Prime Numbers and Incurable Deviants

Prime NumbersHere we are at the beginning of 2011 – a special year: 2011 is a prime number (divisible only by one and itself) – a ‘one off’ number.

According to the psychologist Steven Gilligan we are all ‘one offs’. He says that we are all “incurable deviants” -using the merry phrase to celebrate our individuality as people. However much we might attempt to fit in to an environment that may not suit us, he suggests that our health and happiness depend on our being able to express our individuality as the “incurable deviants” that we all are.

So one good New Year resolution might be to be more ourselves – in all our individual ‘one off’ness.

But thinking back to the Christmas holiday, I often didn’t feel like a ‘one off’ or one anything. It seemed that there were different parts of me that turned up to different occasions. I don’t know if you share this sensation of being different people with different colleagues, friends and family? A friend tells me that when she and her adult siblings meet with their parents back in the family home at Christmas they slip back into the way they used to relate as children. “It’s so weird,” she says. “Here I am – a middle-aged responsible professional, but back in that context I’m a child again with all the old competitive pressures and resentments.”

You may have noticed these different parts of yourself in other contexts – you are asked to present yourself to the head of your organisation, and suddenly you feel like a schoolboy summoned to the headmaster’s office and your voice becomes uncertain and your shoulders shrink. Or you are at a celebration where all are loudly and rowdily enjoying themselves and you suddenly feel like a stiff spare part with no sense of humour and not a single interesting thought funny or otherwise in your head.

“One man in his time plays many parts”, pronounces Shakespeare’s Jaques in As You Like It. Most of us are this way. I have occasionally met a person who can assert stoutly, “Take me the way you find me. I call a spade a spade. No nonsense about me, I never change;” but that’s usually because they have so perfected that role that they are unwilling to hazard any other. The rest of us find that particular contexts bring out specific parts of our make up – and not always the parts that would be most helpful. In one context we sparkle and feel interesting, in another we feel lumpish and inadequate.

One of the brilliant things I learned from NLP was that we have a choice in the matter. We can actually learn the skills to summon the parts of ourselves that are going to be most useful in a particular context. For instance, we can bottle our sparkling, interesting self to open at the very time we feel most inadequate.

– in the spirit of which, let me make some new year resolutions:

Use the following this year:

When next faced with a household disaster perpetrated by one of my elderly relatives, let go of the sarcastic crone within and access that part that used to laugh spontaneously at my 10 year old’s jokes. (Did I really? That’s amazing!) 

When next faced with a self-important professional using obfuscatory business language, abandon the attempt to look intelligent, and use the 20-year-old part of myself  that sweetly, smilingly failed to understand anything at all when shouted at by an Italian traffic policeman.

The next time something fails to work on my computer, instead of hurting my vocal cords with cries of frustration, tune into the part of myself that enjoys a 1000 piece jigsaw (even if only at Christmas!) and loves nothing more than a really slow challenge.

What follows from the discovery that you can choose which parts of yourself to employ in different contexts is the earth-shaking realisation that you can simply choose how to be

– and the limit is merely the limit of your imagination.

One-offs we certainly are, but we can also choose to be just the way we want to be. So prime year number, prime year of your life, what can you imagine for this year? How bold might you be?!

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Communication & Relationships          17-18 Feb
Leadership & Influence               17-18 Mar
Coaching & Change                           14-15 Apr
– all at Hammersmith, London

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Dates – sign up today at www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk.    

4-5 Feb 2011         – Hammersmith, London
30 Mar–1 Apr 2011 – Hammersmith, London

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Lots more information on my website, www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk – or contact me for a chat.

Happy New Year 2011!

Warmly

Judy

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