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By Dr. Peter C. van der Molen

In his novel “Through the Looking-Glass”, Lewis Carroll has Alice and the Red Queen, constantly running but remaining in the same spot:

“Now! Now!” cried the Queen. “Faster! Faster!” And they went so fast that at last they seemed to skim through the air, hardly touching the ground with their feet, till suddenly, just as Alice was getting quite exhausted, they stopped, and she found herself sitting on the ground, breathless and giddy.” (…)

(…) “Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

Today’s world is meeting the Red Queen’s standards: our social media have ultra-fast response times: within seconds an event is broadcast across the globe. Responding always and instantly is the norm – we are eagerly waiting for the feedback that we expect to arrive the next moment. Before we realise it – this speed has permeated our entire life and has become our culture. A culture that allows preciously little time for awareness and the contemplation of consequences.  As a result, when we need to make decisions on our businesses, for our projects, or concerning policies for the boards we sit on – down to our practical daily life – we end up “responding to” situations, rather than being in control.


(As depicted by John Tenniel in “Through the Looking-Glass” – Chapter Two – The Garden of Live Flowers)

Awareness of our situation will grant us a window in time for effective response

We have the option to run with the crowd, or take a second option – to take a short break and take in the landscape of our situation. Becoming aware of the physical and social environment we are in, the interpersonal context – the information we are receiving and sending out. All too often the first option means that the situation will decide for us. Sometimes we wake up in time to see the consequences – mostly we are just fire-fighting. The alternative option -the short break- is to enable us to exert a degree of influence on our situation. That way we might be able to direct the course of events to a certain extent. And at least we are not entirely caught by surprise about the way things unfold.

Awareness of the world around us, is the precursor to strategic thinking and acting. Strategy should be based upon a clear and unbiased view of reality – then it can become practical. We need practical strategic actions to run our businesses and shops. To hash out the nitty-gritty of a project, yet not lose the view. To develop a new curriculum for students. Strategic thinking and action mean that what we do is real and, -when done from a virtuous point of view- also sustainable.

So, if we mean to make sustainable and practical decisions, that work for us and benefit society as well – we need to get a handle on “awareness” as a starting point. That is what this weekend is about. We train to read our environment and the people in it. Detect and analyze patterns, to develop our responses, and to act responsibly. If we run like Alice – we have no opportunity to notice what is happening around us. All it needs is the small window of awareness.

Join us for An Invitation to Thinking and Acting Strategically in June!

Peter C. van der Molen is active as an expert on nature monitoring for the 12 provincial governments in the Netherlands, for the protection of nature reserves. Before that he served as an ecologist for the Dutch Governmental Bureau of Land Management; as well as in consultancy firms and as a scientist, and for conservation of Irish peatlands. As a private consultant in a small team of experts, he advises on landscape ecology. Peter has received training in classical Fengshui by Dr. Eva Wong and consults on residential, business and spiritual spaces. You can find out more about him on

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