In times of crisis you often hear: we need to go back to basics. A great instinct because most crises are triggered by the fact some model, product, process or habit has stopped being effective. And not because there is something wrong with the underlying intention. For example, when we started to need eight or nine floppy disks to install a program this form of storing digital data started to become obsolete. We can solve the problem by doing more of the same like creating the 3.5” floppy disk and using compression software. But that’s not going to cut it in the long term. We need to go back to basics. That doesn’t just mean simplifying things. It means that we go back to its original purpose: why do we need, in this example, floppy disks?
To go back to our own origin, we need to aks ourselves: why am I doing this again? Why do we make this product? Why is this procedure so important? Why am I using this technology? Why am I friends, with this person or married to this person>? Keep asking ‘why’ after you answer the question. Keep doing that for twenty-three times or so. You get to the bottom of the purpose of your behavior, product, process or the thing you’re using. And it puts you in a position to reshape reality to keep it fresh and aligned with the original purpose.
Betrayal to our previous self?
Answering these questions is particularly hard when it’s about our own behavior. And even harder when it’s about our own thoughts. We often identify with what we do and think. But just like musicians aren’t their instrument nor the music that they play, we are not what we do and think. When we attach too much to our opinions and habits, changing them will feel like we’re betraying ourselves. When we start to realize our thoughts and behavior are like instruments to express what we feel, we begin to loosen up. We become more playful and the energy starts to flow.
We may be changing the tune, but we stay loyal to the purpose. In the example of the floppy disk, we stay loyal to creating something that stores digital data in an efficient way. We don’t betray the floppy disk. We just embrace something that serves our purpose better.
When I coach teams, they often find these questions very hard to answer. The noise of everyday life, old habits and thought patterns prevent them from diving deep under the surface. With some smart techniques, I get them there and they experience the liberation and energy of knowing why and being able to leave old habits behind them and invent fresh, new ones.
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