Ecology has been defined as the study of interrelationships between an organism and its particular habitat, like an individual being a member of society or a sport club. The principles of ecology are important to the concept of evolution. Darwin suggested that an organism’s survival and reproduction depend on its ability to adapt to its environment. Likewise, the Law of Requisite Variety in systems theory refers to ‘flexibility’ as being key to survival.
Goal-setting requires an ECOLOGY CHECK
A desired outcome must meet certain conditions to produce a positive result. In NLP life coaching, the term personal ecology refers to the harmony of all the elements that make up the system within which an individual operates. All too often, when we set goals, or the intention to make behavior changes, we pursue the desired outcome half-heartedly because we, subconsciously, assume the change might upset someone else. It is, thus, important to purposely consider the ecological effect our goals might have on the various systems of which we are members—these can be our family and social groups, the workplace or any political, economic or global organization.
To make sure your goal is ecologically sound and well formed, start the process by answering the following questions truthfully:
- What, exactly, do you want?
- Do you know how to get it?
- Are you prepared to give yourself time to achieve such an outcome?
- Do you believe the desired outcome is possible?
- What will change in your life and your environment when you get what you want?
- Do you really want the change?
- How will the change affect other members of your groups?
- How do you expect others might react to the change?
- *How can you make changes to your life yet retain the positive effects of the current situation? [a complete discussion of the ‘positive intention of your current state’ will follow in a later post of this series]
In NLP, making an ecology check involves gathering information from an ‘objective’ perspective when considering the possible consequences of change on other members of groups within your environment.
Goal-setting for WRITERS
As a writer, you need to consider the personal ecology of your future career. What kind of support would you need from others to become as prolific as you’d wish to be? Who could be affected by your ambition? How would your readers benefit from your writing? Would anybody be at risk of being wronged by the work you intend to do?
Goal-setting is also a LITERARY concept
Not only do goals motivate WRITERS to be productive and creative but they inspire the actions of STORY CHARACTERS too—on the flip side, their actions may lead to the breakdown of their goals.
Let’s look at the value of ecology in the context of creative writing as it pertains to character development through a study of Lionel’s Shriver’s novel: So Much For That. You might want to refer to the introduction of this series for a recap of the book description before continuing with this part of the discussion.
Shep Knacker did, indeed, have an ecologically sound goal. He wanted to swap the so-called American Dream for ‘The Afterlife:’ early retirement in an idyllic Third World destination where his nest egg could last forever. His impression that you could survive in Africa “on a dollar a day” came from a family sojourn in Kenya when he was sixteen. It inspired him to work hard and salt away as much of his middle-class American income as possible, an endeavor that would persist until he was close to fifty. For most of that time, his wife Glynis shared the dream. Together, they did their ‘homework’—summer vacations became “research trips.” Shep’s colleagues envied him and his best friend, Jackson, fully supported the notion of ‘The Afterlife.’ Apropos ecology, I’d venture to say that Shep proceeded toward his dream with utmost integrity. But neither Glynis nor the American economy would remain as steadfast as Shep. On top of that, Fate would intervene with bad news.
It is, ironically, in Shep’s refusal to acknowledge the reality of these new developments where you can expect to see the cracks start appearing. So, if Darwin suggested that an organism’s survival and reproduction depend on its ability to adapt to its environment, then the dramatic question in this novel is surely this: “Is Shep prepared to be flexible regarding ‘The Afterlife’ in order to salvage what he really stands to lose?”
Can you recall a time when you were on track to achieve a goal and then, suddenly, the outcome was thwarted by someone else or something outside your control? If so, how did you respond? Did you blame yourself for not having foreseen that possibility? Were you resentful about the interference? What about your favorite story or movie? Was the protagonist mindful of his personal ecology when he set his sight on the desired outcome? Can you recall a book or movie that features a protagonist who pursued a goal half-heartedly because he, subconsciously, assumed the change might upset someone else? Maybe you’d like to take a look at “Revolutionary Road” by Yates to examine the personal ecology of Frank and April Wheeler, a couple who felt superior to their middle-class surroundings and had little but disdain for bourgeois things like tract houses and mailboxes emblazoned with family crests. In the end, their bohemian ideals met with tragic results, all because of their inability to connect emotionally to their environment, each other and, therefore, their desires.
I hope now that you understand the dynamics of personal ecology in terms of goal-setting better, the knowledge will serve your storytelling well in future.
Follow my blog to learn more about CREATIVE WRITING as well as the dynamics of BEHAVIOR CHANGE and CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT and how to implement these concepts in storytelling. Please watch out for the publication of my creative writing guide (title and publication date TBA soon), which will offer a more comprehensive discussion on Story and Character Development based on a Life Coaching Model.