Saturday, May 12, 2018
The problems we're facing often seem as complex as they do intractable. We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them. So what does it take to increase the complexity of our thinking? Too many people default to looking at decisions as either-or: The answer is right or wrong, good or bad, win or lose. This binary thinking has a built-in limitation: ONE solution can generate the opposite problem. Simple answers make us feel safe. People need to consciously cultivate the capacity to see more, to deepen, widen, and lengthen their perspectives. Deepening depends on our willingness to challenge our blind spots, deeply held assumptions, and fixed beliefs. Widening means taking into account more perspectives and consequences to address a problem from multiple vantage points. Lengthening requires focusing on not just the immediate consequence of a decision but also its likely impact over time. Bad Example: Sick of DC, hire Trump.
Challenge your convictions. This practice begins with asking two key questions in the face of any difficult decision: "What am I not seeing here?" and "What else might be true?" As long as we hold onto the mindset that the only alternative to confidence is insecurity, we're far less likely to develop the balancing quality of humility, which is critical to considering multiple perspectives. Too much confidence becomes arrogance.
Tackle the most difficult task or problem first each day. Endless demands from a job, mate or children coupled with time pressure undermine complex thinking. As important as decisiveness can be, nuanced solutions emerge from wrestling with the most difficult issues, rather jumping to an incorrect conclusion.
Pay attention to yours and other's feeling. Embracing complexity is not just a cognitive challenge, but also an emotional one. Learn to manage negative emotions ¬such as anger and fear. If we shift o a fight-or-flight state, our vision literally narrows, our prefrontal cortex shuts down, and we become more reactive and less capable of reflection. Our attention automatically transfers from the task at hand to defending our values. This awareness can minimize the inclination to attack, blame, or scapegoat. Instead look inward to restore a state of mental equilibrium.
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