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.


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.

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.


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


We were exploring this live at an evening barcamp session with Learning Technologies #LT20UK

And here are my reflections how it went.

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


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.

Identifying your values: Time, money, energy

Values are what underpins a lot of our behaviour. Often, this is unconscious, so looking at what we actually do can help us identify what matters to us underneath.

So, let’s play detective. Let’s look at the patterns that drive what we do.

What do you spend your time on?

When you have a choice, that is. Look at holidays, weekends, things you schedule for yourself, things you can’t wait to do more of. What do these have in common? How do you spend your work week? What sort of activities do you love the most? What are you constantly trying to avoid or to get out of?

What do you spend your money on?

I am not talking basics like food, rent, transportation. Again, look for patterns in your decision making and for interesting outliers. Do you emphasize craftsmanship? Novelty or innovation? Comfort? Learning? Stimulation? High-tech? Exclusivity or brand image? Do you support others (people, causes) and what do they mean to you?

All of these are useful indicators what matters, and how you are already integrating this into your daily life. These are also levers you have to live your values out loud more.

It’s the little actions, the day-to-day decisions that often matter a lot more than the big swooping gesture. The little things are what build a life, a legacy over time. They are also immediately available to change. If you find there is a value that is a bit underserved, try finding ways to bake it into your life a bit more.

Let me know how this goes!

Check out the values worksheet here.
go deeper and get the book.
ping me about how coaching might help. 


YES you may. What are you waiting for?

Should I, should I not… sometimes we balance on the edge of the fence, and we sway back and forth, and then we don’t make a move. And nothing happens.

What are you waiting for? Do you need permission? Who do you need permission from?

We sometimes want the assurance of somebody to tell us things are going to be fine. That we will get there. That we are doing the right thing. A parental omniscient figure with wisdom that is ahead of our own.

As we grow older and more experienced, that person gets rarer and rarer to find (here is a secret: most other so-called adults are also winging it to some degree or another). At some point, this role of the one giving permission is one we have to start adopting ourselves. As the owners of our own lives, we can give ourselves permission. To dream big, to dream at all, to plan and to do. To possibly fail and to try again because the dream is still there. Even if it is a small experiment that brings reality and dream closer together. You may. This is not a dress rehearsal. This is all there is and things won’t implement themselves.

(I am not advocating risky behavior or to breaking rules, procedures and things like that. Personal responsibility applies (that is the adult bit…) I am gently inviting you to challenge an assumption you might have that might hold you back from taking steps to make changes in your life. Coaching can also help with that.)

What have values ever done for us

Your values are one of the things that make you YOU, it’s the stuff you live by, whether you are conscious of it or not. They help you figure out what right and wrong or better or worse look and feel like. They are also among the drivers of happiness (when fulfilled and respected) and your own bespoke version of hell when they are not. All of us have them at least implicitly, and it helps to become a bit more conscious about them.

You are striving to reach a goal (several, probably). Is there a connection between your values and the goal you are working towards? It is infinitely powerful when that clicks. You want that to click. That’s where the magic comes in, where your goals and subsequently your life are starting to feel more and more like you.

They are the most powerful way of sense-checking where you are heading. If you choose option A, what does that do to your top 5 values? “Integrity” is one of mine, and is one of the key filters I run decisions through. If Integrity gets affected significantly, that is not a decision I want to be making as I am not likely to be happy actually living with the consequences. “Freedom” is another strong one, and I tend to be happier with decisions that increase my “elbow room” versus the ones that don’t. Whenever I found myself in gnarly, uncomfortable places, it was usually in violation of one of my core values. They are great indicators. Listen to them.

What is one of your core values? How is this driving what you are looking to achieve?

Check out the values worksheet here.
go deeper and get the book.
ping me about how coaching might help.