Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Understanding individual uniqueness and complexity is the only true way to finding permanent solutions

That's a pretty bold statement and yet for me it's always the one that's always held true. My career of the last 8 years has basically revolved around fixing all manner of problems. Some large, some medium and many small. Many times the best fix for a big problem to solve the little problems. Afterwards the big ones often solves themselves over time.

When it comes to understanding my own life and gaining my own happiness and balance within my diet, my day and my life I've found the same approach works wonders. I obsess about small problems because I know that the knowledge and experience I gain from addressing small problems like how to have just one meal in the day that is wholesome at all levels:
  • Mind: I love its tastes and texture so I am feeding my craving for good foods and experiences. It's easy to make and quick so I don't get frustrated or bored
  • Body: It's nutritionally balanced and has a great balance of fresh less processed foods with maybe a few processed ones for speed and ease so it doesn't take too long to make
  • Soul: I feel like I'm indulging myself yet I know that's it's actually the best thing for me so no guilt, just pleasure.
By proving it's possible to have just one meal that's just right and only having it once a week I then know that in time I'll use what I learnt to improve more and more of my meals. I can now take my time and feel confident because I always have this one meal that proves that I can do it.

Right now roasts, certain soups and other dishes all come into this category for me. I've learnt lots of little skills that add up to a solid base to make lots of meals exciting, wholesome and filling

How did I solve this one problem. I looked at my life as a whole.
  • I'm a busy guy. Sometimes because life forces it on me i.e. busy at work, changing job, commuting etc sometimes I force it on myself playing lots of tennis, lots of socialising, helping some one out.
  • Resource: I don't have the time or money to just buy all the pre made food and to be honest I don't always like it best.
  • I like to cook: Yep i do. Not everyone does but I used to cook a lot of desserts with my mum so I associate it with good times and I like putting ingredients together and trying the end result
  • I like to learn: That's me. I can easily take it too far but if I keep that in check and just learn simple things like soups, roasts, mashed veg etc that don't take so much skill or time that's great. I can learn difficult things when I feel the need
  • I get bored very quickly: I'll be obsessed with anything for a short period, say a month or two, then I'll get bored really quickly. That's just the way I am. I'll come back to it in time with renewed vigour but I have to accept this and only make short term plans
Ok there's obviously lots more I could describe about myself but hopefully I made the point that I am the way I am. To find a permanent solution to a problem I need to accept that I will be half of the problem and so I must take myself and my lifestyle into account when trying to fix the problem.

Solve problems daily
Again on projects I've found the easiest way to get the job done well is to just get used to solving problems on a regular basis often daily. Each problem may be completely unrelated to the next, the point is that the general skills involved in fixing skills as what will help you in the long term and they really are worth learning and keeping honed.
  • Step back and see the whole issue: You need clarity of mind to see what needs to be done
  • Keep calm: When you're frustrated, rushing or angry you never see things for what they are so you never fix problems quickly
  • Be ready to learn and seek advice, preferably from an expert: Some times you can't see the problem or solution because your knowledge and experience aren't enough. I didn't know why my roasts weren't 'roasting' until I read about the Maillard reaction that only occurs above around 160 degrees celsius. Once I learned that I fixed the problem
  • Be patient: I have the few that I haven't found anything I can't fix, I just haven't had enough time. It sounds funny but I've learnt time and again that if I'm persistent I'll get there eventually
  • Be prepared to drop it: Some times you're too close, you've been working too long with out a break. Walk away and do something else for a while, maybe for a day. Come back with a fresh mind. So often I've just come back and fixed the problem there and then
  • Be prepared to try lots of solutions: You don't always need to but don't get fixated on one approach. I've gotten used to trying all sorts of ways and I've learnt how to do this quickly. It pays off in the end since I always find an answer
Again I could go on but I don't want to overwhelm. I've really been doing this all my life I've just been doing it professionally for 8 years. I just find this probably the most useful single skill I have because it complements all others and it means I have the confidence that I will get there eventually no matter my starting point.

