meaning in one’s life without the salmon, or sit on the riverbanks weeping over the ephemeral salmon who just won’t show up no matter what we do. Pretty pathetic. Nowhere near as agile as moving to another spot in the river where the salmon may have moved on to themselves.

Professor of psychology Jonathan Rottenberg has hypothesized that this resistance mechanism is also what compels depressed people to stay in bed – hiding under the covers, retreating into sleep or alcohol or drugs (pick your poison) – is just a way to deal with one’s inability to disengage from efforts that are failing. He writes:

So this alternative theory turns the standard explanation on its head. Depressed people don’t end up lying in bed because they are undercommitted to goals. They end up lying in bed because they areovercommitted to goals that are failing badly. The idea that depressed people cannot disengage efforts from failure is a relatively new theory. It has not been much tested in research studies. However, the idea is well worth exploring. It fits well clinically with the kinds of situations that often precipitate serious depression — the battered wife who cannot bring herself to leave her troubled marriage, the seriously injured athlete who cannot bring himself to retire, the laid off employee who cannot bring herself to abandon her chosen career despite a lack of positions in her line of work. Seeing these depressions in terms of unreachable goals may be useful clinically, and may help us better understand how ordinary low moods can escalate into incapacitating bouts of depression.

To be innovative, we have to learn how to detach from failure quickly and move on with the next stage of our ideas with enthusiasm. If Rottenberg’s new hypothesis has merit, to escape depression we have to learn how to detach from failure quickly and move on to our next goals or the next phases of our lives – with enthusiasm.

Can a futuristic mental health intervention increase our personal innovative potential?

My hunch is yes. There are always other fish in the sea.