stage 02

Become more aware

Here is a link to a page that offers templates that will help you draw a
a fish bone diagram. (opens in a new window)
for fishbone diagrams click here

Here is a PDF file that you can use to help you use the triangle recording tool

Once we have recognised that that we need to change we need to be able to work out the extent or range of the changes that are required. Recognising why we are not blossoming can be a bit of a chicken and egg type situation. Sometimes we can be aware of the influences that have led to us seeing unnecessary limitations. Other times we see limitations that we recognise as being unnecessary and then wonder they were erected at that point. As we have seen earlier, unnecessary limitations can lead us into greater difficulties.

a. Developing self awareness

In stage one we looked at the ways that we could find out what negative statements we believe that limit us unnecessarily. Now we move onto what we can do to change things. The first step is increasing our ability to be aware of our thought patterns and the influence that they have on our behaviour and attitudes. .

When we discover why we are not blossoming we need to recognise that we have a choice whether to allow the situation to continue or not. Sometimes this may mean that we need to separate these ways of thinking from us as individuals. For example, if we say we deserve to be unhappy or that we are a bad person we need to recognise that this is something that we have learned. Who are we to judge ourselves like that?  Surely if we believe in God then it is His decision whether such judgements apply to us. Are we really sure that that is His opinion of us?  Maybe it is time that we asked Him to show us what He really thinks about us. We may be surprised at what happens next. However we think about the situation before we can deal with the inefficient inappropriate ways of thinking that have held us back we need to recognise that those thoughts are not part of the real us. They are a form of wrong thinking that we have picked up along the way and that we need to change.

We need to study ourselves and become aware of what we are thinking and why. This includes watching and listening to what we do and say. We need to recognise our thoughts, our fears, our beliefs, our habits and our actions. It can also be useful to work out the opposites such as what we are not doing. When we are aware of what is really going on we can do something to change the situation.

It has taken time to develop these thought patterns and it will take time to replace them with new more appropriate thought patterns. Things will not change overnight. They say it takes 21 days to develop a new habit. We need to develop new thinking habits.

b. Importance of focus

If the reason for doing something is strong enough then we will do all we can to make it happen. How do we really know why we want to do something?  One suggestion is to find someone who can ask us why and keep on asking why until we have run out of answers. Someone tried this on me in one setting and I found it quite challenging. Here is an example of this process in action.

I want to become wealthy.

Why?

I want to be able to support good causes.

Why?

I see a lot of need around me and I cannot do anything it myself at the moment because I do not have the money but I can create wealth to give to other people who can do something.

Why?

I believe I should be playing my part helping the poor and needy

Why

The church teaches that I should be helping others

Why?

That is what the Bible teaches

Why?

God wants the poor and needy to be cared for.

Now try it yourself. It is more challenging and works better if you do it with another person but it is not impossible to do it on your own. It is supposed to be a problem solving technique where you start with a problem and keep on asking why until you reveal the root cause of the problem. Here you are trying to find out why you want to achieve something in particular.

Once we know why we are doing something then we are more likely to overcome any problems that arise. Our motive needs to be strong enough to carry us forwards through all the trials of life. The most successful businesses are those driven by the desire to serve people rather than just to make money. If the desire is only to make money once the business is bringing in money the focus is lost. If the aim is to serve others then the more that you serve the better and the business will grow and develop.

If the motive is strong then it will be easier to overcome the things that stop us reaching those goals. Someone could want to be a teacher but then find many barriers to doing this but because their desire is so strong, they will find ways of overcoming those barriers and try various alternative ways of achieving the same aim until they find one that works for them.

Some would say that if we have a mission or purpose in life and allow our desire to stay safe to come before fulfilling it then we are being selfish. Ouch if we see a need and do not do what we can to alleviate it, could we really be selfish?  Some people are willing to pay the cost of helping others and face the risks of doing so, yet not everyone does. OK there are so many needs around that it is not possible to meet them all ourselves but if we all play our part and do what we can, then the combined effort will result in needs being met. Many businesses and churches serve people by developing a team that works together to meet their needs. One person is not expected to do it on their own.

In the late 1980s, I saw a small shanty town for the first time. I had heard about such things but had not seen what they were like for myself. My response was God what can I do to help these people. The answer came as “Do what you are called to do and this will help them.”  That surprised me, but I realised that if everyone did all that they could to improve the world there would be a knock on effect so that eventually the needs of everyone would be met. I could not do it all but if I did all that God designed and purposed me to do then I would be playing my part in meeting the needs of others.

c. Some useful tools

There is an example of the “why exercise” earlier on. This is supposed to be a problem solving exercise. With further why we draw on deeper and deeper resources to give an answer. It is a quite simple concept but it can throw up some interesting ideas. It can be a very useful exercise when you want to explore a single issue in depth

Some tools use diagrams rather than words. One comes from the business world. It is used to work out what is stopping us is something that is used in the business world for recording the causes of a problem. It is the fish bone diagram. You start with a problem and make this the spine or backbone of the diagram. The causes of the problem are added to the diagram as lines coming out of the spine. You end up with a diagram that looks something like this.

 

This tool was designed to be used by a team of people as a collaborative exercise. This team would have different viewpoints and may represent different departments within an organisation. This way of looking at a problem draws together a number of ideas together. This makes it a useful way of recording the way a number of issues contribute to the situation.

There is another tool that uses a diagram that is used by people who want to see social problems resolved. The idea here is that the problem is held up by a number of causes and if the causes are dealt with the problem will resolve itself. The problem itself cannot be knocked down because there are so many things that are holding it in place. However, remove or weaken the reasons why that situation has arisen and the problem will be easier to handle.

d. Think what you are doing

This may sound strange. Of course we always think what we are doing but do we? Often we seem to be pre-programmed to react in a certain way and then when the situation changes because we are working on auto-pilot we carry on straight into difficulties. One of the common causes for accidents and mistakes is following a well-worn path and not thinking about what we are doing. Sadly, this happened when people found themselves when a fire broke out at Kings Cross underground station in 1987. Some people were so used to using a particular route that they continued going that way even though it meant going into a dangerous situation. They quite simply could not stop and reassess the situation.

The advice often given in an emergency situation is to stop and assess the situation before making a plan that will help you get out of it. The thing is that we can easily get into a worse situation by not thinking about what is happening. It does not need to be a life-threatening situation for this mechanism to work. If we regularly use two phone numbers that start with the same 6 or 8 numbers it is easy to start writing one down for someone and then when we get to the point where we have to make a choice which variation to use and use the wrong one.

Someone has said that only a fool does the same thing and expects different results. Yet so often we end up following the same sequence of events and end up in the same difficult situation. Learning to stop and think about what is happening around us and why we are doing what we are doing can turn out to be a very useful in a variety of difficult circumstances. Many of us have experienced someone watching us do something and then asking us why we are doing it. What we need to learn to do is bring ourselves to a halt and ask what we are doing and why. It is like having a scene in a film or a play, where everything stops and one character steps outside themselves and has a look around to see what is going on.

Mercifully the ability to stop and think what is happening around us is not normally something that can save our lives but there are times when the ability to stop ourselves from reacting to people who are being unkind or unpleasant can stop a difficult situation becoming impossible. Having an automatic reaction can be useful at times but we need to know when to allow that automatic reaction to continue and when it needs to be stopped. One of the problems is that many of us do not realise that our responses have been determined by previous experiences and accept the situation without question. It is time that we looked more carefully at these kinds of situations and recognised that it is possible to change them.

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