Conclusion Thinking TMP* – rational thinking in an irrational world. By Emily Smart
Given the proliferation of help, advice and outright molly-coddling we have around us, it’s a small wonder anyone ever actually gets to think for themselves. The average person, earning a reasonable income, owning a home and raising a family, has an abundance of sources where they can ‘download’ their issues and get help finding solutions to moral, ethical, physical and mental problems. And if they can’t directly find someone to help, they can seek those that have been in a similar position. From Internet chat rooms, self-help books, documentaries and Dr Phil shows on TV, business coaches, life coaches and NLP practitioners, we have learnt that we don’t have to think through a problem, but can get it sorted by someone else. Whatever happened to good old fashioned problem solving? Thinking it through oneself or (God forbid), having a chat with a mate over a cuppa?
A very good friend of mine used to ring me a couple of times a week with a conundrum. We both acknowledged it was a ‘conundrum’ and I would listen as she told me what the problem was (think, should I organise a play date for my daughter with a child she likes, but I think is a bad influence, rather than, how can we go about bringing world peace?) We would discuss endless scenarios, possibilities and outcomes and actually enjoy the chase of the problem, rather than the fixing of it, which was, in most cases, quite easy. She rang me one day and said she had been googling ‘my mother-in-law is driving me nuts during her 3 week holiday with us’ – it rather beggars belief how something so specific is actually a huge global problem affecting so many. If you don’t believe me, just type in the phrase and see how many people on planet earth have had this issue.
I digress; however, the upshot of our weekly dilemmas was that we usually got there in the end, sorted the problem and giggled a lot about how daft she was worrying about such small things, which to her were actually quite big important things.
It got me thinking, about how we think, and when I say we, I mean women; though probably only some, not all I have to stress. Being completely unqualified in anything other than having a cycling proficiency badge from 1981, and not being the owner of the appendage that makes men different from women physically, I can’t really comment on male thinking. But from years of research involving having my own problems, sharing problems with friends, colleagues and people at bus stops (yes, I am that person that old ladies pulling tartan shopping trolleys come up to and say ‘I’m 82.’), this is how I see that traditional problems unfold. A small issue arises, it festers away into a dilemma, it is fast-tracked to the worst case scenario, a solution to the escalating problem is sought from many sources, followed by a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, worry, guilt, further worry and more guilt (I gather the last two emotions are given to you by the bucket load once you have given birth). A conversation with someone, or an answer from a stranger on Google, or bit of advice from a mate, and the problem can be solved. Example:
My 7 year old daughter has been invited to a friend’s house for a sleepover. I don’t know the parents very well, should I let her go?
1) Google the above sentence. Wow, would you believe thousands of other people have asked the very same question and thousands of people have answered it too.
2) Read through the 27 pages on the subject; cull the responses, getting rid of unrelated related questions e.g. should I let my daughter stay at her boyfriend’s house?
3) Ring a number of friends and ask what they would do.
4) Write a pros and cons list of scenarios (best and worst case).
5) Put your house on the market, sell up and move to a different country in order to avoid dealing with the dilemma.
You could save yourself the hassle and try a bit of DIY problem solving and that is where Conclusion Thinking TMP* comes in. Let’s simplify the process into five easy steps.
What is the problem? Should I let my 7 year old daughter stay at a mate’s house when I don’t know her parents?
What really is the problem? Will my daughter be safe? Are my daughter’s friend’s parents: paedophiles, murderers, alcoholics, drug dealers, religious nut bars (we could be here all night, I’m sure you get the picture).
List the number of scenarios (good and bad) that could happen. Good meaning your kid will have a fantastic time; bad meaning your kid will be traumatised for life.
Now consider which conclusion you want to reach. One would hope you’re saying that you want your child to have a fantastic time, but how can you guarantee they are safe?
How can you reach that conclusion? By giving yourself options: invite the child to your house for a sleepover and make an effort to get to know the other kid’s parents so that the next time your daughter is invited over, you are in a position to be able to know that the parents are responsible.
All very logical. So, am I practising what I preach? Well yes and a little bit of no too.
My problem last week was: Should I go out to the boozer with a mate and her mates (who I don’t know) on a school night?
What really is the problem? Can I trust myself to go out with complete strangers without getting completely shit-faced and making a twatney of myself? Knowing that the kids/animals will be jumping up and down on my head at 6 o’clock the next morning.
List the number of scenarios etc. I am skipping this section because my mum reads this blog. Only occasionally I might add!
What conclusion would I like to reach? To go out for two glasses of wine, be the source of witty banter and leave in time to be home in bed by 10pm.
I’ll canter over the next bit about what I should do, because frankly it’s irrelevant. Needless to say I went out, mixed my drinks, thought shots were a great idea, insulted everyone at the table/bar and had to be frog marched home.
For further information on Conclusion Thinking TMP* and helping yourself to solve your own problems, visit my website at http://www.stopsittingonthefenceyou’llgetsplintersupyourarse.com
*TMP in this instance stands for Trade Mark Pending. It isn’t and it doesn’t.