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. 


Devil’s advocate – your new best friend

We humans want to be liked. We want people to like what we do. It feels great. It also seriously limits the scope for our decision making. To really get a sense of the lay of the land, to analyse, generate options and then come to a sound conclusion, we need as broad and realistic a picture as possible. We need to inject dissenting views into the picture to add more depth and dimension.

There are several ways to do this. One role is the so-called “devil’s advocate”, the person arguing the opposite case. I am deliberately calling this a role, not a person, this is a key distinction. A person can play this role without having to disagree, and you don’t need to invite your biggest adversary to the table if this is not going to be constructive.

Somebody playing devil’s advocate is performing a key service to you, to the quality of the decision making, to the process of the group. You can share this role around. If you are by yourself and don’t have a “phone joker” you can pull (tip: Develop a network of people who can be your “phone joker”), you can also step into this yourself. It might be better to do this with other people. But even doing this all by yourself is still better than not doing it at all as this is likely to surface additional helpful aspects.

How do you ensure balance and diversity of input in your decision making?

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

Meet the values: Craftsmanship

Craftsmanship is how you go about your daily tasks. It involves skill, often physical, acquired through hours and hours of practice until it becomes muscle memory. It also involved expertise, knowing how something is done, which tools to use, what good looks like and what the process steps are to achieve it. And often, it is embedded in a community of practice, a group of people doing similar things, using the same craft, that challenge and support each other and develop the craft as a whole. Medieval trade guilds worked like that.
Nowadays, we seem to have forgotten some of this as a lot of our world has become more and more digital and commoditized. We long for something physical, that shows the touch of the creator. The handmade bowl, the precision haircut, the wooden table, the perfect flat white, the bespoke suit.
Becoming a good craftsman takes time, practice and dedication. Whether you are apprenticing as a hair dresser or as a video editor. Too often, we want the results, but without really wanting to give people the time and space to develop into this, or without the willingness to pay for good craftsmanship.
When craftsmanship is present and valued, it is one of the most beautiful things of human interaction, it is the market working at its best. The craftsperson puts their heart, soul and skills into something, and finds it valued and enjoyed. The compensation they get stems from the other craftsperson performing their craft and getting fairly rewarded. Everyone brings their gifts to the table. Everyone wins. This might be romantic, but just imagine for a minute what work, what life would feel like if this was true. And then go and make it so…
Some thought starters how to bring craftsmanship to life: 
  • What does a day look like that fosters craftsmanship and respect for it?
  • How do you do that bit of work?
  • Does this influence your lunch and food choices?
  • Your after work shopping?
  • How you interact with people?
  • How you seek out and reward expertise?
  • How you respond to and make use of other people’s contributions? The feedback you give, the feedback you receive?

Want to go deeper?

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