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How a trip to MONA reminded me of the importance of choosing how to show up

A recent trip to Mona (Museum of Old and New Art) in Tasmania had me reflecting on the value of how we choose to show up in the face of ambiguity.

MONA is a unique and unconventional museum that showcases contemporary art from around the world. Before you arrive, you are instructed to download an app that allows you to explore the museum at your own pace and discover more about each artwork that interests you.

When I arrived at MONA, I was excited and curious. I noticed a long line of people in front of the elevator going down into the museum and another line of people choosing to go down the stairwell beside the elevator. There were no clear instructions, so I joined the people on the stairs, exited the next level down, and started exploring the different exhibits.

As I wandered around, I was amazed by the variety and creativity of the artworks. Some were beautiful, some were disturbing, some were interactive, and some were hidden. I felt like I was on a treasure hunt, never knowing what I would find next.

As I immersed myself in the different experiences, I couldn’t always figure out how to get from one level to the next. However, sometimes I was assertive and asked a nearby MONA team member how to navigate; at other times, I backtracked but discovered something new and interesting on my way down.

Only when I got to the lowest level and almost all the way through did I realise the intent was to catch the lift to the bottom floor and work your way up. I’ve since reflected on whether this twist brought about by ambiguity detracted from my MONA experience. It didn’t, and I was curious about why.

Then I remembered that it comes down to how you choose to show up. I chose to show up with curiosity, openness, and a belief I could find my way through the maze that is MONA.

I consciously embraced the uncertainty, relished the journey and let others know when I needed support. I chose to view the ambiguity as a gateway to new knowledge and experiences rather than a hurdle to overcome.

This reminded me of the research of Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology and a member of the research team that discovered “learned helplessness”. This early discovery led him to study resilience and how people thrive despite struggle. His research found that one key factor contributing to our resilience is how we explain the events that happen to us or our explanatory style.

Seligman says, “While you can’t control your experiences, you can control your explanations.”

Resilient people tend to explain negative events as temporary, specific, and external rather than permanent, global, and internal.

Imagine you spill milk all over the floor. Instead of thinking, ‘I’m such a klutz; I’ll never get anything right,’ a resilient person would say, ‘That was clumsy of me, but it’s just a bit of milk, and it’ll be cleaned up in no time.’

Or if you’re faced with a challenging situation, you might say, ‘This is a difficult situation, but it will pass’ rather than ‘This is hopeless and will never change.’ It’s like looking at a cloudy sky and thinking, ‘Well, it’s going to be sunny eventually,’ rather than, ‘Looks like I’m living under a permanent rain cloud now.’

And, if something happens you have no control over, you might say, ‘This is due to factors outside my control, but I can still do something about it,’ rather than, ‘This is my fault, and I can’t do anything about it.’

By adopting a more resilient explanatory style, we can cope better with ambiguity and uncertainty and see them as opportunities for learning and growth rather than threats and obstacles. We can also cultivate a more positive outlook and attitude that enables us to boost our well-being and performance.

So, how can you apply this idea at work if you are experiencing struggles?

  1. Practice curiosity. Ask questions, explore new perspectives, seek feedback, and learn from others. Curiosity can help you overcome fear and resistance and open new possibilities and opportunities.
  2. Practice openness. Be willing to try new things, experiment, and fail. Openness can help you embrace change and uncertainty and learn from your mistakes and successes.
  3. Practice gratitude. Appreciate what you have, what you’ve achieved, and what you’ve learned. Gratitude can help you focus on the positive aspects of your situation and recognise the opportunities and resources that are available to you.

Ambiguity is not something to be avoided or feared but something that can be embraced and enjoyed. If we choose to show up with curiosity, openness, and gratitude, it can be a source of creativity, innovation, and growth.

For some strange reason, many of my photos from inside MONA are of tunnels—I’m still figuring that one out.

The post How a trip to MONA reminded me of the importance of choosing how to show up appeared first on Susanne Le Boutillier.



This post first appeared on Thrive In Complexity, please read the originial post: here

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