The territory

At it’s simplest, the territory of dealing with challenges is about how we see them, how we think about them, and what we choose to do about them.

There’s a lot of evidence now that we don’t see things as they are – we see bits of them through our own filters. We then join the dots to create our own stories about what needs to happen and why. And then we do the thing we feel fits those filters and stories. In other words, we make a lot of stuff up, because it works a lot of the time. The only mistake we make is to believe it’s all true.

As Daniel Kahneman and others have shown, when the situation fits our fast reacting see-think-do sequence, we perform very well. It’s how we get good at things, why we get rewarded and promoted, and how we feel ‘comfortable’ with things. But when we meet a new challenge, we have to do something difficult – release our grip on the way we usually see, think about and do things, so we can experiment with new perspectives, new possibilities and new choices.

And that’s hard. It’s hard because our habits are engrained and feel comfortable, and because it’s hard to see ourselves objectively. What helps is to have tools specifically designed for exploration, some practice in using them, and some guidance about when you need them. The clues I look for are:

  • when I notice what I’m doing makes sense to me, but it’s not having the impact I wanted
  • when I notice people are either not cooperating or actively disagreeing
  • when I notice my instinct is saying it’s time to press pause and reset … and I’m not listening…

When I notice one or more of those things is true (it can often be all three) I’ve developed the habit of pressing pause to explore what’s going on, what direction I want to move things in, and what options I have. It’s become so useful I even named my business after it – The Exploration Habit. At it’s simplest it’s about slowing down the see-think-do sequence, so we’re less controlled by our reactions, and more deliberate about our options and choices. When you’re under pressure to deliver on new challenges, it’s an essential discipline to get better at.

If you’re interested to see how that might work for you, click over to the Map page