We are all chasing for a meaningful life, and becoming truly ourselves is a cornerstone of this effort. How many times have you found yourself in a situation where you felt that, despite your knowledge, experience, positive emotions, and dedication, you could not achieve the impact you envisaged as possible and desired? Such moments are crucial for many reasons, including the opportunity to reflect & retrospect. Still, most importantly, in the context of this article, such moments are vital because they define who you become. Or even more precisely: the way you handle such situations is crucial to who you become.
Let’s see how the action flows in such situations. If you decide to frame such a situation in your mind as a case of hitting your head against a wall, then your reaction can be twofold: you can either (1) become aggressive, or you can (2) become passive. Such framing results in a limited set of options at hand: you quit, you decide to start over again, or you accept the reality at the cost of becoming numb. Needless to say, that in all these options, you are far from where you would like to be. Become aggressive means that you decide to fight for your point of view and opinions and let your frustration out even at the cost of sacrificing your relations. Then you have even more reason to quit. If you still believe your ideas will bring good, you start over again, investing even more energy to make things right this time. However, the wall is still there, and this particular reaction archetype will push you in the same framing: as a result, the archetypes will loop you back to the same options: quit, start again or become numb. After so many attempts, you are drained of energy, see no hope to change anything, and either you leave or become numb. There is a probability that even when you start in a new place, the pattern will repeat itself. Aggressiveness and passiveness are the two archetypes of immediate reactions that our minds inherited from predecessors. These are both automatic reactions originating from the level of the mechanical mind.
Now imagine that your situational self-awareness enables you to find another alternative – you (3) act assertively. Assertiveness prevents you from burning out personally and lets you keep your relations in an excellent working condition. This is possible thanks to a particular skill to take time for a reflection. And a reflection enables you to look at the situation in separation from the “I” perspective. You can look at the situation from multiple perspectives – you are now a cold-blooded external observer. You keep the archetypal behaviours under control and can have more objective, or at least less biased, view of the situation and choose your options consciously.
So what do you see detached from your own “I” perspective? You see an individual embedded in the Current Reality while dreaming of being embedded in the Ideal Reality and being stretched by the forces of tension in the Expectation Gap between these two realities. The individual can behave twofold: (1) s/he can be trying to get Current Reality closer to Ideal Reality, or (2) s/he can be leaning towards accepting the Current Reality. There are two currents in the Expectation Gap one can ride. The Creative Tension current that through Learning leads you to Mean and helps you pull the Current Reality up closer to the Ideal Reality. You need psychological safety and allies to keep paddling in this current. And there is the Destructive Tension current that through Declining leads you to Numbness and keeps you imprisoned in the Current Reality. In the end, the destructive present makes you accept the Current Reality, whatever it is, as your only reality. How quickly you drift there depends on the level of fear and isolation you are exposed to.
How do you like this perspective? I do like the perspective a lot because such framing shows that it is my decisions that create myself.
“This is where personal responsibility is born. This is where courage is born. This also shows that Meaning is Responsibility, not a Need! Now the Cartesian question “What will happen if I do not act on the situation?” becomes striking and thus, through a scary vision of the future based on not acting, motivating to act! Now, after building an objective perspective on the situation, we are ready to explore all the options.
Decisions you make on this level of situational self-awareness are the decisions that create yourself. Options expand on the continuum, starting from baby steps of Continuous Improvement and ending at the big bangs of Discontinuous Disruption. The continuous improvement builds on the last stable state to transition to a new stable state adjacent to the previous one. Where continuous evolution is insufficient, discontinuous disruption can take a system further away from the current state, helping to surpass being stuck in the local optimum and keep evolving further to a stateless related to the current state.
Remember that the goal of decision making is to expand your influence on the Current Reality. You need to expand what is under your control and what you Influence while limiting the part of the Current Reality that you can only passively Acknowledge.
And finally, to ensure the decisions you make are of high quality, you need to look closer at how your decision-making approach looks like. We human question, challenge and adapt how we make decisions surprisingly rarely. It usually takes a completely changed environment that we need to adapt to even if we do not want to. No surprise if going through change is difficult as the decision-making process is one of these automatic processes that one does not realize without additional attention and awareness. According to the Double Loop Learning, the decision making can be adapted twofold: (1) by adapting the current mental model of the decision-maker and/or (2) by adapting the decision-making rules.
We are all chasing for a meaningful life, and becoming truly ourselves is a cornerstone of this effort. You would not be who you are today without mentally stretching yourself and learning in difficult situations. Be kind to yourself, and be patient, give yourself time. It has always been a journey, and it always will be. Keep the Cartesian question in mind: “What will happen if I do not act on the situation?” and catch the Creative Tension current!
Special thanks to @Saranya Jeganathan at superpptdesigns for creating the poster based on my manual sketch.
Posted by Piotr Trojanowski