You have a superpower, the ability to change the future.
Changing thoughts, changes actions, your thoughts don’t define you, they are like clouds, you are the sky. Make thoughts serve you, rather than use you.
Actions you do repeatedly become habits, replace your bad habits with productive habits, small daily changes compound over time, years later providing exponential returns.
First set your sights on the highest possible good, for the betterment of you and yours today and into the future, as well as for the betterment of your society, you can have no better goal than that.
Orient yourself towards the good, towards love, be the hero of your own journey, of your own story, strive to make yourself the ideal you aspire to be.
Then focus on the daily habits that move you towards that ideal, day by day, action by action, connect your actions today to your ideal future self, like lining up dominos, each toppling the next, building momentum, with increasing inertia, makes it easier over time.
Sacrifice part of the present for the future, otherwise you’ll be sacrificing the future for the present.
Negotiate with yourself and make it work, you’re not your own servant, be kind to yourself.
Make the day ahead the best it can be while being as productive as possible, it’s a marathon not a sprint, and consistency is key.
The journey of a thousand steps, starts with just one, then one more … .
Use regret of unfulfilled potential drive you forward, while a worthwhile goal pulls you towards it.
Master the ability to get results, again and again.
Better results come out of better actions, which come out of better thoughts, so mindset makes all the difference. You become the consequence of your thinking.
Fix your goal on who you want to be in 5 years, then craft a path towards that destination.
Make the journey as meaningful as you can, because it is the journey that will consume your time and attention, and these two resources can’t be repeated or replaced, they are consumed and finite.
You are the hero of your own journey, a transformation from who you are into who you aspire to be, not just for you and yours today, but for you and yours into the future.
The secret is in doing it for the betterment of society. While society can be corrupt and tyrannical, it is also a safe space to grow in. Outside of its protective embrace is the dragon of chaos.
Each individual who values rights must also accept responsibilities to move their society closer to God and away from the Devil. You have the power in your Being, and you have work to do.
Don’t fall by the wayside, don’t be a contributor to evil, don’t shun your responsibly, don’t settle for being king of the lost.
You may not be religious, but the divine is part of what you are.
Carry the love in your heart into future generations. They will be tomorrows custodians of this great planet we call home. Don’t short-change your children, and your children’s children. You owe them the chance to live their own hero’s journey, to pass love forward, to make the world a better place to live and thrive.
You have your challenge, stand up and accept the meaning that comes from this great responsibility.
We seem to be in a more polarised world than ever before, and tribalism appears to have been getting more popular over the last few years in the Western world.
We humans are social animals who function in a social world where competition and cooperation is a necessary component of a well-functioning society.
We all have to agree the rules of the social game, and then cooperate in playing a functioning role within that game, otherwise the fabric of society falls away, and nobody in their right mind wants that to happen, because anarchy and chaos replaces order and civility.
Our ancestors lived in smaller, more isolated communities and would mainly connect to other people in their shared geographical space, looking out for their neighbours.
But as populations have exploded, and mobility has increased, those local communities have largely been swept away and we’re now part of a more fluid, globalised world thanks to technological advances. It’s much easier to connect with other people through shared interests, ideas, beliefs and values. We may be connected with people from the other side of the world, yet not know who our neighbours are.
Tribalism and increased sense of self
There is a growing number of people in the population who take their identity from their affiliations; they see themselves as Labour or Tory, Democrats or Republicans, or part of a wider movement with a shared purpose, often to remove inequality from a corrupt social system. Other people are no longer seen as unique personalities with individual traits, thoughts, and values, they are either seen as “one of us” or “against us”. Thinking in this way eases cognitive burden but is a gross oversimplification of reality.
It’s important to understand the mechanics that drive tribalism.
At an individual level part of us likes to bring people, possessions, ideas and conceptual positions into what is best described as our sense of self (SOS). That part of us, often referred to as the Ego likes to think the more we’re connected to, and the more we possess, the more we elevate our self-worth. If we share interests or circumstances with others, and we like them, we will probably connect with them.
On the other hand, if we don’t connect with someone and take a dislike to them, we tend to separate from them by psychologically distancing from them. We also do this to increase our sense of self. If we take a critical view of another person, we’re immediately implying we’re superior to them.
