03 August 2012

The hero~heroine’s journey

Recently, I relocated from Indiana University School of Nursing to the University of Minnesota School of Nursing. Personally and professionally, I had to engage in deep reflection about this career move. I decided to answer the call and begin a new life chapter.

When we are called to something, we frequently embark on what Joseph Campbell describes as the hero’s (heroine’s) journey. Basically, there are eight steps to the journey: 1) Hearing the call, 2) committing to the call (overcoming refusal), 3) crossing the threshold (initiation), 4) finding guardians, 5) facing and transforming demons, 6) developing inner self and new resources, 7) the transformation, and 8) returning home with the gift.

From time to time, I believe it is important to reflect on the degree to which each of us answers his or her call. John Schuster’s book, Answering Your Call, Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, CA (2003) is a wonderful invitation and guided reflection on the nature of calls as a push and pull into a purpose-driven future vision. Certainly, nurses and other health care providers hear a call, commit to it, are initiated, find guardians, face and transform demons, develop inner resources, are transformed and realize gifts. To what degree have you revisited or reflected on your personal and/or professional calling?

Stephen Gilligan and Robert Dilts in their book: The Hero’s Journey: A Voyage of Self Discovery, Crown House Publishing, Bethel, CT (2009), provide some provocative questions for people to consider in regard to reflecting on the nature of their calls and where they themselves in the context of their journeys. These questions include the following:
  • What is the call?
  • How do you know your calling has been fulfilled?
  • When did you first hear the call? What were subsequent events, both positive transcendent and negative?
  • In what ways have you refused the call? What have been the consequences of the refusal?
  • What people are models/ancestors/sponsors for your call?
  • Which people are negative examples/warnings?
  • What are the demons that block your path (inner states/habits or addictions/external associations)?
  • What are the resources that support/nurture/motivate your path?
  • What will allow you to deepen your commitment to the hero’s journey?
  • How do you create action agendas and find guardians?
  • What is/are the demons/challenges you are currently facing? What is a situation in which you feel more of a victim than a hero?
  • What is your “threshold?” What is the unknown territory, outside of your comfort zone, that either (a) the challenge is forcing you into or (b) you must enter in order to deal with the challenge?
  • Given the demon you are facing and the threshold you must cross, what is the “call to action?” What are you being called to do or become? It is often useful to answer this question in the form of a symbol, or metaphor, e.g. I am called to become an eagle, warrior, magician, etc.)
  • What resources do you have and which do you need to develop more fully to face the challenge, cross your threshold and accomplish your calling?
  • Who are (will be) your guardians for those resources?
I believe most nurses are called to nursing because they are purpose-driven to care and serve, and make a difference in the world by sharing their strengths, gifts and talents. Periodically recalling and reviewing one’s call is an important aspect of personal and professional renewal.

A new book by John Schuster, The Power of Your Past: The Art of Recalling, Reclaiming and Recasting (2011), was a great resource to me as I contemplated my career move. The book provided a systematic way for me to reflect and reframe my past in light of future aspirations. At the same time, the book helped me develop an action agenda related to discernment about the call to change. Through a series of self-reflective exercises, Schuster leads and coaches you into recalling, recasting and reclaiming life experiences.

Recalling stories and images from one’s past is grist for reflecting on how the images and early life stories compress or expand life and learning. Recasting past images and identifying and analyzing what the image evoke and what is/was the impact of that evocation helps us reframe old experiences in new ways. Such reframing supports wisdom making. Reclaiming allows one to apply the lesson derived from reflection and reframing to a current setting. Schuster’s work helped me on my hero-journey path. Recalling, reclaiming and recasting my past helped me realize that there were elements of my calling that still needed attention and activation. Such reflection also helped me realize that I had the inner resources to respond to the call with an affirmative voice.

Perhaps you are happy and content with your current calling? Perhaps you have successfully navigated the steps of the hero’s~heroine’s journey? If so, compliments to you. If, however, you are at a crossroads in your journey and you feel somewhat restless with your current calling, I invite you to explore and reflect on some of the questions offered by Gilligan and Dilts (2009), as well as John Schuster’s (2003, 2011) work. Such reflection may help you uncover new resources that will support you as you continue with the personal transformation associated with your own hero’s~heroine’s journey.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.

