Last month, I attended the workshop on Harvesting Values by SAFIM – Sri Aurobindo Foundation of Integral Management) at Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry. It was a great workshop wherein I can say for sure that I learnt a lot and just to enumerate the learnings:
- I have had my aha moments when I discovered how values as expressed in behaviour and conduct mapped back to Universal Ideals
- I am now equipped with set of tools and guidelines so that I can cross-examine the decisions (positive or negative) I made or make. I can see whether those stemmed out of positive values or negative values and how to develop an eye to observe the shifts in consciousness.
- Also, learnt to see how I can understand my psychological dispositions in terms of ideals and use it to better my life; see which I want to work upon and take up work such that there is a match between the psychological content of the job and my inner dispositions so that it allows me to express myself fully and thus help in progress.
- Finally – learnt that I can improve my personal retros using a more comprehensive set of questions, it contains some questions that either I’ve never asked or some that have been always pushed down in my priority list due to more pressing ones that needed to be addressed at that time.
The workshop started out with usual ice-breaker to get the participants introduced to each other and we were divided into 2 groups. The session started out with the necessity of values and explaining the difference between values and ethics as these two terms generally get used inter-changeably. It then proceeded to defining of values – just jotting down what I captured in my notes –
Values are stable inner dispositions of human being which nurture good human beings from within.
Saikat Sen, further elaborated that – moral conduct is only an expression and sign of the soul-state and that the general understanding of morality – is bounded by outward conduct.
We were then shown Hindi movie clip – Corporate. In the clip we were shown that a corporate meeting is in progress to decide on go-no-go decision on a soft-drink launch that the company made. It was found to contain pesticides and they did not receive FDA approval. In that top-level meeting, various members voiced their concerns, one put his foot-down and said, it can’t happen, but the boss made an executive decision to launch it despite the problems.
After watching the clip we were asked to analyse each and every character in terms of what values they exhibited in their conduct and based on that whether they took positive or negative decision, during the corporate meeting before the on a go-no-go for a product launch. Everybody was then asked to share their analysis with the rest.
We were then introduced to positive values (for example – humility, gratitude, sincerity, courage, self-scrutiny, trust etc…) and negative values (greed, envy, anger, fear, cunning, fault finding, backbiting, jealousy, vindictiveness etc…) and the decisions one made based on that. Saikat gave a nice graphical representation of it, here it goes –
(-ve) | (+ve)
Decisions | Decisions
Just to elaborate the above quadrants – it is not surprising to see individuals with positive values making positive decisions and individuals with negative values with negative decisions. What is really surprising to see the other 2 diagonally opposite quadrants –
- Individuals with positive values make negative decisions and
- Individuals with negative values making positive decisions
Example for #1
To help grasp the two, one classic example of individuals with positive values making negative decision from Peeps in to the Mythology (Foundations of Managerial Work: Contributions from Indian Thought by S. K. Chakraborty) – Mahabharata, is the character of Dronacharya, the mentor of Pandavas and Kauravas – After finishing their training under him, he gave Arjuna the Supreme Brahmastra. Ashwatthama, Drona’s own son and a Kauravite, was denied this. But under severe pressure from Ashwatthama, he gave away another piece of Brahmastra to his son. Initially, Drona could discriminate in favour of Arjuna and against Ashwatthama on the ground of values. As a mentor, he was aware that, his son was at par with Arjuna in terms of skill, but his value-system was in a mess and knew that such powerful tools in the hands of people who have weak values, but strong skills are bound to be used destructively. Though the mentor in Drona initially snubbed and bridled the father in him, but later the man of his will power and wisdom succumbed to familial emotions. He could not retain the objectivity of values in decision making and got caught in quick-sands of subjectivity.
Talking about similar situations in present life is the Satyam scam, the WorldCom scam. These scams have nothing to do with IQ, in fact the guys behind the scam had very high IQ. The quality of the decision is not determined by the IQ, but by consciousness.
Example for #2
Read the section Early life on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valmiki. As a robber, when he asked his family to bear the burden of his sins, the family refused and it dawned to him that he needs to change his life. This is a case of negative values and positive decision.
