Soar or Sour

When something sours, like milk, it takes on an acidic taste and curdles into chunks. It’s pretty yucky. Take a chug of that milk and you’ll likely spit it out immediately through a grimacing face. And, you’ll likely be just a bit more vigilant about checking “best-before” dates for a while.

This morning I was writing about one of the dreams I had last night. For the last seven years or so now I’ve been using a five step process that I created of working with my dreams. I was on step five, writing out a few assignments to pay attention to during the day, informed by my dream. I meant to type the word “soar,” but my computer autocorrected to “sour.” I laughed. Slightly different direction.

Sour does have it’s place, however. I think of fermented cabbage, Korean kimchi, that keeps for a very long time. Kimchi is for many, an acquired taste that I got in 1984 and 1985 when I lived as a missionary in Korea. I had my initial yucky face grimace with kimchi, but really grew to love and crave the taste. Still do. Nonetheless, “sour” often has a negative connotation. It’s not quite like the “sweet” of chocolate, is it. Few people dispute the goodness of chocolate. But “sour” — sour often gets a bad rub.

Somewhere in this dream-working process and the laughter of auto-correct, I began thinking about another experience in my Korean language days. I had an instructor back then who challenged myself and my fellow missionaries to set goals on how much language we could learn. Back then it was relatively simple and helpful — another ten vocabulary words in the next ten minutes. It helped. Without question. I also remember however, that I was a bit resistant. Even then I had some default in me that leaned to more process-oriented “goals.” I remember thinking that “I’ll do my best.” It was a process goal that I was convinced might yield more than ten vocabulary words, but also sometimes less. I also remember that I didn’t want to be doubted in these goals; I wanted to be trusted.

The value of goal-setting is about as hard to argue as the value of chocolate. Indisputable. You’re nuts if you don’t think it is valuable. I share this perspective, definitely. However, like most “indisputable” claims, a problem arises when alternatives are completely dismissed as invalid. Sour has it’s place, by choice. Process has it’s place, by choice.

In the last thirty-five years I’ve met and been with plenty of people that adhere religiously to goals. Stretch goals tend to produce whether applied to sit-ups, vocabulary words, or setting a direction for a team. But please, no really, PLEASE, could we create just a little more space for process commitments. This is the likes of values that inspire and principles that give meaning to all of the production and doing that is such a part of most of our lives. Goals have a lot to do with management. Good, keep that up. However, process has a lot to do with leadership — engaging people as a group and system to unfold itself into more capacity and potential (it’s hard not to say, “accomplish more goals” here, but therein lays some of the trick of using language).

Process seems to have an inherent trust in it — hmmm? Less coercion — hmmm? Less belief that “unless I make you do it, you won’t” — hmmm? These sound a bit familiar for any of us with kids — the garbage isn’t going out if I don’t offer a reminder or two. But then again, perhaps this is the developmental marker — at some point we are not kids and teenagers, and need to evolve from the manipulation of each other into the sweetness of matured choices together. Of brains more fully thinking. Of hearts more fully engaging. Of imaginations more fully creating.

The times call for this thinking, engaging, and creating, right? This kind of challenging how we do; not just insisting on goals of more — twice as much in half the time with half the resources. It’s time to look beyond the obvious and the patterned immediateness so apparent in contemporary society. Soar, yes. Put perhaps with a bit of deliberate sour mixed in.




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