So we lower the others (the other side) to inflate our own sense-of-self, or we inflate our sense-of-self through attachment and affiliation, and this lifts us above others (the other side).
This results in the formation of in-groups and out-groups.
So at an Ego level we’re trying to increase our sense of self by both connecting to and separating from other people.
As social animals we’d generally rather get on with others than not, but that’s just not possible with so many different personalities in play.
We need social connections because it protects us from what would otherwise be a chaotic and anarchical world. By cooperating in a competitive environment, we function without fear of being harmed or killed (most of the time). This psychologically frees us up to strive for personal growth. We can strive to climb social hierarchies in a mutually beneficial way as long as everyone else agrees to cooperate. Even though there are other people with vastly differing views and opinions, they can still participate in the same game, as long as they agree to play by the same rules. We can all agree to disagree with some things, but still cooperate in the overarching social game.
Collectivism can also make us feel more courageous. Psychologically making us less culpable if things go wrong, because the group shares the risks and responsibilities. It feels safer when we’re working with others in pursuit of a shared goal, as someone else can step up in situations where we feel less confident.
Collectives often result in people pointing fingers of blame at others, usually “the other side”, or rely on others within the group to come up with solutions. There are invariably those within the group who will take on leadership roles, and the rest follow in support.
A responsible individual
Rather than having a collectivist mindset, we should function predominantly on an individual level.
You should take personal responsibility for your actions and outcomes. Stop relying on other people, including other in-group members, and stand up and take action for yourself. Sure it’s harder to do, it feels scary at first, but it’s the right thing to do, because it forces you to stand up to your own challenges, and this arms you with the tools and skills to be an individual with real personal power.
Stop blaming others for your situation or complaining how others have caused you this problem and that problem. Blaming and complaining only disempowers you, it gives you an excuse not to take action for yourself. Passing blame passes power. Only when you take full responsibility for your own situation, are you able to empower yourself to make things better. What’s more, you should first put your own house in order before concerning yourself with wider societal issues.
We must also stop focusing attention on our differences with other people and start looking for our shared humanity. We can enrich our lives through genuine empathy and compassion for people who come from different backgrounds, cultures, and life experiences.
We should try to learn from each other’s unique experiences, by being curious, rather than closed-minded. After all, we are naturally exploratory creatures, and curiosity is part of what makes us human.
Open communication through dialogue, we all have stories to tell about our experiences, sharing these will help bring us together. It’s not just about telling your story, listen to other people’s stories, so you can learn something new from them.
What should we believe?
What beliefs are worth investing in?
What beliefs should we avoid?
What we are all trying to do is satisfy our biological needs today and in the future, for ourselves and family and more widely for society.
Why society, because if society is not functioning well, chaos and anarchy could be just around the corner and that’s not good for us or our family’s futures.
You can either ignore problems society has or do your part to make society better. You don’t have to make a huge, life-changing contribution, but just be nice to others rather than nasty.
Be a positive influence to those around you rather than a negative influence.
Link your behaviour – including what you say and do – with what kind of world you want for yourself and family in the future.
Don’t get suckered into ideologies–which only tell part of the full story of the world. The full story comprises the good and bad of…
• The Knower–we are the “knowers”. A mix of good and bad, persona and shadow.
• The known–“society/culture” . The protector against chaos on the one hand and tyrannical on the other.
• The unknown– “nature”. The life giver and life taker.
All these elements make up the whole of life experience.
What you do really matters! You have a greater impact on others than you might think. You can use your power for good or bad.
If you take a pathological path – you will have taken away from the world, rather than contributed to making it a better place.
What positive impact have you had on others?
If you try to spread love rather than hate, you make a huge difference to your life and that of other people. If others love you, then you must have positively impacted their life in some sense. This is a big deal. Just a smile or a kind word can make a vast difference to the receiver. If you help an elderly neighbour, you make a huge difference to them.
You don’t have to make a big difference to a lot of people; just one other person is enough. If you’re nice to one other person, that may put them in a better mood and they may be nicer to others as a result, and so positivity can spread very quickly.
The opposite is also true; your boss shouts at you, you shout at your kids, they kick the cat. You have surely experienced how negativity can impact your own life; when one person makes a nasty comment to you, it can really spoil your day. Negativity can really linger.
