Helping Others by Focusing on Self

“To give, one must have.”  –  Master Hidy Ochiai

The above quote is something I have heard Master Hidy Ochiai state many times.  The meaning is simple; one cannot give what one does not have.  As a devoted teacher, he has been a living model of one who continuously strives to improve self.  In doing so, he has more to share with his students. This seemingly simple insight carries with it paradoxical implications, particularly for the effort of applying systems thinking to leadership effectiveness.  “Systems thinking” involves being able to see the system (work group, organization, family, etc.) and one’s own part in it.  It also involves working on one’s own self-regulation and maturity in modifying one’s own part in the system. In applying Master Ochiai’s statement to leadership and systems thinking, I come to the realization that in order for a leader to help others think systems, he/she must be thinking systems him/herself.  Therein is the paradox.  If one is truly thinking systems, then one is primarily focused on one’s own self-regulation, maturity and shifting one’s own functioning.  The focus of systems thinking is not on changing others.  Therefore, if I am to truly help others think systems, I must be focused on shifting my own functioning.  One of the primary ways I can help others think systems and shift their functioning is to think about my part in any problem, talk to others about my part in it and do something about my part in it. In my experience, this involves staying on a disciplined course of managing self despite emotional drive to focus on and try to change others.  It is a difficult effort, but well worth it, and, in my opinion, an effective means to helping others focus on themselves.

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