“How did I wind up here again?” We’ve all had the experience: a bad situation keeps repeating itself. Maybe it’s a confrontation with a particular person that keeps coming up and going badly. Maybe it’s the feeling of being overloaded by routine administrative work again — even though you cleared it out last week. Maybe it’s seeing a project fizzle to a stop again. You keep gearing up on it, taking a step, and it never gets any momentum.
When you are feeling “deja vu all over again,” chances are you are “flailing” on the task. Flailing means trying the same approach again and again, without getting a different result. When this happens, you always need to step back, and change something farther back in the process. The mistake is always a few steps back, not right before you get in the mess. Here are a few ways you can take some steps back:
- Ask the experts — they often know a better way to approach problems. For example, there are great books on how deal with confrontation — and they all involve doing preparation before the confrontation occurs. (One I like is Difficult Conversations by Stone et. all.)
- Use a creativity process. Brainstorming and other creative processes are designed to help you generate alternatives. Brainstorming comes in many forms. A good book on it is: The Leader’s Guide to Lateral Thinking by Paul Sloane.
- Sometimes you can just experiment. Write down how you always do the task. Then systematically change the process piece by piece to see what makes a difference.
The bottom line is: when you are flailing (doing the same thing, again and again, and expecting a different result), you need to stop what you’re doing and make a radical change.
Unless you like having deja vu all over again.