29 January 2012

PlexusCalls on The Future of Nursing

I had the good fortune of serving for the past seven years on the Plexus Institute board of trustees. In 2010-11, I served as chairman of the board. Plexus does great work! In service of my intention in writing this blog, "Meta-Reflections" (creating community and inviting action through reflection and sharing of personal, professional and public resources), I invite you to explore resources available to you at Plexus Institute. There are a great number of PlexusCall podcasts available free of charge at iTunes or by accessing archived PlexusCalls at Plexus Institute.

I want to particularly draw your attention to a series of calls, titled "The Future of Nursing," that were produced in the fall of 2011. (Thanks to Prucia Buscell of Plexus Institute for providing some of this information.) The Future of Nursing podcasts, Parts I, II and III, included nurses from across the country who explored the RWJF and Institute of Medicine Future of Nursing report and discussed how complexity principles could influence and inspire effective change and provide solutions to issues challenging nurses in education and practice settings. Below is a brief description of each part, linked to the appropriate podcasts. I hope these calls will provide you with new information and opportunities for reflection and action.

On the first call, Liana Orsolini-Hain, PhD, RN, CCRN, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Fellow from California, says nurses, as the largest portion of the health care work force, are in the best position to promote improved patient protections and increased access to care. Itemizing key messages in The Future of Nursing report, she emphasizes that all nurses should:
  • Practice to the fullest extent of their education and training.
  • Achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system revised to promote seamless progression.
  • Be full partners with physicians and other professionals in designing health care.
  • Work toward improved data collection and infrastructure that makes policy making more effective.
Orsolini-Hain says leadership is needed to shift focus from individual practices to the needs of national populations and the role of health care teams. The educational goals, she says, include increasing the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees to 80 percent by 2020, and doubling the number of nurses with doctorates.

This series of calls features a description of how the complexity-informed processes of Appreciation, Influence and Control (AIC) were used to create, with the future transformation of nursing education in mind, an appreciation of the nursing culture. AIC, developed by William E. Smith, PhD, author and principal of Organizing for Development, was introduced to nurses at the 2009 Plexus “Nursing On the Edge” Conference. Building on work introduced in 2009, Smith partnered with Cynthia Hornberger, PhD, MBA, RN, ARNP, professor and special assistant to the president at Washburn University School of Nursing, and me, chair of Plexus Institute board of trustees (2010-11) and professor of nursing at Indiana School of Nursing, to use the AIC process with attendees at conference, held at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, USA.

Using the AIC process, we asked participants what it would take to transform the future of nursing education. Analyzing the data we gathered, we developed power maps. A summary and implications of the AIC Appreciation of Nursing Culture are shared on the call.

Results suggest that we nurses, for the most part, go about our work in a very open, appreciative way. We listen, learn and discover. We rely more than most on our innate intuition and sensing capacities. Our first preference is for the use of appreciative power (47 percent). Secondarily, we rely on our ability to relate to other people (influence power), but this extends to our ability to relate to new ideas and technologies. Our preference level for the use of influence power is 38 percent. When we have to, we can also be directive, relying on our knowledge and experience. Our preference level for the use of control power is 15 percent. Ideally, preference levels for appreciation, influence and control should each be at 33 percent. The implications of this assessment? Nurses probably need to be more open to influence of others and, in turn, influence others more and act accordingly in supporting nursing values, ideals and purposes.

This series of calls features Phyllis Beck Kritek, PhD, RN, FAAN, an internationally known nurse scholar and writer who is frequently engaged as a facilitator by organizations and health care agencies seeking to create effective strategic changes. She is noted for her ability to create conceptual maps that assist individuals and groups grappling with challenges and dilemmas. She is the author of two books on conflict resolution and healing: Negotiating at an Uneven Table: Developing Moral Courage in Resolving Our Conflicts and Reflections on Healing: A Central Nursing Construct. She discusses the need for nursing leadership and how to build productive relationships that increase standards of care and improve organizational outcomes in complex environments. Individuals, she points out, need to move from toleration (where people do their work in silos) to cooperation (where they work together for mutual benefit) to collaboration (where they retain their autonomy but become skilled at facilitation, analysis, reframing issues, and working with others to overcome obstacles and achieve shared values).

Kritek discusses the importance of deep personal reflection and attention to the shadow work that is necessary to collaborate more effectively. Leadership and collaboration, she notes, requires people to assume they are operating in a complex adaptive system where they must adapt to uncertainty and emergence. It takes courage to act in the face of danger and rejection. “If that were easy, we’d all rush around being leaders,” she says.

Plans are being developed to launch a 2012 Nursing Learning Network Call Series. Plexus Institute invites your support and participation. Stay tuned! Stay engaged! What the future holds for you depends on what you hold for the future.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.