The Productive Struggle (post 2 of 3)

What if every element surrounding the problem was off-base?  What then?

At first this question seemed daunting, too daunting. I was spiraling, but I let this thought sink into my mind. Naturally, that led to other ideas and worries, but I forced myself to return to this thought again and again. What if this issue existed because every element surrounding the problem was wrong?  A shaky foundation yields shaky results.

Considering everything to be wrong or off-balance (myself included), I began to look at the issue at the most basic level. I let my mind explore all of the possibilities, and almost instantly my mind stopped racing. I began to slowly sift through anything, everything, that could be contributing to the problem.

For once, I did NOT race to resolve the problem before my car pulled into the driveway. As a matter of fact, when I pulled into the driveway, my mind was at ease, and yet, the problem hadn’t evaporated. I clearly remained in the midst of a formidable struggle.

This slow and steady approach was difficult for me. I have a black and white mentality in this world of gray. To allow this question to remain unanswered for an extended time was, for me, uncharacteristic and disconcerting, but it was at the same time surprisingly helpful and freeing.

That evening and for a while afterward, I continued to question myself— deliberately. Very few things have to be decided immediately, and I gave myself permission to slow down and think.  By allowing every aspect of this issue to be part of the problem, I also allowed every aspect of this issue to lead to the right answer. I was able to sift and reframe. For the first time, I felt I could evaluate without worrying.

By doing so, I moved closer to understanding the problem and resolving it.

I share this car ride of mine with you, because I know many of you have had similarly difficult days. This process allowed me to embrace my struggle rather than battle it, and it turned the difficult into the productive. I realize, that as creatures of habit, we find comfort in our routine and passionately resist change to said routine. What I have learned is that the comfort of habit is outweighed by the opportunity to grow when all things are possible.  I encourage you to make all things possible.

This episode has also led me to realize that most of my struggles are external requests for me to change what I am doing or internal signals that I should alter relationships which are hindering our school’s progress.  Change requires, not only that we act differently, but that we think differently.  I have a profound appreciation for the singular, provocative insights of Malcolm Gladwell.  As I often find, he has a keen observation and fitting insight that served to focus and expand my thoughts in this struggle too. “Transformation isn’t about improving, it’s about rethinking.” Amen.

The gift of conflict is that it allows us to question what we have always done. It offers us the chance to evaluate our perspective and change it when necessary.  It allows us to evaluate the impact of our work. In these stressful moments is opportunity— opportunity to embrace our struggle, reframe our mindset, and change conflict into productivity.  Whether it be internal or external or both, this is where progress is born.

A last thought for tonight— I’m sure you know that the greatest progress and the best answers do not happen in a vacuum. We must share our struggle with others; we must consult and rely on others. That was the final, and the most important, step in this process for me.  I went back to my inner circle. . . and that’s tomorrow’s post.