I’ve been thinking lately about problems. About how very many we all have. For example, every single day we have to wake up and not die. (This message gets cheerier, I promise).
It’s a big problem when you think about it. After all there are so many ways to die: getting tangled in bed sheets; opening a window and falling out. Choking on toast. And if you survive long enough to get out of the house try not to get killed by things like cars. Cats. Cars startled by cats. Cows.
Gah. I think I’ll just stay in bed today cosy among these nice, safe bed shee… oh, wait.
Anyway. Point is. If so many things are perilous how do we manage to get up, navigate each day and end up alive at the end of it?
Think about it: if a friendly alien were to come up to you with a clipboard, requesting a detailed outline of how you plan ahead to avoid all conceivable cat-related fatalities when you leave the house every morning… what would you say?
Exactly. I’d be stumped too.
It’s not the sort of thing one, you know, plans ahead for in detail.
After all, that’s just not how life works, is it? If you and I were to sit down and think about all the myriad of ways that All The Things could go wrong in every area of our lives, and tell ourselves the only responsible thing is to come up with a strategic plan for each and every one of them before we can even get up and get a glass of water… well, then none of us would get anything done, right? In fact you would probably never drink anything again. Our brains are simply not made to process that number of variables.
Yet somehow you have survived every day until now.
So how do we do it? Simple: every day we humans make decisions (often unconscious) about which things to think about, which to account for (wearing a seatbelt – tick!)… and critically, about which things not to let get in the way of getting up and doing things that need doing.
This is how we do life. This is how we achieve the stunning feat of getting up, going out, being alive at the end of the day and still doing things.
We do this every day not by staying mired trying to answer all the possible questions. But by smartly addressing a selection of the right ones for us right now.
So why don’t we do the same when making a change in our lives (or work, or business)?
Ah, there’s the clincher. Let me explain:
How a simple lesson about problems changed my life.
If you have been stuck on some niggly questions in your free range thinking, then consider this: often, it’s not our problems that are problem, it’s getting stuck on the WRONG problems that are the problem.
I came to this idea of the Wrong Problem quite a few years back: that day, I was sitting in a workshop led someone who was well established in what she was doing, running this session for people who wanted to do something similar.
On that day she was answering a lot of questions from the audience – including numerous detailed “what if” and “ok but how do I…” enquiries from one particularly worried audience member.
After a while she was asked a question she wasn’t sure of the answer to: “I’m going to have to look that up and get back to you,” she started…
And then the moment that changed my thinking happened:
She stopped, turned back and said “I just want to remind you before we go on that I have never thought about many of these questions before now. And neither have many other people I know who are leading the way at the thing you want to do.”
She went on to gently explain:
“These are interesting questions, but keep your eye on what you need now – and don’t tell yourself the reason you can’t move forward is because you don’t know an answer to something that other people who have already achieved what you want, and more, didn’t know either!”
To me that was the single most useful thing of the day. Possibly of the year. This person thought the lack of answers to the questions in his head was the one reason he couldn’t move forward, and was going around in circles trying to tick these things off for that reason…. but what if the questions keeping him down were not the right ones?
I can’t remember anything else about the workshop, but that one nugget stood out, shining. Because I think we’ve all done this in some way:
We often think we need answers to specific questions. We spend a long time stuck on those questions (in life and in business).
But what we need first is a guide to what questions we in fact SHOULD BE FOCUSING ON – and equally importantly: which questions to leave behind for another time. Until we do that we’ll never the leave the proverbial house.
(Instead we’ll get caught in analysis paralysis, chasing ever more information and discovering ever more gaps in our knowledge and not finding the darn solution!).
Bottom line: If you’re going to spend time trying to solve a problem that’s important to you (and I suspect you are the sort of person who will)… then let’s make sure it’s the right questions you’re spending time on to get you there.
Because your time, your brain and your life deserve better.
So how do you know if you’re asking the right questions?
In this post (where I release my first ever podcast!) I share 3 smart questions through which to filter your most thorny stuck-points… think of it like a free range sanity check to make sure you’re putting your energy into the right problems so you can get the best solutions with free range thinking on your side.
Click here to listen in – enjoy!
Want more free range thinking in your life?
Drop your name here and watch the magic happen :)