Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Being Mindful

Today, I’d like to talk about being mindful.

Even through the internet I can hear some of you thinking, “Oh, great, Mark has finally gone full ‘Boulder’ and all of his blog posts from now on will be about meditation, tofu, granola, and Priuses.” But hold on – I’m not using the term in the spiritual, “Boulder” sense.

Instead, I’d like to use the term as a foundation to think about how we fund and deliver I/DD services in our state. I believe we need to use mindfulness as we work to create a new system here in Colorado. Let me explain further. I do believe that as our system has evolved and changed, decent people with good intentions have taken a thoughtful approach to system redesign. I also believe that being thoughtful isn’t enough. In my view, thoughtfulness only takes you part of the way. To me, thoughtfulness connotes a level of caring or concern, but not necessarily a full and complete look at an issue.

Mindfulness, on the other hand, implies to me a sense of looking a problem (and potential solutions) from every possible angle and in a way that all factors are examined.

Too many changes in our system in the past have been made by people being thoughtful, but not mindful. Too often only one or two dynamics of challenge issues are really scrutinized, which in our field is never enough. It is way too complicated to embrace such a narrow methodology.

The history of services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in our state is littered with good intentions gone bad because the planning and preparation for change wasn’t complete. It wasn’t mindful. It didn’t fully examine the tough questions such as “Who will this really help? or “Who will this really hurt? or “Are we merely addressing a budgetary concern versus truly creating services with better outcomes?” Maybe we need a little technique.

It reminds me of an episode of “Spongebob Squarepants” I saw when watching with my kids when they were younger (OK, maybe I still watch the show on my own sometimes.) Anyway, in this episode, Spongebob opened up a “Bubble Stand” where he charged customers a quarter to blow bubbles. He also demonstrated his technique for creating awe inspiring bubbles. Check out a sped up version of the episode below.
 Can’t see the video? Click here

I see Spongebob’s technique as an example of mindfulness. At first glance, it may seem extreme, but the results are phenomenal. And while Squidward at first rejects Spongebob’s technique, it is only when he embraces it and tries it himself that he is able to create his own magnificent bubble (yes, it ends poorly for Squidward, but you can’t argue with the quality of his bubble).

Spongebob’s mindfulness opened the door to new possibilities in the world of bubble blowing. All of his actions and movements before blowing the bubbles led to superior bubbles. When Squidward rejected that mindful approach, his bubbles were completely uninspiring. He was thoughtful – he wanted to make good bubbles and thought he knew how to do so, but he wasn’t mindful in his approach, and it showed.

I want to make one thing clear (as well as finally move away from the Spongebob analogy) - using a mindful approach to creating services doesn’t mean it needs to take a long time to get anything done. In fact, I’d argue that being mindful should speed processes up because of the clarity of the approach.

Right now, I’d argue that we have a limited ability to plan because we aren’t mindful in how we make systematic changes. We’re like Squidward in that we don’t have a technique when it comes to creating services with meaningful outcomes. We have thoughtful people trying hard to do right but who tend to come up short because of a lack of mindfulness. It is time to take a more comprehensive approach to systems change.

Now is not the time to act like Squidward.

Then again, what do I know?

No comments:

Post a Comment