Initiative 2 – Create a Safe Environment for Reflection

By Paul R. Scheele Ph.D. | Transform

In this blog we explore the second of six initiatives that transform individuals and organizations.

Initiative #2: Create a safe environment for critical reflection.

Once we have revealed the disorienting dilemmas (see the prior post on Initiative #1) we recognize that maintaining the status quo, and the comfort zone it used to provide, no longer works in our best interest. In essence we have to step out of our own comfort zone. Making  it safe to do so is what the second initiative is all about.

The Challenge

Our daily ongoing choices help keep us in our comfort zone, maintaining the status quo through habits of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Many of those habits have been established unconsciously and uncritically as a by-product of growing up in our culture, or through trial-and-error we discovered the best practices to have our lives work effectively. Habits can die hard, even when those habits are not serving us. In fact, in the Declaration of Independence it is written,

“…all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

Critical reflection begins to examine those choices, habits of expectation, ways of making sense of the world, and processes of problem solving to determine if they are serving us. If they are not serving us, it is time to move on.

Safe Enough

A safe environment means that we are comfortable enough to step out of our comfort zone to honestly look at our role in maintaining the status quo. The potential distress we might feel needs to be kept tolerable and focused on leaning into the challenge rather than finding ways to reduce our stress or feelings of anxiety.

First we need to welcome the dilemma that is rocking our boat. If we don’t welcome it we will resist it—and what we resist persists. Our tendency is to avoid the discomfort of facing problem issues. Instead try welcoming the issue and the feelings that come with it. Welcome the thought and feeling that you have to do something about the problem. Welcome the sense that it is about you personally. Then, let it all go. Welcome and then release your concerns for now. This dilemma will be resolved in an innovative way through the steps that follow.

Second we need to embrace the dilemma in order start adapting and make the changes needed. To fully embrace a problem we need to feel physically and emotionally safe. Since we would naturally rather stay safely within our comfort zones, we need to create a way to extend our feeling of safety while stepping outside of the old and familiar. To feel physically safe, breathe and feel—right now—that you are okay. Take a small step forward and realize you are still okay. Progress is made one step at a time. You always have what you need to make a small step. Do that and you will continuously realize you are physically safe. You will boost your self-confidence with each step you take.

To feel emotionally safe, recognize that you are not alone, and that you are appreciated. It helps to create a support community around you that can encourage and cheer you on. Consider building a “master mind” group or a community of practice that you can call upon for additional guidance. Hire a mentor or coach who can walk beside you as you confront the confusion, chaos, and disorientation that can emerge when treading on new territory. It is helpful to speak with others who have already explored the path you are just beginning to discover. You will learn to trust yourself and naturally strengthen your self-esteem.

If you are in a leadership role, consider being a mentor to your team members around specific projects they undertake. Encourage team members to create peer-coaching relationships and become accountability partners on key activities.

Move Forward Today

When you believe you have what it takes, that you are physically and emotionally safe enough, it is more likely you will take the steps to discover solutions to your dilemma. Your self-confidence and self-esteem will grow as you explore your possibilities and discover new choices you had not considered before.

Creating a safe environment for you and your team is a pre-requisite for creativity and problem-solving. Only when we feel safe enough to learn   from our mistakes, problems, and failures will we break the gravitational bonds of the status quo and soar to new heights.

You’ve heard that learning is often “two steps forward, one step back.” In sewing, there is a special stitch used to attach a sleeve to a shirt body that takes two stitches forward and one stitch back. This stitch produces both strength and flexibility. If you create a safe environment for your daily learning, you will continuously generate greater strength and flexibility. You will gain the capacity to move forward and confront difficult problems whenever they arise.

Think of an area where you can create greater safety to explore deeply into a dilemma you need to confront. In what ways would you like to become stronger in the process?

In our next blog post, we will explore the third initiative to transform individuals and organizations. In it, you will discover the most reliable methods to inquire more deeply and effectively into the dilemmas that face you and your organization.

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© Paul R. Scheele, Ph.D. | Scheele Learning Systems | All Rights Reserved