When you’re struggling with your brain and it’s devouring all of the wonderful things in your life, the last place you should keep a great idea is in your brain. That’s like trusting a wolf to take care of your last hen after it’s already eaten all of the others.
Particularly with anxiety disorders and addictions, or when your mind is clouded with depression, it’s easy to lose sight of who you are and where you want to be in the future. Long-term, sustainable health gets lost in making short-term decisions to try and cope with, check on, or control uncertainty. One way you can help yourself is by making healthy ideas tangible and persistent. Write down what you know you need to do. Don’t leave healthy decision-making to your brain. This is something that’s as true for project teams as it is for individuals. If you can’t see an idea, it’s unlikely it’s going to be implemented.
Making ideas tangible and visible at work is an increasingly popular and very effective way to design successful products and effectively manage teams. When an idea is locked in somebody’s head, it’s very easy for that idea to be forgotten, to get rationalized into something that won’t lead to success, and or to separate the idea from the person and address, which can cause people to avoid tackling ideas, to get defensive and manipulative, and to lead to lots of nothing getting done. Making ideas tangible at work promotes health in the workplace and helps ideas evolve because it creates relationships between people and ideas by separating them. That might seem counter-intuitive, but being able to address an idea objectively at work is as useful as being able to objectively assess what’s going on in your head. Here’s a photo of tangible ideas at work that was shared on the EVERYBODY HAS A BRAIN community recently:
When it comes to implementing change in your personal life, the same design thinking principles of making ideas tangible, making them persistent, and breaking big ideas down into smaller, actionable pieces, are going to help you tremendously.
When I was doing Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) to get over OCD, design thinking tools helped me implement the exercises I needed to do. I was only seeing my therapist for 1 hour each week. But I had to make decisions that affect my mental health every hour of every day. Using design thinking tools helped me get through the week, get through the spikes of anxiety, and stick to doing what I knew I needed to do. With each new compulsive behavior I cut out with ERP, I would write down on a sticky-note what action I was going to take instead of the compulsive behavior. I would put that sticky-note wherever the compulsive behavior usually got triggered. When my brain would invent reasons to engage in the compulsive behavior, I had the sticky-note there to remind me of what I really wanted to do.
So what can you do today?
1. Figure out an action that’s going to help you be healthier.
2. Write that action down on a sticky-note.
3. Place the sticky-note wherever you have the most trouble taking that healthy action.
4. Do what the sticky-note says, not what your brain says. <- This is the most important step and often the most difficult. Learning to follow your values instead of reacting to fears takes practice. But the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.