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I've gotten a bit stuck
...so I'm going to blog about it
Kia ora, and welcome back to A Nature Fix. Nice to see you again.
You may have noticed that it’s nearly seven weeks since my last blog – making a mockery of my fortnightly writing aspiration. That’s because I got very stuck, and I still am. So this blog is about that.
One of the things that I find useful about writing is it helps me to reflect on what I’m seeing and learning. It helps me start to make sense of things, distil insights and crystallise a way forward. It can be helpful when I’m stuck. And if I’d been stuck with just one thing, blogging earlier could have helped, but I’ve been stuck on a few fronts.
I’m sure I’m not alone in finding ‘stuckness’ difficult. When I use the word stuck, I mean the kind of situation where you are working through something and the next step isn’t obvious, and there are no options, or there are lots of options, or there is only one option and it’s very undesirable.
Let me illustrate. I’ve been working through the Acumen Academy Systems Practice course (it’s very good. I find it a useful framework and I’ve learned a lot). My framing question has been ‘What accounts for the limited use of solutions that address both the climate and biodiversity crises?’. I got through identifying feedback loops, having workshops with very accommodating friends and colleagues, and then when it came to developing an actual systems map, I just… stalled.
What all the interviews, conversations and workshops made me realise was how many forces are at play. In trying to map this system I ended up looking at policy development, policy implementation, funding, enforcement, laws, voluntary efforts, financial mechanisms, communications, motivations, mindsets, worldviews, Te Ao Māori approaches to name just a few. Trying to finish the map in this form is the obvious option – but utterly undesirable. It feels like I would be trying to boil the ocean.
Looking at it again, I’ve had to wonder if I set the boundaries of my enquiry too wide. And this leads me to my second point of stuckness. One of the earliest insights from my original framing question is that siloes, and siloed thinking, result in us treating climate change and biodiversity loss as separate issues. These issues aren’t typically looked at in an holistic way. But as soon as I think about narrowing the boundaries of my enquiry, I worry that I wouldn’t be looking at the issue in a sufficiently holistic way, and will end up with something unhelpful and siloed. And I get stuck again.
Yes. I’m aware as I read back over this that I am probably over-thinking all of this. But the perfectionist, ‘I want to get it right’, analytical, good-girl is a force that is strong within me.
And that’s where the learning is for me at the moment. Mapping systems is a process of engaging with complexity. It’s messy and incomplete. And systems are constantly evolving and changing, so there’s no end point.
It means that many of the behaviours that I’ve leaned heavily on in the past to get things done can be more of a liability than a help (sticking to a process, going at pace, seeking certainty, finishing etc), and I’m having to learn to tolerate uncertainty, messiness, trying things and doing them badly, allowing something to be good enough and seeking progress and not perfection.
This all sounds a bit earnest and worthy, so I want to reassure you that I build in plenty of fun, which for me is about connecting with other people. I’ve spent time with many passionate, clever, ambitious, disruptive, innovative people who are doing great stuff or having dangerous ideas, and that makes me feel quite optimistic. And it helps me tolerate the stuckness, which I will get through. But if in the meantime you want to share how you navigate stuckness, I would love to hear from you.
Thanks for sharing my pain.