There is a small fable that goes like this – Ramu is a 10 year old kid and his big challenge in life is to climb the giant guava tree in their small garden. With its numerous and complicated branches, the guava tree made it difficult to access the ripe fruit which almost always seem to be on the higher and farther end of its top branches. He could ask his father or his older brother for help and get them to pluck the fruit for him, but where was the fun in that?
However every time he tried to climb and his nervous grand mother was around, he used to slip and barely make it to the second branch. And while his father was around he used to successfully climb a couple of branches up and get to the fruit that he wanted, gaining confidence with each branch that he conquered. And the reason for this was simple, every time Ramu tried to step up a branch, his nervous grand mother would scream “careful son, you will fall” and fall he did. While his father would stay close and calmly say “… just look at that branch to the right, grab on to it first before you lift your feet…now look at the one to your left, I am right here, you will not fall…”.
The challenge being the same, the theme of the fable goes – “If you focus on constraints first, you will most certainly hit them first, instead, focus on (taking the ) next step”
The guava tree climb challenge quite commonly manifests itself in the ways of thinking (WOT) in our day to day activities – taking up a new task(the one not done before especially), making a presentation to a new group, setting up a learning target for the next six months, committing to a fitness challenge, walking to the next zone to coordinate with a neighboring team (instead of email) and so on.
In all of these, what is immediately visible in the WOT are multiple constraints(branches) getting in the way of seeing what is the end goal (the ripe guava fruit). The “what-if-i-slip” is always around the corner and so “is-it-worth-the-effort”? And there is a tendency to say “not possible because of…” rather than “quite possible if we start with…but need help here…and there…”
I have a good friend at work who often says, “I have so many things to do right now, I don’t want to think about all of them at once, I am just focusing on the next step and see where I get”
As many experienced practitioners say – stepping back (or pausing in place) and looking at where to place the feet next and committing to inch closer to the goal is better than thinking long and hard about the constraints. Of course having someone around that keeps reassuring is a bonus.
And what if we extend this slightly and start seeing each other’s constraints (branches to climb) and take turns reassuring!