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Stepping from frozen-in-the- headlights toward what pleases you

Using Design Thinking

I’ve been writing a bit recently about keeping it together when everything seems to be hitting the skids… when, even if you’re doing all the things to build the resilience muscle, taking decisive action can feel overwhelming.

Decisions in this context often feel permanent, whether a life decision or a business decision, they can take on a larger-than-life sense that “This is what i’m going to do forever.” Even though it’s just the next step, or next couple of steps, it can feel like it’s the last decision you’ll ever make.

It won’t be.

And there’s a better, or at least more productive, way to look at things.

Brené Brown, the researcher and author, has said that “resilience is a feeling first.” Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, tells us we’re emotional beings first, thinking beings second — that we are literally feeling our way through the world. And to do a double underscore on the idea, the FIP study put it like this, “Motivated action can be thought of as behavior that is at least partly determined by a desired and hedonically laden end-state.” Hedonically laden. I need that T-shirt.

Let’s sit with that idea for a moment. Feelings first, feel our way through, be guided by what pleases us… that’s how our minds work.

So how can we use how our brains work to help us make decisions under duress?

It’s a leap that is very similar to the leap into design thinking — the leap from plan into action. Jon Kolko, in a great HBR article, basically outlines design thinking like this (i’m super synopsizing):

  • Design brings ideas to life.
  • Design focuses on what people want and need.
  • Design creates an emotional value proposition.
  • Design uses modeling to understand a trajectory through an experience (problem).
  • Design uses prototyping, or trying things out. It experiments (solution).

Even simpler: Design thinking focuses on what people want and need, it’s emotional, and experiential — and it tries things. That’s the bit that is particularly relevant to making decisions under duress.

Prototyping — trying things — is, I believe, the leap into freedom. It’s a dance with what you’re feeling.

Prototyping takes the pressure off of forever, off of being right or wrong; it invites tinkering, and invites you to take notice of what pleases you and what doesn’t.

It’s a step.

When you’re trying things, there is no right or wrong — that’s critique, and that’s a process for a different day. 

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