Context Matters

A lot of people want a formula to live life. They want a plan to follow that helps them succeed, find happiness, and stay safe. The problem with that is that even the most sound advice won’t work all the time because context matters. Take a look at these examples from well known proverbs.

You’re never too old to learn.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Many hands make light work.
Too many cooks spoil the broth.

Look before you leap.
He who hesitates is lost.

The best things in life are free.
There is no such thing as free lunch.

Two’s company, three’s a crowd.
The more the merrier.

Birds of a feather flock together.
Opposites attract.

The truth will set you free.
Ignorance is bliss.

Life is fluid. When you live out of habit, you’re going to get into situations where your actions aren’t functional because they don’t fit the current facts. What works at age ten might not work at twenty-one. What is funny in the United States could be really insulting in China.

So, if you’d like a different tactic to use that does work for all situations, try using the Effective skill. Being Effective is about looking at the whole situation, then doing what is best for the big picture, small picture, and everyone impacted. You will see that sometimes it’s best to go slow and steady, and sometimes you need to make haste. Sometimes it’s more effective to stay quiet (silence is golden), and sometimes it’s more effective to speak up (the squeaky wheel gets the grease). Mental flexibility is a useful thing because wisdom really is situational.

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