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Changing the world

39196689_sThe following excerpt comes from Presence (Senge, Scharmer, Jaworski, Flowers, 2004). The full book is available on Amazon.

Not all visions are equal. Some never get beyond the « motherhood and apple pie » stage – good ideas that unleash no energy for change. Others transform the world. « There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come, » said Victor Hugo one hundred and fifty years ago. Yet, the power Hugo refers to remains elusive, carefully guarded by a paradox: there’s nothing more personal than a vision, yet the visions that ultimately prove transformative have nothing to do with us as individuals.

The resolution of this paradox comes from the transformation of will that starts as we move through the bottom of the U. The seeds for this transformation lie in seeing our reality more clearly, without preconceptions and judgments. When we learn to see our part in creating things that we don’t like but that are likely to continue, we can begin to develop a different relationship with our « problems. » We’re no longer victims. When we move further, from sensing to presencing, we become open to what might be possible, and we’re inevitably led to the question « So what do we want to create? » But the « we » in this statement is the larger « we. » The visions that arise out of genuine presencing come from « the field knowing itself, » a spontaneous expression of discovering the power to shape our reality and our responsibility to an emerging future. As we begin to move up from the bottom of the U, this larger intention becomes accessible to us.

By contrast, many visions are doomed from the outset because those who articulate them, whether consciously or not, are coming from a place of powerlessness. If we believe that someone else has created our present reality, what is the basis for believing that we can create a different reality in the future? In terms of the theory of the U, the problem with most attempts to formulate visions is that they occur « too far up the left side of the U. » When this happens, people formulate visions that are disconnected from a shared understanding of present reality and a sense of shared responsibility for that reality. If people are still externalizing their problems, they create, in a sense, « externalized visions, » which amount to a kind of change strategy for fixing problems which they have not yet seen their part in creating. Only when people begin to see from within the forces that shape their reality and to see their part in how those forces might evolve does vision become powerful. Everything else is just a vague hope.

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