Using the above graphical representation, we were introduced to the session on “Conflict of Values”. We were then shown another clip from Hindi movie – Rocket Singh, where he goes on his first sales assignment and is asked for kick-backs by the manager. We were then asked to analyse it in terms of values and the decision made. Further, each participant was then presented with several case studies and asked to classify this. It was quite an interesting day.
One of the things that I distilled out of this was – if I used the above as a tool to be applied on myself on every decision I made, then over a period of time, I would find myself dotted in all the quadrants. This trending, I believe will be an eye-opener, as it will help me see my values/decisions shift over time. Generally everyone of us (barring exceptions) has both, negative and positive values and based on how (conscious) we are at that moment, take a decision, which could either be negative or positive.
That is precisely why Sri Aurobindo says –
To be able to do the right thing in the right way, in each case and at every moment, one must be in the right consciousness.
It started with a small meditation (as usual) and then we were shown another Hindi movie clip – “do duni char”. The distillation of which was – Professor Duggal did not realise that his consciousness shifted when a demand was placed on him by his sister and wife to buy a car, despite being out of budget. He then decides to pass a failing student in exchange for money. But when he is about to do that, he meets his past student who appreciates him and expresses gratitude for changing his life and making him a great person. The Professor was quite perplexed as he is now got pulled in to higher part of his consciousness by his student. He then immediately decides not to take money and walks out of the room clean and is now very clear about his purpose in life.
Quoting straight from the notes –
The quality of a person’s consciousness depends on which part of the consciousness s/he lives. There are two parts in our consciousness. First is the lower physical-vital being driven predominantly by self-interest, material needs and sensuous desires, quite often degenerating into greed. The second is the higher mental, moral and spiritual being seeking for truth, beauty, goodness, harmony and unity. For values to be truly effective and enduring, they have to be based on this higher part of our human nature or consciousness.
We were then introduced to Universal Ideals…well, what are they? Ideals are a set of values and these are universal and this is where I had my aha moment and I could see the direct mapping of these values expressed in behaviour and conduct. For example – if in a person we consistently observe that (s)he is honest, transparent, and deals with other people or situations according to the deeper truth in it, then one can say that the individual has the ideal of Truth manifested.
I further believe that an individual is born with (imprint of the nature) a few of the universal values and some are to be cultivated along the journey of life through experiences. In order to make our life more meaningful, we need to live those values on a day-to-day basis and express them in our field of work and personal life, both alike. I reject the notion that professional life and personal life are different, they are not, as it is the same person taking part in both. Because it is the same person, how can the ideals be different? In case they are then the person itself will be torn apart.
The next session was quite amazing, it was on entitled – “Ordinary Persons – Extraordinary Values”. We were shown video clips of various people, I am embedding only 3 of the many clips –
If you observe the videos carefully, you will realise that they all had a common constraint – resources, yet they managed to achieve what they set out to do. Further, we were then asked to identify the values they have with which they sustain what they are doing?
- Service/Contribution to the progress
The above stand out very clearly in all the cases. These are expressions of the ideals of Strength and Force, Unity and wholeness of life.
The workshop concluded and stressed on the need for inner cultivation of values. This is because, again from notes…
We realise more and more that no amount of fiddling with outer structures, systems is going to solve the problems. The root causes are within. Only a change in our consciousness, attitudes, values, can bring about a lasting solution.
In my view, imbibing values is an osmotic process, they cannot be preached, if preached they just remain abstract in upper layers of mind giving rise to hypocrisy, pretension, and duplicity. What we need is internalising values and for that it requires us to embrace psychological discipline that cultivates them…and alongside, re-orient and integrate the whole being around values. We need to constantly retrospect, change and adapt. In the final session, Inner cultivation of values, we were given a comprehensive set of questions that would help an individual conduct personal retros very holistically.
I stayed back for 2 more days after the workshop to award myself a quite-time to reflect back on the workshop proceedings. During the quite-time, I could trace back a few ideals right unto childhood and was glad to observe that I could preserve them till date. To my surprise, what I do in my professional work (creating software), I found that these ideals were expressed in my work (were the universal ideals) or I was striving to expressing them. I also found quite a few ideals that I am far away from and I recognise the need to cultivate them…so now I know what I’d like to see in myself next 🙂