Every day people ask me, “How do I…” Fortunately there is a formula for this. It’s very simple. It’s information + mindfulness + application = effectiveness. Let’s walk through this to see how it works.
When you’re dealing with something that you don’t know how to do, solve or understand, the first thing you need is information. The better your information, the easier it will be for you to be effective.
What information? Well, that depends on what it is you need to know to get from the problem state to the resolution state. If you need to know how to replace the water filter in your refrigerator, you will need to know what size filter you have, how to remove the old one, and how to install the new one. Some questions you might ask yourself to figure out what information you need are:
- what am I trying to do? Or what is my end goal?
- how do I get from the starting point to the end point?
- what tools do I need?
- do I need any assistance? Who can I ask?
- are there any skills I need that I don’t already have?
Mindfulness comes into play because it helps you to discern whether your information is valid and useful. If you are doing something concrete like replacing the water filter, this usually isn’t a problem. If you are dealing with interpersonal issues, can be! Why? Because things may not always be what they seem.
For example, if I think “He doesn’t like me” that’s my opinion. Unless he actually says it and his words are a reflection of his true feelings, I can’t rely on that information. It’s not a valid. It’s not useful. If I apply mindfulness to the equation, things could change significantly.
Mindfulness looks at what can be observed. So, if I observe that he responds politely when I initiate contact, but initiates none of his own; his conversation sticks to superficial topics; he’s never said he likes me; and he has never asked me out, well that’s information that can be used to draw an effective conclusion. Looking at it this way, you might ask yourself, “Is it reasonable to believe that there is no interest there on his behalf?” It sure looks that way to me!
You may also ask, “Are his words a reflection of his feelings?” If his words are polite and superficial, you may be able to talk yourself into believing that there is a chance. However, if you look at the fact that he doesn’t initiate contact and hasn’t asked you out, the whole picture is skewed in the direction of the friend zone. Doesn’t that make the picture clearer?
Application is about using the information and mindfulness to address your issue. If you are replacing the water filter cartridge, you just take the old one out and put the new one in. If you are clarifying whether or not someone likes you and decides that he doesn’t, you respect his boundaries. Without application, you can’t have effectiveness. Knowing something isn’t enough. You have to use it to be effective.
So why is effectiveness a goal? Well, people are really creative at problem solving. We have all kinds of ineffective ways of dealing with things. For example, we might overeat to avoid intimacy or feel good. We might drink too feel more socially comfortable or avoid feeling pain. We may work too much to avoid our home life.
Those are legitimate strategies that can meet our end goals, but they come at a high price. This is why they aren’t effective. Being effective means that you meet your needs, don’t create any problems for yourself or others, and you meet your short term and long term goals.
The other thing about effectiveness is that once you start to think in this way, you become more and more effective in all that you do. Then life gets easier and more enjoyable because you have fewer problems, more connection, more time, etc. Life is just better. So it’s well worth it to put this formula into practice. Go for it!