Don’t be king of the lost boys or queen of the lost girls. If you interact with other people who are not helping themselves, others and society, don’t aid and abet them. Don’t use other people as an excuse not to be as good as you can be.
Try to reach across the divide with people who are not like you, who have different opinions or affiliations, even people you see as your enemies. Don’t fall into divisive in-groups and out-groups. Division is bad in all situations. Sure it’s easier to get on with those with similar ideas, it’s much harder to do so with those of differing opinions, but we must try.
We humans are more similar than we are different. We have much more in common than we think we do. All people generally have a desire for pleasure and a need to avoid pain and suffering, but we differ in our strategies to achieve those goals.
We need to understand and empathise with other people who have different ways of thinking. Find some way of connecting with those people. If they are so ingrained with hate for your position, then don’t throw hate back at them, that’s just an Ego defence response. It will not work, hate only creates more hate, only love can defeat hate. Your responsibility is to shine light into the darkness.
Take on this responsibility where you currently are. Don’t wait for a future time, state, circumstance or situation. Do it with your next social interaction. Be a light in someone else’s life. You’re walking down the street – smile at people who you walk past you from the opposite direction, or say a friendly “hello”.
Don’t get annoyed with them, if they don’t reciprocate. You’re not doing it for what you get back from others, you’re doing it be a positive influence on your environment. This may seem strange at first, but eventually it will become habit.
Have a positive energy, have a kind word to say to others. If you’ve nothing nice to say, say nothing, because that’s better than saying something nasty.
Do something nice for others. If you don’t do something nice, then certainty don’t do something bad.
Go out of your way to help others. If you can’t, then avoid doing anything to harm or hurt others. Don’t criticise others, don’t belittle others, and don’t be rude to others. Try to judge others less, you don’t know their circumstances.
If you’re thinking this is too difficult, or lame, I’d suggest taking a closer look at the way you’re orientating yourself in the experience of life. We all have a shadowy side, often filled with negativity and aggression, even hatred and fury. We need to find a way of virtuously channelling that aggression for good rather than bad. It’s important to integrate the shadow aspect of personality into a healthy life that makes the world better for us, our loved ones and the rest of society today and into the future.
Now that’s something we can all commit to straight away, that’s worth doing to make life meaningful.
Life includes a great deal of struggle and suffering. But what if I told you there is opportunity for hope? What if I told you that you could improve your life, and the life of your family, and make things better in your community?
If you’re not interested in doing this, then you should accept you have no cause to complain. If you are unwilling to make the necessary changes and take the actions to make life more bearable, then that’s a conscious choice that you’re making. But stop pointing an accusing finger at others and realise your own lack of effort contributes to the problems you complain about.
It’s difficult to deal with the human condition; our vulnerability in a world that often seems possessed with negativity and malevolence.
This negativity starts with the tyranny of the culture and society we live in. Value hierarchies become power grabs that benefit the few, rather than value structures that serve the masses. Some people benefit, not because they provide more value, but because they wield more power. The old way of doing things holds back new ways of doing things.
The negative aspects of nature include all of its destructive elements. We’re talking about things like the aging process, illness and disease, natural disasters and the inevitability of our own deaths. All these things are out to get us and our loved ones. Loss is part of life, some people experience greater losses than others, but we all experience loss at some point in our lives. At the end of it all, we know we must face our own mortality.
If all this wasn’t enough, we also face the cruelty of human nature. We see it in the actions of others and see the potential in ourselves.
So it’s understandable that against all this potential for suffering the predicament for human beings is a difficult one. We must find something that counteracts this negativity and makes the suffering worth enduring.
The way to do this is find meaning in life, something of a hero’s journey that offsets life’s tragic circumstances.
First, we must recognise that society, nature and human nature each have their positive aspects that offset their negatives.
Culture and society is a protector that shields us from nature and the darker side of human nature. Most of the time we interact with others free of fear that they are going to attack us, take our possessions and make our lives a living hell. Society does this by socialising people, teaching what is expected of them in a civilised society. Sure, there are some that break the rules, but imagine what the world would be like if chaos reigned. We take this aspect of society for granted, but realise it’s not a certainty, it’s a privilege that we enjoy because of the sacrifices of those generations that have gone before us.
