Moving from Stuck to Unstuck

by Taylor Deer

If you haven’t yet, give my last blog  You’re not stuck…. You’re impatient a quick read. It talks about the value of being stuck on a problem.

Now, I’d like to talk about how to get yourself unstuck; how to take some of these industry-wide problems for fraternities and sororities and begin to search for solutions that work for your chapter. I’m not here to give you answers. I believe that in giving you the answer, I’m actually doing you a disservice. It would be like me giving someone who is trying to learn how to ride a bike a textbook on the physics of cycling. Sure, they would have “the answers” on how to ride a bike… but just by reading it, would they be any better at actually riding one?

Instead of giving you the answers, I want to give you a mindset. A mindset that will not only help you figure out how to solve small issues, but one that will also help you figure out more complex problems.

The mindset is simple. It helps you navigate new problems that arise in your life. Existing problems you can handle because solutions already exist. Just do a quick google search and someone probably already has some insight for you. It’s NEW problems that derail us. Problems like: “my chapter just shot down my new ideas when I brought them up in meeting,” or “I taught everyone in my chapter how to recruit, why aren’t they actually doing it?” This is the stuff you can’t google, because it’s a new problem that is highly specific to your organization. When these problems arise, we can then call upon this mindset to help keep you searching for something that works for your chapter.

Here’s the mindset: Being stuck then getting unstuck.

Simple right? That’s the point.

I the last blog we talked about why getting stuck on a problem is important. This time, we are going to talk about how to get yourself UNstuck, and why it’s equally important. I’d like to look at it from two different angles: what prevents us from getting unstuck, and how to combat those things.

In this blog I’m only going to be able to give a brief outline of what prevents us from getting unstuck. I am going to expand on each of these answers in further blogs. (Apparently people are allergic to blogs over 800 words? Who knew?)

Anyway, what prevents us from getting unstuck?

  • Value Rigidity
  • Uncertainty

Value rigidity. It’s this great phrase that I learned from a book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Here is the author’s definition: “[Value Rigidity] is an inability to revalue what one sees because of commitment to previous values”.  What on earth does that mean? Say one guy in your chapter KNOWS that the annual highlighter party is the best way represent your chapter for recruitment. When you come up and say, “Hey, maybe instead of almost getting our chapter shut down on an annual basis, we host community service events throughout the year and invite our PNM’s so we can attract people who want to join us for the right reasons.” He can’t accept that answer, because it doesn’t follow his previous value of “parties = pledges”.

How do we combat Value rigidity?

  • Look for unlikely answers in unlikely places. Read books. Ask someone who has no idea what Greek Life is. Look for the small answer that no one has seen before.
  • Give unlikely answers the same admiration and consideration as “conventional” answers. Don’t devalue something just because it doesn’t look like an answer you’ve seen before.

Uncertainty. Uncertainty causes paralysis. It causes us to tighten up and not try something new because we don’t know for sure if it’s going to work. We put so much pressure on ourselves to “not-fail” that it prevents us from trying anything that might put us in a position where that might happen. This is the primary reason we see the same solutions getting thrown around every single year, because no one wants to be the chapter that tried and failed. So we don’t even try.

How do we combat uncertainty?

  • Look at the big picture. This problem, and its solution, is just one move in one game of chess throughout your life. You have to mentally shrink the problem down so that you’re less afraid of the failure of it.
  • Forget your perfect picture. We all paint this perfect picture of what our lives SHOULD look like. It usually is irrational and overly perfect. If we take a look at our failures as just part of the journey that we are on, then our mistakes just add character to the painting rather than tarnish it.

That’s long enough for today! I’m going to expand on these two terms and techniques to combat them in further blogs. Stay tuned for more on the Stuck –> Unstuck Mindset.