Trash river

This is one of my favorite illustrations of how important it is to match your solution to 1) your actual problem, and 2) your ecosystem. Is their problem that their ecosystem has variable rainfall and the river thus floods at times? No. Their problem is that there’s a landfill upriver that spreads trash downriver when it floods. They can’t change the rain, nor do they need to build the Hoover dam. They had to get creative — and they did.

I also love the excitement in these engineers’ faces as they watch their first attempt to solve the problem of the trash floating down the river when it floods. They deserve to celebrate after such a massive attempt to address this issue!

They are noticing the areas where trash gets through so that they can address those areas before the next flood season. Their next effort will capitalize on existing strengths and troubleshoot the weak spots. That’s the kind of approach that gets things done.

If you are finding that the “typical” or “ideal” solutions aren’t working for you — such as a detailed budget spreadsheet or a calendar booked out to the last 5-minute slot — maybe you should re-evaluate whether that solution matches your ecosystem and your problems. Do you have variable periods of inattention and hyperfocus? Do you find that at some times, such as when you’re stressed, you make impulsive decisions that wreck your best-laid plans? If you find yourself building picture-perfect plans again and again that never actually work in your real life (for more than two weeks), maybe you’re trying to build the Hoover dam when you should have built a flexible fence.

If this is you, what can you do? You can shift your focus from building an “ideal” plan to building a “harm-reduction” plan. Think about what the “trash” is that’s created during those times of flood. Is your “downriver trash” forgetting to pay bills or call friends back? Set up autopay or send a text explanation. You can even set texts to auto-send. Is your “downriver trash” that you begin to be late to work more often than not? Figure out what you can cut out of your morning routine. Just focus on what the most pressing and predictable trash-downriver issues are and try to reduce how much damage they do to your life.

  • Celebrate that you’re trying.
  • Be clear on your strengths.
  • Notice the areas you’ll troubleshoot next time.
  • And then try again.

You’ll have plenty of rainy seasons to work with.

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