May 02, 2022
One simple step to create new thought habits
In this week’s Systems Change Newsletter…
Invitations & Announcements:
Community Engagement Planning via Catalytic Thinking
Want to engage more people in your own social change work? Catalytic Thinking will make that plan feel smooth and joyful!
This summer, Creating the Future will be developing our own community engagement plan. That means you can experience what it feels like to apply Catalytic Thinking to community engagement planning – and then bring that to your own work!
Mark your calendar right now, to be part of our first planning conversation on Monday, June 13th (Info is here).
Catalytic Thinking Exercise:
Turning the questions of Catalytic Thinking into a habit
People often tell us they love the questions of Catalytic Thinking, but that they forget to ask those questions when actual situations arise.
“I seem to only remember the questions in hindsight.
Then I wish I could go back and do the whole conversation over!”
Turning the questions of Catalytic Thinking into a habit takes practice. Just as you’re not going to become a concert pianist simply by watching an Elton John concert, you won’t have the questions of Catalytic Thinking at your fingertips simply by reading about them. It will take practice.
So then, what will remind you to practice, to jump-start that habit?
One of the simplest ways to start a new habit is to add that new habit to an old one you already do.
Step 1: List all the things you routinely do, every single day.
- Get out of bed
- Brush your teeth
- Make coffee
- Wake the kids
Or you might want to start with work habits.
- Arrive at the office
- Grab a cup of coffee
- Check email and voice messages
Step 2: Add practicing Catalytic Thinking to one of those things you already do. Here are some examples.
To practice aiming at what is possible…
Every morning while your coffee is brewing, think about an event that will happen that day – perhaps a meeting, a report that is due, a presentation you will be giving. Then every day, as your coffee is brewing, sit quietly and ask yourself, “What would good look like for that meeting/ report / presentation?” You can write down the answers if you want, but the important thing is to practice asking the question – every day.
The first few days you may need to leave a note on the coffee maker to remind you. But as you practice every day, it will become a habit. “When I make my coffee, I reach for what good would look like for the events of my day.”
To practice asking questions about radical inclusion…
Every day while you are brushing your teeth, think about a project you are working on. Then every day, while you are brushing, ask yourself, “Who will be affected by this project, whether they are the intended audience or not?” Again, you can write down the answers, but it is more important to simply practice asking the question.
A note on the bathroom mirror may remind you the first few times, but as you practice every time you brush your teeth, you will be turning that question into a habit.
There are a million ways you can practice these questions by simply adding that practice to a habit you already have. Until it becomes a habit, just ask that same question every day, day after day, about whatever part of your life feels important at that moment. It’s not the answers that matter; it’s getting practice in routinely asking the questions.
What you’ll begin to see is that Change the Questions / Change the World isn’t just a slogan around here. We know the questions of Catalytic Thinking are a key that unlocks so many possibilities – and that is a habit that can absolutely change the world!
Resources to Further Your Practice:
- READ: Author James Clear describes this approach as Habit Stacking. Read more here…
- WATCH: To experience Catalytic Thinking in action, watch our conversations here at Creating the Future. Browse those recordings here…
- READ: In the story below, Jackie Bradley talks about the community engagement exercise of Ripples in the Pond. Learn how to do that here…
Story of the Week: Catalytic Thinking in Practice!
This week’s story comes from Jackie Bradley, Community Outreach and Compliance Director for a mental health authority in rural Michigan. Jackie also shares her talents with us here at Creating the Future as documentarian for our Integrity Meetings, where she gets to practice Catalytic Thinking every month.
In her capacity as director of compliance, Jackie was tasked with facilitating their strategic plan in just a 4 hour retreat with a variety of stakeholders (board members, community members, staff). Here’s what she shared about the process in that quasi-governmental setting.
We started by asking who will be impacted, using a “ripples in the pond” exercise. Given our limited time, we used our mission statement as the high potential outcome – that everyone has “A path to resilience, recovery, wellness, and self-determination.”
From there we asked the questions about conditions for success, having participants fill in the following blanks: “We can’t have that pathway unless we have ___________ . The path cannot exist without ____________.” The group’s answers are now the goals our performance improvement committees will work on, using Catalytic Thinking to do so.
For example, one condition for success was a safe and stigma-free community. That committee will begin by asking, “Who will be impacted by a safe and stigma-free community? What would that make possible for those individuals? And how do we involve them in the process?”
Catalytic Thinking also helped determine how we will measure our progress. I asked, “If you wake up in the morning and all those conditions are in place, what will you see? What will be different?” The answers to those questions will become their success metrics!
The whole process felt really good. The goals were far more inspiring than past goals (compare a "safe and stigma-free community" to past goals like “fiscal stewardship”). The real indicator that something was different, though, is that the energy just kept picking up throughout the whole 4 hours. Had we done the standard planning, it would not have had that trajectory.
And per the topic of this week’s eJournal, Jackie confesses that the key to all of it has been to practice. “When I think I have to start over with a new topic or theme, I struggle for a bit. And then I remember, ‘I can just use Catalytic Thinking. I don’t have to reinvent anything. This stuff just works!’"
Got a Catalytic Thinking story to share with our readers? Let us know here!
Help Keep Our Programs Freely Available
Most of the programs at Creating the Future are free or low cost, with liberal tuition assistance when they aren’t.
If you find our programs of benefit, we hope you will consider contributing, to help keep these programs available to as many people as possible. Donate here ...
If you’re new to our eJournal, or just want to remind yourself of past practice exercises we’ve shared, check out our eJournal archives here.