You’re facing a daunting challenge that consumes your attention—maybe a sprawling work project, a much-neglected commitment, relationship crisis, terminal illness of a family member, etc.
You need something that will bring structure to confusion, light to a mystery, something simple for navigating the complexity.
You need a strategy! It’s vital to moving forward in these contexts.
But Strategies Can Be Simplistic Band-aids!
On the other hand, when the latest 3-step strategy pops up promising you the miraculous if you’ll only implement this simple strategy, you easily find yourself rolling your eyes.
- Your BS meter is triggered.
- You’re dubious.
- Cynicism takes over.
No way are you allowing yourself to succumb to a marketer peddling strategies that promise transformative outcomes to entrenched problems. At least this is the story my mind tells me in this situation.
“The Strategy” Dilemma
There you have it! We long for strategies and resist them. They entice us and we distrust them.
Something in you knows strategies can be valuable, yet you’ve also experienced their deception.
No worries—you’re right, both are true. Embrace the complexity and the irony. Trust that you can discern when to embrace strategies and when to ignore them.
I find the contradiction diminished when I view a strategy as a tool with a specific purpose and not an approach to living.
Simplicity Meets Complexity
Of course, strategies serve many different specific purposes. Yet fundamentally strategies are intended to simplify and spur action.
- Simplicity is vital in situations that are complex and confusing.
- Action is the way forward when resistance and procrastination have stalled your action and even hindered your desire to act.
Envision a strategy as kindling—fuel intended to get you started! When you need an entry into something uncertain and difficult or a beginning step to something that will require many more steps, a strategy is the perfect tool.
If you’re looking for a situation filled with confusion and resistance in need of clarity and action, notice any Practiced Patterns of behaving or thinking that continually sabotage you. Any of those come to mind? Maybe you’re avoiding all matters related to your finances or a struggling relationship. Perhaps the daily news regularly fills you with rage and/or fear, but you can’t seem to get enough of it. A strategy is going to be essential for taking action and changing these and similar Practiced Patterns.
Two Fun, Simple, & Powerful Strategies:
I frequently find myself executing a most unhelpful Practiced Pattern linked with my perfectionist tendencies. When deciding what to do, I can quickly get mired sorting through all the possibilities for “the best” thing to do in this moment or the “correct order” in which to tackle my long lists of intended tasks. I’ve watched an entire unscheduled Saturday with endless possibilities slip away into regret as I futilely attempted to craft some impossibly perfect day.
When I notice these and other similar patterns of resisting or getting stuck in a perfectionist loop of analysis-paralysis, it’s time for a strategy. My two favorite, simple strategies for just these situations are (1) the roll of the dice and (2) the timer. The two strategies work beautifully together and separately!
The Dice (technically “die” since I only use one):
- First, quickly list tasks that would be valuable to complete or the fun activities that would be possible this weekend. Limit the list to your top 6 possibilities.
- Second, assign a number from 1-6 to the items listed. If the list has fewer than 6 items, simply assign several of them 2 numbers.
- Third, roll the dice! Simple! The dice chose your next action. When you accept the choice given to you by chance and get busy, the resistance and confusion melt away!
- Exceptions Allowed: The ONLY purpose of this strategy is to loosen the resistance and make a decision. If you resist the choice of the dice and have a strong inclination to another one, go for it. The strategy still worked by helping you choose and move!
- First, to further facilitate getting started in this and other contexts, set a time for 6-21 minutes. The odd lengths of time are valuable to avoid estimating and not setting the timer. The length of time depends upon your current level of resistance and the nature of the task. No big deal. Just choose.
- Second, once you set the timer, the task in front of you gets your undivided attention. Work, with focus, only on that task for that time limit.
- If you want even more specifics on this fantastic and versatile strategy, check out The Timer: A Simple Strategy for Complex Challenges.
Caution: Strategies Best Use Temporarily
Strategies work best as a temporary tool. So, be cautious about their overuse. Strategies to simplify complexity, when relied on repeatedly, will create new problems. Instead of an entry point into the web of confusion, the overused strategy can become another way of masking and compounding existing difficulties. For example: Creating a well-crafted question to initiate a difficult conversation may be a wise strategic step but scripting your portion of a difficult conversation would be disastrous. Much as using a temporary pain reliever is a valuable strategy for dealing with acute pain, but a very poor one for long-term use.
This inclination toward overreliance on a simple strategy for a complex problem contributes to the cynical interpretations of strategies. This cynicism in turn may discourage future use of a simple strategy when that could very well be the most valuable option.
Strategies are simple, designed as a clear, easy approach for spurring action. Don’t lose sight, however, of why you’re using a strategy. Strategies are intended as a temporary tool to initiate action regarding the core issues surrounding tangible and abstract challenges. They are not quick fixes for complex and entrenched problems. Whether you’re struggling with how to manage your appointments with an electronic calendar, repair a relationship, or plow through resistance to facing uncertainty, a strategy can offer clarity and much-needed initiation energy. When you step into that use of a strategy, the consistent action you begin to take will lead you to each next right action.
Photo by Zhuo Cheng you on Unsplash