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You probably learned the laws of mathematics in elementary school. Who knew they were really about transformation?
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It’s embarrassing to admit how deeply soothing I find reducing messy complicated life situations to simple mathematical equations. Math is so orderly, concrete, and reliable. It has laws that all the numbers obey. I find that refreshing.
When I’ve got a sticky situation, I relax my mind with a simple equation. Here’s one of my favorites:
I do a and b to get c. It works that way every time. If I want a different outcome to this equation – a different c – it’s a simple matter of changing a or b or both a and b. This applies to recipes, processes and mixtures of all kinds. It applies to collaborations too:
Me + you = a result
If I want a different result, my choices here are simple: I can change myself or I can change…you?
Well, no. I can’t change you. Which can be discouraging if I believe it’s my only choice.
Here’s where math really, really helps: If I can’t change one of the variables in an equation to get a different result, I can change the other. If I don’t like our result, I can change my part of the equation. That is power. Specifically, it’s the power of agency, the power of being 100% responsible not for the result, but for my contribution to it.
All real change is born of changing the only variable in the equation you can change: You.
What can you change?
1. You can change your thinking. Instead of casting myself in the role of victim or of hero, I can choose to cast you in that role and see what options it gives me. Power is the ability to generate many choices.
2. You can change your behavior. What if your usual way of working isn’t a fit for this situation? Are you doing too much? Too little? How can you tell? Stop the analyzing and simple do something different. Try doing less and see if another doesn’t step up. Try clearing your calendar for a day and knocking something out. Try the one thing you haven’t yet tried, because you think it’s not allowed. No one is going to get injured. Probably. Don’t stay in your rut and hope for someone else to do the changing.
3. Take total responsibility for yourself and your mood. This means refusing to complain or gossip about the situation or the people in it. Either confront people directly to get to the bottom of things, or start writing down what you are grateful for. Do this daily. Being 100% responsible for yourself makes you 100% free.
Any one of these three things will alter the equation because they will alter you. Other people are out of your control. The result is out of your control. You’ll feel much better if you focus on the one thing that is yours to manage: Your contribution.
Don’t you just love math?