The last post was about learning to get better at something: movine from not knowing to the business of being aware of what to do, to getting better at doing it, to being able to do it routinely.

This is very useful in well defined areas – sports, the fine arts, business and so on. In less well defined things it isn’t much help.

Life can be awfully complicated. And unpredictable. Sometimes the rules aren’t clearly explained.

How can we thrive in messy situations?

Here are some possible approaches:


  1. Mind maps

Put down on a piece of paper what you do know. Link concepts, list the elements you are aware of, the forces that seem to be acting. Draw the connections you see.

This can help get some clarity and also can help identify gaps in your knowledge or skills.


  1. What do I want?

We can get overwhelmed and ‘lose ourselves’. So it can be helpful to ‘take a half step back’, ask yourself, “What is it that I want here?” or, “What do I want out of this?”

If there is a clear answer it is possible to proceed (even if it is to realise you may not have much chance of getting what you want and so getting out).

If there isn’t a clear answer you may sense that the situation is too messy to deal with or you may find ways to get a better sense of what is going on.


  1. Try stuff

“If you want to know how the system works, try and change it.” – Kurt Lewin.

  • Sometimes something very new will be more acceptable than a small tweak to an old way of doing things.
  • Introducing a different style of service altogether in a church may be easier than getting a modern hymn played in the normal service.
  • It may be easier to introduce a new process to a group than getting people to listen during the usual agenda-driven style meeting.
  • Sometimes the difficulties are unexpected. It is surprising what people value and are attached to.
  • And it can be surprising who is more open to change (often those who set up the system are less attached to its continuing than those who are lower in the hierarchy).

My advice is to make small experiments, that will likely have small impact if they fail.


  1. Models

Perhaps there are people you find admirable or regard as successful.

This can help you figure out what your desires are: figuring out why you found one person, approach or organisation, attractive rather than another.

It may also give you strategies to copy or learn from.


However, a word of caution: what someone does can be the result of a process that isn’t obvious (and it may not even be obvious to them). Sometimes it is the process that is the magic rather than the behaviour you see.

  • What works in one situation may not work in another.
  • What works for one person may not work for another.

If you wish to model yourself on someone it will be helpful to get ‘beyond’ their behaviour to the why and how of what they do.


In a new or complicated situation, it is even more true than usual that, there are no guarantees.  But this needn’t immobilise you.  All comments and questions most welcome.


Thriving #3 from unconscious to conscious and back to unconscious

September 12, 2014

  Thriving means learning and getting better at things. Moving from being clueless and/or confused to having a sense of what’s going on and a good chance of getting what you want. A simple and popular description of this process has four phases unconscious incompetence conscious incompetence conscious competence unconscious competence Thriving in an important [...]

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Thriving #2 – your habits can help you thrive

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  Let’s State Upfront That Habits Can Keep You Stuck You can develop habits without realising it. And so you can end up with habits that mean you do the opposite of what you intend to. You mean to get fit but your evening routine means you don’t go for a walk You mean to [...]

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  To be thriving in your life you need to know two kinds of things: 1. Who you are – your, needs desires preferences rhythms and so on   2. Where you are – the possibilities and limitations of your situation.   If you don’t know what you like you could be at the world’s [...]

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Update From Evan

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  This update should probably be titled something like: Hello from Hibernation. Or perhaps, What’s happening in the cocoon? For the moment I have stopped blogging. I’m not entirely sure why but my motivation for it has declined. I’m not feeling negative about blogging or life in general; just that I’ve come to a bit [...]

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What Next #3 shaping your life to your preferences part 2 your preferred process

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You have a preferred world (outer or inner) and you have a preferred way of responding to it. The two ways of responding to the world (in the language of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – based on Carl Jung’s Psychological Types) are perceiving and judging. Briefly: Perceiving is watching what happens and Judging is deciding [...]

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What Next #3 shaping your life to your preferences part 1 your preferred world

June 24, 2014

  Eventually, with work and useful support you get to the place where you feel like you have done enough for now. You have a working grasp of how past traumas, successes and learnings have impacted you, and you are ready to focus on the present and future. The previous posts in this series have [...]

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Walking Through Mist

June 18, 2014

Today it is my pleasure to present a guest post from Ken Myers.  I think it is beautifully written and on a very important topic.  Please let Ken know your responses in the comments box at the end of the post.   I am going through a difficult period in my life; a period in [...]

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Approaching the Topic of Moderate Alcohol Use with Family

June 2, 2014

  Today I’m pleased to present a guest post.  As always comments are most welcome.   Bio: The following is a guest post by Saint Jude Retreats, a non-12 step non-treatment alternative to traditional drug and alcohol rehab. The program concentrates on self-directed positive neuroplastic change and positive self-change as an alternative to traditional alcohol [...]

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What’s Next? #2 Individuation – part two

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A second big approach to answering the question, “What’s next?” is through story. We are all on a journey and so there are common features because it is a journey. The most famous version of this is the Hero(ine)’s Journey. Made popular by Joseph Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces. The common factors [...]

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What’s Next? #2 Individuation – part one, the seed

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After we have healed and are able to function in the here and now? By ‘functioning in the here and now’ I mean being able to pay attention to what we want to for a reasonable time without having worrying about the future or reminders of the past intrude. This post, like the last one, [...]

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