The push and pull of liberal and conservative traits holds hierarchies in unstable equilibrium and it needs both to maintain the tension in which hierarchies function best. The conservatives maintain the necessary hierarchies, the liberals hold them to account by standing up for those souls that accumulate at the bottom. Hierarchies tend towards tyranny if left unchecked, so we require liberals, hierarchies are necessary and so we require conservatives. If you think the answer is to tear all hierarchies down, you don’t understand their function nearly well enough. Hierarchies give something for people to aspire to, they focus productivity and they work as long as they remain fair. We must all fight for equality of opportunity, social mobility, and ensure we remove tyrannical power from the game.
Nature is not just a threat to life, it is a life giver. It is the creator of all the beauty that surrounds us. We take much of this beauty for granted, but it only requires us to open our eyes to see the majesty that nature has gifted us.
Now let’s consider the positive aspects of human nature. Sure, there is much evil in the world. Those who would rather destroy, than build, those that spread hate rather than love. These people get most of the attention from media, but fortunately they are in the minority.
The other side of human nature is the capacity for love and connection, for innovation and selflessness. There is much of this positivity out there if we look for it. Many of the things we get enjoyment from comes from human endeavour and ingenuity. Again we take these things for granted, but it is truly amazing that these things are so routine and stable, that we can take them for granted. Water flows when we turn the tap on, electricity is available at the click of a switch. We have heating, shelter, food, the internet, the power of functionality in the phones that consume much of our lives. We have cars and roads to help you get to places, and planes to fly to far-off lands for a few hundred pounds. Wow.
So life is not all about suffering, there is much to be grateful for. Everything contributes to the rich tapestry of life and makes it so interesting.
But it’s important to find meaning in life, something to aim for and aspire towards, a sense of direction.
You don’t have to come up with the next big invention to make a difference in the world. You can work small, but work at beautifying it to the best of your ability. Jordan Peterson posits it starts by “tidying your room”. By making the space you inhabit the best it can be, you improve your house, by improving your house, you improve the street, by improving the street you improve your community. And if everyone did this…wow.
Growing up, I remember the little old ladies sweeping the pavement outside their front door. Just this simple act of sweeping the pavement would make me think how this little old lady was contributing to keeping her space neat and tidy, and how it demonstrated her pride in where she lived, and I thought I should do the same. It rubbed off on me, and I’m sure it had some impact on others who witnessed her doing the same thing over the years.
I see many people complaining about where they live, but I wonder what they do (apart from complaining) to actively make things better.
Communities are made up of people, not inanimate objects. People can make the most dismal places feel like a nice place to live. The tenement block becomes a depressing place because the community lets it become one, the people that live there allow it to become so.
I like the example used by Jordan Peterson in many of his talks about finding meaning in the smallest endeavours. He talks about running a modest café and it being a microcosm of communal activity, a place for neighbours to meet and congregate. A place where people rest before they go and do their important work. A place to nurture and educate their employees to be better and find pride in their self-sufficiency. This isn’t just about talking up a menial job, it’s about recognising the contribution it makes to the people who benefit from it.
The taxi driver is not just a taxi-driver, he/she is an important part of the economy, who serves to help people get to where they need to go. Without him/her many people would suffer greatly. They would be isolated, unable to get to important appointments, unable to get to the shop, unable to get home safely from a night out etc.
You have more power than you think, so make a positive contribution, no matter how small it is. A kind word can improve someone’s day, take a few minutes to speak to a neighbour, you might be the only person they get to talk to today. You probably know how upsetting it can be if someone says something mean to you, it can stay with you and really put a dampener on your day. You might know the frustration of letting someone out of a junction, when driving, and not having them acknowledge your kindness.
Little things make a big difference. Find meaning in these simple gestures and acts, and find meaning by pursuing a meaningful goal, regardless of how small a contribution you initially think it makes.
One way of increasing the likelihood you’ll take some desired action, is the ability to look at a goal, plan or task in a different, more inspiring way.
If it doesn’t provide a big enough reason for you to take action, you most certainly won’t take it.
Human beings get stuck in persistent patterns of thinking that frame the subjects of those thoughts in a certain way, and moving beyond these frames of reference can be very difficult if left unchallenged.
For individuals, such thoughts often centre around self-doubt. Self talk may go along the lines of “I can’t do [blank]”,” I don’t have the necessary experience, skill-set, knowledge, resources, etc”.
