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Wellbeing & Personal Development

Roots or wings

Roots or wings
Published: March 15, 2017
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Roots and Wings. Hopefully we are cultivating or challenging one or the other at any particular time.

We see it in the news and in our own lives. Obama’s parting comment to African leaders was that the continent will not advance if its leaders refuse to step down when their terms end. Here in Italy, we have been facilitating retreats for teams who want to pause and consolidate their learning. At yesterday’s coaching session, I explored with a senior leader how his need to feel protected was limiting his systems thinking, reach and effectiveness. Every day on LinkedIn we see a constant flow of people taking on new roles and offering new ideas. At a personal level,  friends are leaving for new pastures, others are settling.

Roots and Wings.

Our roots are our connection with ourselves, others and of our place in the world. Cultivating them gives us a sense of identity, of belonging, of ‘coming home to who we are’. They are the foundations which keep us grounded, connected and contributing. They are the relationships with those we love and with the complex and supportive fabric which nourish our inner core. They give us security and stability.

Our wings give us the ability to reach out far and wide, expand our horizons and venture into new territories. With them we express our innate curiosity, our sense of adventure and exploration and discover new ideas and opportunities. They are the means for which we allow our independence and initiative to flourish. They give us flexibility and freedom.

Arguably a balance between the two enables us to fulfil the depth and breadth of our potential. If we get too focused on our roots, they can constrict and bind us. Sometimes we just need to uproot and fly off to new places and gain fresh perspectives. With too much focus on our wings, we can exhaust ourselves floating around and become disorientated, unfocused and isolated

Attempting a balance may be something we do in the moment, or it may be stretched over longer periods, as we find ourselves giving priority to either one, over days, weeks, months or years.

Some of us have a personality preference for one or the other. I find myself making generalisations about national cultural differences, such as the strongly rooted collective Italians and flying independent-travelling New Zealanders (as an aside, the irony is not lost that NZ’s national treasure and icon, the kiwi, evolved into a flightless bird -as a result of having no enemies it decided it had no need to fly so lost its ability to do so). More broadly, perhaps we can also draw on the difference between the eastern philosophy that we are already ‘here’; what we need is within us, and the western perspective, where we are driven to look externally; to go out in order to get ‘here’ fully.

In integrating the two, we balance stillness with movement, being with doing, activity with meditation, solitude with company, introversion with extroversion...

As David Richo said “In short, we need to get up and go, but we also need to sit and stay”.      

Noticing our preferences, focus and patterns helps us make those choices more consciously as opposed to automatically from a place of habit or fear. Often it is about getting out of our comfort zone and doing the opposite of what we would prefer to do.

What is your priority at the moment? Roots or Wings?

Penelope Mavor is a Consultant at Impact Italia.

Thanks to Jennifer who first introduced me to the concept of ‘roots and wings’, as passed on from Buster whose Mum might have heard it from the quote by Hodding Carter “there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One is roots; the other, wings” which according to Wikipedia, was borrowed from Henry Ward Beecher

BBC, Obama warns on Africa leaders refusing to step down, 28 July 2015.

Richo, D, (2002), How To Be An Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving, Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boston, Massachusetts p. 4