Compassion and performance

Pete Spence wrote a fantastic blog post on Performing in a self-organizing world recently and it sparked some thoughts of my own.

I’ve recently been reading ‘The Art of Happiness’ by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and one of the lines of inquiry I’ve most enjoyed in the book is that compassion ultimately leads to happiness. Taking this line of thought one step further, we can see that to achieve high performance, be it in your sport, your work or your personal life, requires compassion. I believe that these two topics intersect – that by practicing a high level of mindfulness and compassion in the situations you are placed, you can adequately deal with the complexity of self organizing systems – thus performing.

Street art

From the book:

“Compassion can be roughly defined in terms of a state of mind that is nonviolent, non-harming, and non-aggresive. It is a mental attitude based on the wish for others to be free of their suffering and is associated with a sense of commitment, responsibility, and respect towards the other.”

And on garnering a compassionate attitude, even when faced with resentment.

“Now, in general compassion, when you are taking on anothers suffering, you may also initially experience a certain degree of dis-comfortableness or un-bearableness. But in the case of compassion, the feeling is much different, underlying the uncomfortable feeling is a very high level of alertness and determination because you are voluntarily and deliberately accepting anothers suffering for a higher purpose. There is a feeling of connectedness and commitment, a willingness to reach out to others, a feeling of freshness rather than dullness.

This is similar to the case of an athlete. While undergoing rigorous training, an athlete may suffer a lot – working out, sweating, straining. I think it can be quite a painful and exhausting experience. But the athlete would take it as a great accomplishment, an experience associated with a sense of joy. But if the same person was subject to some other physical work that was not part of his athletic training, the the athlete would think ‘Oh, why have I been subjected to this terrible ordeal?’ So the mental attitude makes a tremendous difference”

It seems to me that maintaining and cultivating an attitude of compassion is therefor required to act in a self organizing system. How else can we work completely without an actor or instigator, if we do not trust one another?

What do you think?