Businesses can also display this negative thinking; “we can’t compete with [blank]”, “we can’t compete on price” etc.
So what is the consequence of thinking like this? Well, we don’t take action, we don’t even try it, we just talk ourselves out of it and move on.
Maybe this is the right thing to do, maybe thinking abstractly against it is better than ploughing time, effort and resources into a doomed endeavour, maybe, but maybe not.
If we’re not careful, this way of thinking becomes a coping strategy that lets us off the hook and allows us to not take action in an act of self preservation. They become coping excuses.
A more productive way of thinking about it may be in asking “what if”. What if we did this, and what is the possible upside?
“What if” is a creative question. It opens up possibilities, rather than shutting them down. What if we could reframe the way we think about our weaknesses, and recast them as strengths?
In 1962 advertising executive Paula Green came up with a now famous slogan for Avis car rentals, that took advantage of their weaker market position in relation to Hertz, repositioning it from a weakness into a strength. The slogan “we try harder” let prospective customers know Avis would be more attentive to their needs than Hertz would be.
Stella Artois did something similar with their “reassuringly expensive” advertising campaign in 2004.
It’s all about finding a more empowering story that reframes your perceived weakness into strengths, for your own benefit, and also from a marketing point of view.
Here are a few examples:
Smaller size; being smaller allows you to be more nimble and adaptable than big players
Less experienced; don’t have as much skin in the game, nothing to lose by doing things differently and disrupting the status quo
Less prestigious location; can provide better value for money because not paying as much in rental costs.
Stop EXPECTING – nobody owes you anything. Be grateful for the time, interest, and generosity of other people. You have no entitlement to anything in life, everything is a gift.
If you’ve been born into a loving family, count yourself lucky, many don’t enjoy that privilege. It’s not like you did anything to deserve it, you were and are just really lucky that circumstances fell in your favour.
If you were born with good health – physical and psychological – you were and are just lucky, many people aren’t blessed in that way.
Be grateful for every day you’re above ground and in the company of people who choose to spend their precious time with you.
Even if you’re not born into a loving family, or you don’t have good mental or physical health, look for the things you can be grateful for. Do you have sight, hearing, are you able form and maintain relationships with other people, are there things you can do that others can’t? Are you free of pain, at least some of the time? Do you have anyone who cares about you?
It’s okay to Feel sorry for yourself sometimes, you should face your negative emotions, but don’t let them consume you, because it doesn’t help you to make things better. Prolonged negative reminiscing will only poison your mind and body.
Be grateful for even the smallest blessings. When you change how you think about the world, the world changes.
It’s important to understand that your attention and perceptions are goal dependant. When you task yourself with finding the great things in life, the world lays itself out around that goal. Your perceptions are motivated to help you attain whatever goal you set your sights on. Here’s a little game to illustrate how that plays out.
So you can pick the goal of playing victim and wallow in self-pity or you can empower yourself with the goal of finding light in the darkness, using gratitude, the choice is yours.
We can probably all agree that being able to get results and achieve success is no bad thing, after all we are exploratory creatures. We aren’t designed to rest on our laurels and be satisfied with what we have. We always want to have more and to be better. We can try to fight our nature, but it’s a constant battle to engage in.
It’s also important to be grateful for the things we have, and to enjoy the fruits of our labour and the rewards of our love, otherwise, what’s the point.
But forward momentum is part of our genetic makeup, and it’s easier to face that truth than deny it.
We currently find ourselves stuck at point A, when we want to get to point B.
Point B is the promised land. It’s the place we aspire to be, if only we could get there. There may well be many smaller intermediary goals that point towards the end destination, and like dominos we need to line them up so each can help knock down the next.
Having a goal gives us a sense of direction, otherwise we are aimless, like a rudderless boat drifting wherever the current takes us. Goals allow us to take strategic action.
The consequences of not moving forward towards goals, towards point B, can be hard to stomach. The initial frustration is later replaced by regret and both these negative emotions drain self-esteem. A disaffected person can easily become embittered and take a destructive path which aims to tear things down rather than contribute to make things better.
We can all have more by being more. To have more than you’ve got, you’ve got to be more than you are, according to self-development guru, Jim Rohn.
