The TASC List: Peak experiences

Management professors, social scientists, and interpersonal relations experts have all spoken to the issue of capturing the opportunity for improved communications between parties. They often recommend a setting that is entertaining, challenging, exhilarating — altogether mutually enjoyable — for a best possible exchange of ideas and the pursuit of unrestricted discussion.

The rewards of reaching such outcomes are obvious. And the advice is most often given to parents who seek to achieve understanding with children, and who value the willingness of parties to listen as well as talk. They counsel the search for an environment, such that in that space and moment, feelings can be expressed, ideas examined, and solutions obtained. Step one: find the spot. Step two: have the talk.

Venues such as skiing, sailing, camping, hiking, and fishing are often recommended. One of the best overall descriptors of what kind of setting they suggest for the “peak experience” is in fact related to the ice fishing phenomenon of northern Michigan. The attitudinal changes in individual participants is both remarkable, persistent, and widespread. It is demonstrated clearly as the week progresses, especially for auto workers from the Detroit assembly lines, as they seek release from the tedium of repetitive and clock-worked tasks. As each day passes from Monday until Friday, their spirits rise, their preparedness for the trip increases, their anticipation grows. In fact a peak experience is often characterized by the fact that the anticipation itself can transcend the pleasure of the actual event. That may be hard to imagine about ice fishing in areas like Wilton, but each of us knows something like a blue fishing, surf fishing, or lake fishing place that may convey special properties for reflection, introspection, personal renewal, and self-actualization.

So does any of this apply to the TASC mission of finding avenues to a better Wilton, a more resilient community, and a future worth creating? For anyone who has been paying attention to some of the recent communication disconnects here in town, it would seem that there exists room for improvement — a lot of room. The annual budget struggles were often overheated; change is in the winds now, however, due in part to better communication. Things like fiber optics, field lighting, turfed surfaces, street décor, tax burdens and senior relief, have all had their moments. Construction costs, capital planning, bonding issues, ethical behavior and business conduct guidelines, have more recently combined to raise temperatures and elevate emotions.   

Is there some role that a framework like peak experiences can play in the resolution of differences and the arrival at joint solutions? It’s not likely to be ice fishing, but if current temperature trends continue here in the Northeast, that’s not altogether out of the question. In older-time communities, some possibilities were softball games, bowling leagues, annual picnics, sports booster associations, and the like. In fact, the options can be much less structured or formal. A hike on the trails at Weir Farm provides a great view of nature, some interesting terrain, and a bit of exercise all at one time.

I’ve tried that one myself with a current member of a Wilton board. We both survived in that no one threw the other off a granite outcropping. And an even easier walk would be around the high school track. A chance to see your tax dollars at work, some of our local athletes in action, and a lighted, safe, and easy-to-traverse surface.

Let’s extend these efforts and get opposing or adversarial factions talking to each other, and not necessarily in front of the cameras. We can find supporting ground, if not ideal peak venues, for real conversations and explore common ground that is clearly shared by most solution-oriented citizens. We can thus hope to avoid the mutually reinforcing negative spiral of charges and counter charges, name calling, and disparagement. We can raise the level of agreement and move toward the common good. We can reach new heights.

TASC stands for Toward A Stronger Community. Contact: