A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens’ tale of Scrooge’s journey from ‘squeezing, grasping, scraping, clutching covetous old sinner’ to charitable, generous upstanding pillar of the community, still rings true, almost 180 years after it was written.
The particular challenges facing society may be different now than when Dickens penned his thought-provoking novella, but human qualities of compassion, empathy and understanding are as relevant today as they ever were. At a time when we are constantly plugged in, connected and switched on, we are crying out for stability and a sense of control.
And yet, the skills we need to get a grip on things seem elusive. How on earth do we find the time to slow down? How can we prevent the constant release of stress hormones rampaging through our bodies, so that we can respond rather than react to life’s events? How can we improve the ways we relate to ourselves and to others?
By experiencing hair-raising nocturnal visitations from his three spectral life coaches, as well as from head coach, Jacob Marley, Scrooge learns the lessons of to get along brilliantly with others and to feel better about himself – Functional Fluency in action!
So, as Christmas is fast approaching, here are those lessons to ponder on over the festive period.
Lesson 1: Mankind is your business
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with making money, of course. But Marley warns Scrooge that focusing on money to the exclusion of relationships is a key reason for his own misery, as well as that of others.
Scrooge’s relationship with his employee Bob Cratchitt, is a case in point. By begrudging him an extended break with his family over Christmas, and by finding fault in everything Bob does, even when he puts a little coal on the fire to ease the winter chill, Scrooge demonstrates his lack of compassion.
What Bob needs for himself, and for his family to flourish, is Scrooge’s acceptance and understanding of his plight in a world which does not look kindly on those who are poor. Scrooge could help, but chooses not to, and the crazy thing is that Scrooge feels even worse as a result. It’s not as if his behaviour is helping him, never mind the people he comes into contact with every day.
In Functional Fluency terms, Scrooge needs to assess his inner and outer reality, to be more aware of what others are going through and to do what he can to help.
When I was a teacher, I would first try to establish positive relationships with students. I wasn’t always successful at this because, hey, I’m human, but I felt that striving to build those relationships was necessary and was at the heart of everything I did.
Being functionally fluent means that you put interpersonal effectiveness, a desire to relate well to people so that everyone benefits, at the front and centre of your behaviour at work and at home.
When mankind became his business, Scrooge discovered this too – not only did he help others, but he helped himself as well. A win-win!
Lesson 2: Connect deeply with yourself
Scrooge’s whistle-stop tour of old haunts (pardon the pun) in the company of the Ghost of Christmas Past, connects him to the person he used to be. For example, we learn about his loneliness as a child at boarding school as we see the other children head home to celebrate the festive season, leaving Scrooge, unwanted by his father, with only his books for company.
We can feel sympathy for Scrooge even when later we discover that his love of money has become more powerful than the love he feels for his fiancée, Belle. The ghost shows Belle breaking off their engagement and Scrooge, unable to engage emotionally with the consequences of the person he had become, begs to be shown no more.
We are all like Scrooge in that our histories have already been written, so it’s impossible to erase the actions we have taken in life. We can’t run away from the things we have gone through, though many of us try to do just that. The ghost confirms this:
‘These are the shadows of the things that have been. That they are what they are, do not blame me!’
Instead of wasting time and energy focusing too much on the past, perhaps it would be better to step confidently into your future, using the creativity you were born with to shape the kind of future you want.
Through TIFF© and Functional Fluency, you can learn not to have to strive to be creative or expressive, but to reconnect to the creativity and expressiveness that is already inside you. What’s required is more a peeling away of some of the unhelpful layers of your personality, layers that are there for very good reasons to do with self-protection and survival, than having to do anything new.
If you want the real you to shine through, try to be more spontaneous. Your friends, family and work colleagues will thank you for it.
Lesson 3: Take heed of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
You wouldn’t want to drag along The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come to a party or networking event, since he remains stonily silent throughout, and is not what you’d call a bundle of laughs.
But in his silence lies a profound lesson. Scrooge desperately wants reassurance that if his life ‘courses be departed from, the ends will change’, but no such reassurance is forthcoming. And that’s about right: once we’re aware, we need to take responsibility and work things out for ourselves. Waiting to be told what to do isn’t empowering. It really is up to us.
By changing your unhelpful behaviours now, you can change your future, have great relationships and become much more effective. This is what Functional Fluency is all about.
Whilst Scrooge was ready to rewrite his future, you too need to desire change for any actions you take to have an impact. It makes no sense to embark on the TIFF© process if you’re perfectly content with where you are.
But if you have reached that tipping point and want to make changes, TIFF© and The Functional Fluency Model provide a hugely empowering place to begin.
Interested? Contact me to talk through your needs.