Reflections on adopting new thinking tools and approaches

About a month ago, I committed to a disruptive change in my approach and process for development of an outcome. It has been difficult to change one’s habitual ways of thinking and doing. I had to write down the new rules of engagement in order to keep referring to them as a means to keep me on track. Like muscle memory, it is only with practice that one can replace old habits with new, even those for thinking and not simply doing.

There have only been upsides to this effort, that much I can say. The rewards have completely outperformed the effort, even though at times it feels challenging to use new thinking tools and struggle with new ways of sensemaking and processing. I’m learning that discomfort is a sign of transformation and growth, and also learning to hold on tightly to this new way of looking at things so that I do not find myself slipping back to the comfort zone of the old habitual ways.

These old ways might be comfortable only because they were habitual, not necessarily because they were the best approach to problem discovery and problem solving. The new ways feel like climbing a unbroken cliff but whenever I have managed to put them into practice for long enough to effect a change, however minor, the outcome has been exponentially better than those from the old approach.

It is too easy right now to find a ledge on the cliff and simply rest from the efforts of the past month, satisfied with arriving halfway up. And satisfied with the minor changes and improved outcomes of the new process. This is the dangerous moment. There was a reason for the change in the process, and change in thinking tools, and that reason has not yet been satisfied.

One must recommit to seeing the process through, and reflect and recommit to it every morning if necessary until the intended goal has been achieved. Otherwise the entire effort of transforming one’s approach is moot. Assuming one can pause in the process is no better than giving up.

Here, the concept of resting from the effort is that which will emerge once the process of transformation is complete. And, the new habits will become the eventual comfort zone. That will only come from continued practice. Discomfort with remaining committed to the novel, therefore, must become a signal of continued commitment to progress, and not something to be relieved.

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