Most things in life are unknown to us in any meaningful way. We know just enough about things to get through our daily routines, but meaning is condensed into abstract representations which allow us to manage our interactions with them, but little more.
This condensing of meaning lightens cognitive load, and allows us to focus attention on more important things, usually in pursuit of our goals. Everything is an aid, an obstruction or irrelevant in pursuit of whatever we’re busy aiming for.
For example, if we’re driving down to the supermarket in a bit of a hurry because it’s about to close, every red light, or motorist is an obstruction acting to block our goal.
Everything that’s irrelevant to our goal is ignored or filtered out, most of the time. It doesn’t affect us and our current endeavour so we need not pay any attention to it.
The same is true with regard to the attainment of knowledge, we are motivated to learn things that interest or concern us, but everything else is ignored or filtered out of our conscious attention.
As a consequence of our limited knowledge, most things are unknown. We may know things on a superficial level, especially if we are curious, or as a result our life experiences, but there is always much more to learn, then we could ever know.
The unknown can be a scary place, it’s full of potential, made up of good and bad. The unknown is full of opportunities and possibility as well as risks and dangers. We’ll come back to the unknown shortly.
Learning new things involves finding accurate information, and as most information is not acquired from personal first-hand experience, we must find it from other reliable sources.
However, this is easier said than done, although we have more access to information than ever before, there is so much more misleading and incorrect information that has to be sorted through, to find the golden nuggets that will actually help us.
It’s all about learning what we need to move from point A to point B, and this can take a great deal of time and dedication to do. We have to do our research, find the nuggets of information we can use, put that into practice and learn through the experience of doing. It’s a process of learning, trying and failing (if we must), there isn’t really any other way to do it. Try to get better at filtering out the things that will cause you to fail, but don’t fear failure, just make sure you learn from it, and try to ensure it doesn’t put you out of the game completely.
Coming back to the unknown, any kind of meaningful change requires reaching into the unknown as we search for answers to help us move forward. If you’re not taking the actions you know you should be taking, then something is preventing you.
Fear is usually the most frequent reason people don’t chase down their goals. Fear of failure, of discomfort, of uncertainty, of embarrassment if things don’t work out as planned. Fear is even more persuasive if you lack confidence in your ability to do what’s required, or in case you find yourself out of your depth.
The unknown carries within it the monster of all monsters. It is a category of threat that holds all possible fears. But we also realise that the unknown is made up of all potential: all risks and dangers, but also all opportunities and possibilities.
The self-preservation instinct is often our guide within the unknown domain. It’s the biological reflex which causes us to freeze, take flight or fight. It’s easy to fall foul of this initial gut-reaction, which has little interest in anything other than protecting us from pain or suffering. If all you do is listen to your survival instinct, you’re certain to remain stuck at point A.
It’s useful to understand that motivation has two opposing forces: Blocking motivations like fear, but also supporting motivations that help propel us forward towards our goals.
With a shift in perspective, you can make use of the fear impulse to move you forward. Use the fear of regret to propel you towards your goals. Imagine looking back at your life as an old man or woman, having not pursued your goals or dreams. How would you feel about living a life only half lived? Regret can be a positive emotion if you harness it to support your progress.
If you’re anxious about doing something you need to do, you instinctively know that you’re lacking in some department. You have a realisation at some level that you need to learn or acquire something that you don’t currently possess. Carl Jung once said, “That which we need the most will be found where we least want to look”.
Finding inspiration within your belief system will sustain your journey towards your goals.
We weave beliefs into stories that we tell ourselves, and which subsequently guide our behaviours and actions. If your story isn’t serving you, change it for a more inspiring story.
The move from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be), is a journey, a journey of transformation. It’s like any story you’ve read in a book or watched on a screen.
You are the hero of your own story, of your own journey. Like all the great fictional heroes, you have something you need to learn in order to make yourself a better version of who you currently are. You have to find the courage to face your fears and still move forward. Solve your own problems, face your own demons, and you will be stronger for it.
Pick a goal and plot a path forward that inspires and excites you, focus on that path, learn what needs to be learned so you improve as you journey forward. Embrace the challenges and solve the problems that block your path. Each win gives you the ammunition to fight the next battle, all the while you get stronger and more competent to deal with ever bigger problems. If you can pick a goal that also solves other people’s problems, you’re probably onto a winner.