Understanding the whole
So why have I focused on problem solving. Well perhaps the best way to explain it is that losing weight, getting healthy, finding out which lifestyle is going to make you happiest and healthiest is the problem many people set themselves. The real problem is that it is a massive task that pretty much lasts your whole life. There's no clear answer and you only know you've got it right by the time you've popped your clogs. Not good odds and there's an overwhelming amoutnb of info out there to help (confuse) you and how are you supposed to figure out what to go with?

Yep that's about the size of it. When I came to this conclusion I thought sod all the info then. There's just too much. Bearing in mind I have A levels a degree and a bunch of experience in the area and I still learn all sorts of new things daily I don't know how anyone else makes sense of it.

Well in terms of my project work I still have to deliver. Just like we still have to eat and drink. So I've learnt that you can only do the best you can at any given time. If you were off sick for two weeks during a project you can't ask the client to extend his deadlines. No you have to find a way to deliver so you either
  1. find a way to deliver all the features on the date yourself
  2. get help but incur the cost
  3. persuade the client to accept slightly fewer or features or features with less functionality
those are basically your options. That';s what it can be like professionally. That's life isn't it. Many times I've chosen option 1 and just thought of it as a learning challenge. With the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention I have repeatedly surprised myself to find that I do find a way to deliver the same level of features to the client on time even though I genuinely didn't believe I could.

How did I do it?
OK, I put a little more time in sometimes, others I didn't, each time though I just got better professionally. As a programmer I searched out faster ways, I always wanted to learn these ways but I'd always put them off. I had the fire and energy in that short space of time to revolutionise the way I worked. It's often not a complete revolution. Now that I've been doing it so long it's more a small evolution.

So you're saying work your arse off and keep learning?
Not quite. I did work hard on that particular project yes. But the following projects were easier than I'd ever imagined because my process had improved and I was a better professional. I'd be say 75%-95% faster and so I had effectively found a way of hitting deadlines sooner.

You can set your goals
The great thing about diet and lifestyle for the majority of us is that we can set our goals and timescales because we are the customer. Unfortunately some of us already have illnesses or don't have much time left to make changes. But I like to remind myself that if I haven't found a perfect diet this year I can still look at how I've improved. Am I smiling more, have I got better memories from this year compared to next. Has my knowledge improved, have I gained more experience.

This leads to the final key point. Always look to move forwards and remember these achievements. So many diets I come across simple focus on what you haven't done. You haven't lost weight, achieved your target weight, stuck to an absurdly rigid way of eating. The list goes on. All that's going to do is make you feel bad. I touched on 'smarter goals' in a previous post and that's the only way I know to truly manage and track achievements.

Always find a way to be positive. I feel so much happier with myself now that I keep reminding myself how busy I really am, how busy most of us are. So yes it's taking a long time to get where I want to be but I should really be enjoying the journey. Sure I'm still eating plenty of crap but then I'm eating less crap than I did a month ago and a year ago. And I've been doing that consistently. I'm more active I'm consistently trying new things and finding new ways that are making my life easier and healthier and ultimately happier.

So no I'm not there yet and, of course being human when I do get to the promised healthy land, I'll just find another patch of grass that's greener. I'm enjoying the journey, I'm on my way I don't quite know how far it is but I was only crawling a few years ago. Now I feel I'm either running or taking the car and I'm certain that soon I'll find out how to take the train or a plane and get there much faster.

So overall I'm pleased with myself and my life.

How did I get to this state? I took the time to understand the whole of my life and who I am. Then I've begun finding solutions that fit me and my life so that they add to it and don't take away. Because they enrich my life I stick with them and I'll keep them until I find something that makes me even happier. Until them I'm better than I was before.

Ok, typically I started this post thinking it'll be a short one and it just went on. Thankfully I've covered some topics I've had bottled up for a long time. I hope it was interesting to read. It was interesting to write.
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