The BIG to do list

We have a lot going on, as humans, right now. Climate change, social divides, increasing wealth gap… We do have a fairly large team to work on this though, 7+ billion people and counting…

So, what to do and where to start?

The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) are a good place to start. This has been called “the world’s to do list” and that’s what it is. The big key issues.

Have a look:

The Sustainable Development Goals

Some of these might resonate more with you than others. Some of these might be areas you are already active in. That’s great. Start with that. You don’t have to cover all of them, and not all by yourself. Pick a topic and make a start. Make this part of your work, or find other ways to support this.

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If you are looking for help to align your life better with your values, check out my book “Values-based – career and life changes that make sense” or ping me for a chat.

Things where coaching may help (recent examples)

You might be wondering what sorts of topics show up in a coaching setting, what to bring, what to work on. And if coaching is the right thing. Here are some of the things that have recently come up (in specific sessions, or over a longer process):

  • What do I want to do as a next step (post-corporate career), starting to “scan” for other things
  • How to make a dream a next step
  • Preparing for a redundancy conversation (from a coaching side, I do not give legal advice)
  • Being more visible for senior leaders (and with things that make sense for the future)
  • Channeling frustration into something more constructive
  • Appreciating yourself more and celebrate milestones
  • Showing up as more helpful during times of crisis
  • Being more patient and caring with a new team
  • Work out some base-case scenarios for an anticipated change in role, finances etc
  • Managing stress reactions (e.g. doing everything yourself in times of crisis rather than involving the team)
  • Authentic showing up in times of difficulties

Just some examples. You see these are a mix of very much of-the-current-situation as well as looking into some of the bigger questions that start arising.

Ping me to have a chat if you’re currently mulling over something and would like to get some support, or if you want to schedule a free decision clinic. Also, check out my books to get started.

And if you would like to read more, check these out: 

How to unblock either-or thinking

I support people on making big change decisions, and I also had a few chances for gender diversity conversations recently, and they have – again – been mostly binary. Politics largely seems to be binary, too, as I wrote the first version of this, a politician was being interviewed about an upcoming election featuring two big parties. In a lot of countries, that seems to be the default setup.

We humans seem to like two big bold options. Like that thing as a child where your auntie holds both fists behind her back and you get to choose one. Nice and clear (or so we think). And then we get a bit paralyzed if our two big bold options don’t really fit. Sometimes, things are a bit more complex than “soup or salad”. Big options force us to take side wholesale and puts us in the same group with everyone else on that side. It creates an “us over here” vs “them over there” dichotomy that might or might not actually exist. We then either dig our heels in, or start disengaging. If you watch the news, both things are happening right now. Reality is usually quite a bit more complex than A vs. B, particularly if these two are options that someone else created for you to pick from. This nags at us in our decision-making, politics, gender identity conversations, negotiations and a whole range of other topics, and often this increases our dissatisfaction.

Unblocking the duality of two options is therefore a very helpful practice to broaden your range. You invite options and combinations back to the table that you hadn’t thought of initially, or that got obscured by a binary that was so loud it drowned out everything else. Getting unstuck challenges your flexibility. You won’t have to like everything that is coming up, but it is worth having a look, a conversation, see what this brings up, see what becomes possible.

In my work with individuals and organizations, I often use a framework called Tetralemmaor Catuskoti, with a small addition as 5th position (the star in the diagram). See my TEDx talk here.

tetralemma.jpg

Imagine a square. One corner represents A, the one diagonally opposite represents B (defined as “not A”). The one on the left of the diagonal represents “both”, and the one on the right represents “neither”. Start exploring what that does for the situation you are in. What new things can you discover? How do these positions feel? What is uncomfortable? What is inspiring? What would have to be true for these different options to work? 

Depending on the topic you are exploring and your experiences with it so far, “both” or “neither” or the difference between these two might not immediately be obvious. For example, if you identify as clearly male or clearly female, it might not be immediately obvious to you what “both”/”neither”/”something else entirely” might be like. But for the people identify as one of these, this is real. Life might look and feel completely different and this can offer conversations at a much deeper level of truth and understanding. When everyone has a space to call home in the conversation, it allows everyone to be truly seen. This, in itself, is magic. And it might expand your thinking about your own identification as well.

