I was working with an organisation last week who are in the process of bringing in internal changes in attitude, development of people, leadership roles and new paradigms in the organisation. They are in the areas of advocacy for change and bringing in social awareness, specific to young people.
While i was working with them i noticed their extremely high level of commitment towards the organisation and what they believed in and yet, their difficulty in working with each other as one voice. what was bogging them down was not their personal interests or need for personal gain, but i hypothesise was their clash of personal isms. this may become clear if i were to write about a triangle that i saw was at work within this group.
This is the triangle of three types of isms, (the credit for this frame goes to my colleague Ashok Malhotra who coined it), namely romanticism i.e. i wish my world was like this, idealism i.e. this is the way the world should be and pragmatism i.e. this is the way the world is. what i find intriguing that in the effort to act on one's conviction, one arm of this triangle is almost always the loser.
If pragmatism is joined with idealism, then we have strategic planning, defined boundaries, way forwards, new directions, etc. However, more often than not, the romanticism has to bid adieu from this. for in the search for pragmatism, romanticism inevitably brings in ambiguity and lack of clarity. for romantics dreams of wishes and desires, a bit like Lennon's song "imagine". They dream and wish for things and scenarios that have not happened yet and probably sounds no plausible in the current context. This often destabilises the way forward, and even dislocates the people from the path. and yet, without romanticism, most plans and visions become dry and lifeless.
when romanticism and idealism join hands, strong winds of change takes birth. urgency to change things, need to bring in changes in the current stagnant, unwholesome context becomes strong and may even breed impatience and intolerance. if this is not tempered with pragmatism, perhaps all voices can not be heard and often the ground reality sufferes.
in this group, collectively romanticism and idealism have joined hands and they are all for bringing in changes both in themselves and the context in which they work in. but simple pragmatism like living with one another's limitations was something they were finding quite difficult to deal with. every limitation had to be dealt with and sorted out, every difference must be sorted out so that amiability returns as though feelings like displeasure, dislike, impatience do not contribute to any productivity at all.
i have seen this in my personal life as well. I find it very difficult to live with displeasure, dislike, impatience, irritability towards people with whom i share intimate relationships and who i love very much. it seems as though i am betraying the other person along with myself. as though i signed some invisible contract to always remain loving towards the other.
in time i have discovered that while this orientation makes my life stressful, it makes the other's life more suffocating and artificial. in this way, there is almost no scope for growth for either of us nor is there any scope for the relationship to grow. evolution stops and what remains are empty shells of yesterday, which often leaves me with regret and longing/yearning for something that does not exist any more.
i still struggle with it, but find it much easier to look at it in the face and don't feel afraid that it makes me look ugly, uncaring and insensitive. it also makes me look 'real' to myself.