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Michelle James : 7 Reflection Tools for Navigating the Unknown

7 Reflection Tools for Navigating the Unknown

By Michelle James

1. Change the lens you use for seeing the unknown.

Do you see the unknown something to be feared, challenged, dealt with, managed or overcome? Or is it something to be navigated, explored, embraced, cultivated, or expressed? If you think of facing the unknown in your work what thoughts and emotions come to mind? What metaphor? A beast to be tamed, a wave to be surfed, a game to be played? How we perceive the concept of this unfolding future we call the unknown determines how easily we navigate it.

2. Consciously engage uncertainty.

Whether we like it or not the unknown has now become our working partner. By actively engaging the unknown in small ways at first — such as with a low-risk/high-ambiguity project — you develop the essential skills to work with it in larger high-risk/high-ambiguity arenas. What would it take for you to go deeper into situations, pushing past what you currently know, before going forward? It feels counterproductive in our fast-paced culture, but by taking the up front time to go deep and explore multiple dimensions, next-level solutions begin to reveal themselves.

3. Allow the process to be messy.

When we start consciously exploring unknown, there is a period of time where logic, order, and organization are put on hold as we get into the unearthing of new information. It can seem illogical, nonsensical, and even foreign-sounding as it emerges. Like all births, new directions are not necessarily tidied up and pretty as they enter the world. Similar to a baby being born, the ideas, structures and systems that emerge from the unknown space can look unrecognizable at first. The task it to continue to draw whatever shows up forth, amidst it messiness, until the new order emerges. There is a natural, self-organizing system at play in every emergent situation. How much time and space do you give to ideas to go formulate?

4. Actively leave the familiar. Just because something worked for one group in one situation doesn't mean it is necessarily repeatable.

Look back to the past for what is relevant to the new situation and bring it with you. Leave the rest behind. It is in our nature to seek the shelter of the familiar even if we know it is no longer serving us. Leaving what is comfortable and not working to dip into the "empty space" to draw forth the new is challenging. Do you have compassion for yourself (or others) when you are frustrated, overwhelmed and feel like you hit a wall?

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