Whatever you are exploring with this, you might not be able to cognitively map this out all nicely and neatly right away. Stay with the experience, how these make you feel. Stay with the idea, the option, the “what if” and see if you can at least get to some elements of what that could look like in your situation. Confusion and discomfort are good signs. You are discovering new things that you hadn’t previously thought about. That’s why we do this. Then there is the 5th position, “something different entirely”, just to blow open the doors of creativity completely. Don’t gloss over that one, however weird this might seem.

If you do constellation work or are facilitating groups, this works well with the 4 corners of a room, the 5th position can (safely) climb on a table or on a chair or something that breaks the 2 dimensions to make it clear this snaps out of the constraints for everything else. Keep them in the room though.

This is an invitation to snap out of binary either-or thinking and tickles your creativity in re-crafting options and solutions and inviting people back into the conversation that aren’t strictly A or B. The way the world is going these days, we need these conversations and explorations more than ever.

Suggested further reading (mostly in German, unfortunately):
Wikipedia of Tetralemma

Kleve, H. (2011): Aufgestellte Unterschiede: Das Tetralemma in der Sozialen Arbeit. Carl-Auer Verlag, Heidelberg

Varga von Kibed, M.; Sparrer, I. (2020): Ganz im Gegenteil. Tetralemmaarbeit und andere Grundformen systemischer Strukturaufstellungen. Carl-Auer Verlag, Heidelberg

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We were exploring this live at an evening barcamp session with Learning Technologies #LT20UK https://www.tickettailor.com/events/itsdevelopmentalltd/339145#

And here are my reflections how it went.

It was also the basis of what later became a TEDx talk, see it here.

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I work with individuals and organizations in a holistic, systemic and solution-focused way, supporting positive change. Ping me to have an exploratory conversation.

Updated Dec2021 with reading recommendations and the TEDx link.

More questions than answers (that’s the work)

Your look, full of expectations, seeking help, wanting an answer. Your big upcoming decision, the pressure from a deadline or a contract running out. That pain or discomfort seeking release in a better future. So, you say, what should I do? As a coach, that is not the role. Some of the questions might resonate with me as a person, and with my own journey. Some are different. This isn’t the point, this journey is yours, and that is what we focus on. We are not two old friends shooting the breeze in a pub.

So many questions. A lot of them quite universal, along common themes. Staying or leaving? Take the plunge and start that business? How will I find it if I lose my former status (whatever that means)? Should I go back to Uni? How deep will this cut be, are we talking surface-level fixer-upper or big structural engineering work? But I’ve never done that before, what if I fail? How do I deal with the guilt I’m feeling about the change I really want to make? What about the money? What will they think? How do I know…? What if? What if? What if?

The answers are different for everyone, and are likely going to shift over time for you as you start feeling your way into the change, into the new things emerging, into new sides of you that you are starting to live out loud. The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke famously wrote to a young aspiring writer:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Outside of quick, focused crisis intervention that might call for a different approach, a lot of the coaching work is indeed holding the questions and digging deep, finding universal principles (like values), seeing what already works that might be useful, starting to make changes and see how they land. This doesn’t mean long and tedious, this is NOT a long-term subscription. This can come in multiple bursts along a change journey or in all sorts of other ways, alone or in a group. And you won’t be the first on this journey (Rilke wrote the above almost 100 years ago), there are common themes and patterns so you won’t have to reinvent everything from scratch. You won’t be alone on this journey. Take comfort in that. You are doing the work, and the work is doable.

In today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) environment, the work is indeed a lot less about that specific answer that is going to fix that one thing right now. It is a lot more about jointly developing a practice that works for you what to do with all the questions, and how you want to go about doing that based on what you deeply care about. This is part of the work. This is the work. This will then also start helping with that question. And the one thereafter. And the one after that.


And yes, there are books for that 😉
Values-based: Career and Life Decisions that Make Sense.
The DIY Phoenix: How to drag yourself out of the ashes, mend your wings and start flying again. 
Or just ping me for coaching