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.

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