Different situations impact the way we make decisions. To illustrate this point, if you’re trying to lose weight, you generally only have to consider your own motivations. For instance you have to work out how to reduce the desires that get in your way, like wanting to eat fatty foods.
In contrast, if you’re marketing and trying to persuade strangers to buy from you, considerations are very different. You’re not in direct control of what others do, you can only encourage and influence, and so there is an extra level of complexity to how you make your own decisions.
The Cynefin framework provides five decision-making contexts;
Simple (has recently changed to obvious),
which helps managers identify how they may perceive situations and make sense of their own and other people’s behaviour.
The Cynefin framework is based on research from systems theory, complexity theory, network theory and learning theories according to Wikipedia.
It has been used by its IBM developers in policy-making, product development, market creation, supply chain management, brand and customer relations. As well as by governments and the military along with health care research by the NHS.
If you don’t know where you are, if you feel lost, you are probably in the domain of disorder. Within the domain of disorder, there is no clarity about which of the other domains apply to your current situation.
You may experience multiple perspectives, that could all equally be valid. “Leaders may argue with one another and cacophony likely rules”, says Snowden and Boone.
To find a way out of this domain, you must break down the situation into its constituent parts and assign each to one of the other four realms.
First gather information, then identify the domain and move on.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing everything is simple and ordered, or that past success makes you invulnerable to future failure. This is a big mistake, because before you know it, the chaotic domain will drag you into a crisis.
When the s**t hits the fan and all hell breaks loose, the first response is instinctive, the freeze, flight or fight response kicks in. It’s our primordial response for self preservation.
In this domain, cause and effect is unclear, and too confusing for knowledge based responses. In fact, previous knowledge and experience is only partially useful in chaotic situations.
Remove yourself from danger, in the first instance, try to regroup and do what you can to move from the chaotic domain into the complex domain, using novel practice if you have to.
ACT really…trust your instinct….get out of the immediate danger zone
SENSE once out of the immediate danger zone, assess the situation and determine your next steps.
RESPOND take action to move your problem to another domain
In this domain, the relationship between cause and effect is only possible through retrospective analysis. It’s a case of the truth being out there somewhere. There are no right answers, as such, we can draw only instructive patterns from them. The best way to navigate in this domain is through trial and error, via experimentation.
We often have to engage in emerging practice, where the path will be created with every step taken. It’s a case of testing as you go and seeing what works and what doesn’t, and learning from your failures.
The complex domain represents the “unknown unknowns”.
I was introduced to the concept of complexity when reading “Brave new work by Aaron Dignan”, where he discusses how companies can become more “adaptive and human” by becoming more “complexity conscious.”
Let’s assume you’re a marketer who wants prospects to buy your product. What do you need to do to get them to act? You can only encourage them to buy from you if you match their buying criteria. You must present your offer in a way that compels them to make a purchase. It’s important to realise that it’s not under your complete control, as with your own actions. If they like what they see, they may buy from you, providing the price is right, they trust you and you’ve given them enough reasons to part with their hard earned money.
RESPOND take action moving the problem into the complicated domain
In the complicated domain, the relationship between cause and effect may consist of a range of right answers, rather than just one. It requires some expertise to navigate in this domain, like you would find with engineers, surgeons and lawyers. It’s the domain of known unknowns.
You’re looking for an expert to show you the best way.
You can make use of a blueprint to get from A to B.
It’s a case of 1 + 1 =2
SENSE the problem
ANALYZE the problem and roadmaps
RESPOND with a plan
In the simple/obvious domain, the relationship between cause and effect is clear cut: if you do X, you can expect Y to happen. It’s the domain of the known knowns.
Snowden and Boone (2007) offer the example of loan-payment processing. An employee identifies the problem, for example, a borrower has paid less than required, the employee categorises it, by reviewing the loan documents, and responds by following the terms of the loan.
It is the domain of the 1 way solution. A simple case of 1 + 1 = 2
SENSE the situation. Establish the facts.
CATEGORISE the situation into a known bucket
RESPOND with a well-known solution, following the rules or applying best practice.
Sometimes you can move through these domains, other times a particular decision lives in just one. The main takeaway is to understand that all problems are not equal and that different approaches are required for different situations.