Potential: How flexible are you?
Condition 1 in the 6 Conditions of Change
Our first condition of change is Potential. Not everyone is open to change, you see? Ever heard the phrase, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink?
As the world moves to more chaos, and complexity rises like our sea (😕), we move toward a system of many different needs, values, and aspirations. It would make sense for us to be able to move between these right?
Potential is divided up into three “states”, depending on how “open” you are to other ways of thinking (or color systems).
- Open: Healthiest. Readiness to accept new modes of being
- Arrested: Caught up with the current way of life, and the Barriers present (more on Barriers later)
- Closed: Unhealthiest. Blocked entirely by life conditions, and lacks flexibility
Open: “Going with the flow”
To be “open” in terms of one’s potential, means there is flexibility for more complex levels of functioning to happen. For you psychology buffs out there, this could correlate to the “Openness” of the Big 5.
Being open is the healthiest form, with the individual/organization/country adapting and shifting as the surrounding world changes. In our image above, we jump on a boat to escape the rising tide, able to move wherever we please.
Someone who is open does not hold a sharp picture (aka: a strong frame). They deal well with Barriers, as they are able to move outside the current way of thought, dodge things, or think about how to turn the situation around.
Open people/entities have great listening skills, are non-judgmental, tolerant of differences, and lack close-mindedness. Generally, they’re pretty bad-ass people 😎.
Healthy, flexible, and anticipates change. Adapts when needed
The power of “openness” comes from it’s anticipation that things will change. There is an “elasticity” between perspectives, and they’ll often engage in multiple colors.
This is the ideal place for us to all be, but it takes a LOT of work, and is something we must constantly be vigilant on. Lest we become…
Arrested: “Don’t rock the boat”
For most of us, this is the default mode (unless we work really hard to be otherwise). Change can occur, but only if our Barriers are overcome. Also, we need more Dissonance, as we become more “entrenched” into our current way of life (not a problem for Open).
Arrested people/companies/countries may also lack Insights to explain what is happening. As a result, an Arrested entity will make excuses for the status quo, reluctant to change things. They will come to grips with the Barriers, as opposed to working with, changing, or transmuting them in Open.
If you catch yourself saying:
- “Let’s do what we can with what we have”
- “I’ll change one of these days
- “Stick with the tried and true”
- “I’ve come to peace with it now”
There may be a chance you’re a touch arrested in how you’re approaching the situation.
Identifying the Barriers, teaming up with others, and finding innovative ways to approach your problems could help increase your openness.
If we chose to remain arrested, expect little movement towards more complex thinkings. Efforts will instead be placed toward refining and working harder/smarter, versus a fundamental shift of thinking and approach where things are more open.
New life conditions (org changes at work, new tax laws, natural disasters, breakups, etc) pose much more disruption for someone who is Arrested. They generate more anxiety, and uncertainty, as the “fixed” way of life is forced to change.
To extend our metaphor of the image above, the house on the island is quite stationary. Although we are fairing better than the drowning, Closed, figure, when the sea eventually rises we will be envious of the “S.S. Open”. Unless we re-address the fundamental relationship to our problems, we’ll just keep building higher, and higher, eventually ending up in…
Closed: “Life sucks, and it’s NOT my fault”
The Barriers are high in a Closed state of mind. If we ignore the warning signs, and slip from Beta into the Gamma Trap, they will grow higher still. It’s not a great place to be.
There are a number of places a “Closed” perspective may come from:
- Historical trauma that created incredible, negative meaning towards something
- Refusal to identify and address the issues one is experiencing before it’s “too late”
- Strong social/parental conditioning (passing on fears and beliefs to children is sadly very common)
- Physical ailments or damage (unfortunately preventing the individual to progress developmentally)
What little flexibility we had in Arrested is now completely gone. The confusion, and uncertainty of Arrested give way to anger, hatred, panic, violence, suicide, depression, and a range of other nasties. Someone who is Closed feels threatened by just about everything that’s not “my perspective”, and will fight tooth and nail to protect the failing way of life.
If we observe, again, our metaphor, the individual has sand-bagged himself on a sinking island. Refusing refuge from the “Open Boat,” and too late to build a house, he remains trapped in his condition until he either changes, or drowns.
Grim, much 💀?
The danger of Closed minded thinking stems from it’s inability to see the Barriers. Much like the power that Openness receives from it’s flexibility, the opposite is true for Closed thinking. Closed perspectives are often exhibited by an overactive, single color that feels threatened by introduced circumstances.
Here is what to watch for in yourself and others to identify a Closed perspective:
- “My way is the only way a rational person would think”
- “This is all there is”
- “I can’t think of any way to solve this”
- “It’s done for”
- “Everyone else is wrong”
- “Why can’t you see my view?”
- Constant doubt (“Do you really love me?”)
- Every idea washed with the same color
- Irritable quickly under stress
- Completes things to extremes
- Builds a shell to hide in
Inability to see Barriers, shuts down, avoids all change, and fights to stay put.
A Closed perspective will usually collapse in on itself, unless supported by others inflicted with the same thinking. Groups of closed-mindedness can clump together, dig trenches, and try to “take on the world”. Take, for example, how the Samurai of Japans dying feudal era resisted against western ideas. Instead of adapting, integrating, and merging into the modern world, they fought to the last man, and are no more.
Open for Business: Using “Potential”
What do we get when we assess the “potential” of some thing, or some one?
The greatest benefit is we may now identify the probability that it/we/they can change.
If they are Open, then the probability is high.
If we are Arrested, the Barriers need to be identified that are creating walls, and the Dissonance volume may need to be turned up (make them sweat it 😓).
If it’s closed, then deep thought should be given to whether it’s worth trying to change it or not. This may sound drastic, however if Potential is low (Closed), and the fortifications are up, it may be more trouble than it’s worth.
Once we can read the Potential, we may also assess the required energy to shift the system. This can be critical at an organizational level to determine if resources should be placed in re-directing the current way of things, or investing energy into something else.
Potential will also give us insight into the stress produced from changes (side-effects). We additionally learn how much can be changed, and in what ways, and to what degree.
Potential is just one of the Six Conditions of Change. It is arguably one of the most important condition needed for enabling a shift, and provides valuable information on how receptive and flexible we/they/you are.
So next time, before jumping into that new exercise routine, company structure, or country, have a look at your own Potential. Are you Closed in some areas, and Open in others? Where could you be more flexible? What is holding you Arrested, limiting your options?
(Next up, we’ll take a look at Solutions)[/articles/6-conditions-of-change/solutions/], and how focusing on where we’re at can make all the difference.