If we see each thing we do, each decision we make, and each step we take as a strategy, we can see patterns in how we operate within our world.
Each experience we have, create, or react/respond to, is a strategy.
Each strategy has component parts.
The key to this thinking is to move away from thinking in terms of ‘content’ – what happened, who was there, what happened next, etc – and think in terms of patterns and generalisations.
A strategy is a way to describe a choice, a reaction, or a response without focusing in on the details.
For example, someone may react the same way to the same situation, over and over, even though it causes them pain. They may avoid intimacy or supporting someone who needs support. No matter how many times support is sought, they seem incapable of providing it, preferring instead to rely on how busy they are, or how they don’t see how it is really a problem. That description is the content. The strategy is represented in the following way:
The Trigger to run the strategy (of not supporting someone) is being asked for support.
The Operation of the strategy is the person refusing to support the other person.
The Test of the strategy is whether the person has stopped asking for support. If they have stopped asking, the person withholding support can then…
The Exit of the strategy is when the operation is complete, and the person can exit running the strategy.
If, however, the person who asks for support keeps asking, then instead of exiting the strategy, the person will Loop back to the beginning of the Operation of the strategy and start again with whatever they do to prevent having to provide support.
Someone may loop back through the Operation of the strategy any number of times before Exiting. They will Exit when the strategy is complete.
This can be applied to how we do everything. Exercise. Not exercising. Choosing what to eat. Applying for a job. Driving. Getting dressed. Conversation. Decision making. Any behaviour.
Once we know and recognise that everything is a strategy, then it becomes about analysing whether the strategies we run are working for us. Everything is a strategy. But, weirdly, we all run strategies that get us an outcome different from what we say we want to achieve. If someone wants to have a great relationship with someone, yet they are inconsistent with contact, fail to return messages, show up late or not at all, fail to listen (all of these are strategies), or keep talking about themselves, they are not going to achieve having a great relationship. They will say they want a great relationship. They may even be frustrated with the lack of success they’re experiencing with trying to achieve having a great relationship. They may blame the other person. They may think/say that all people are bastards.
It doesn’t matter how much they talk about the problem they believe they’re experiencing. Until they change their strategy, they will continue to experience disappointment in that area.
There are generally two strategies to consider. The strategy that will get you the result you want. And the strategy you run that was never designed to help you achieve the result you want.
Someone says the want to become a business owner. They research. They talk about it. They stay in jobs so they can save a buffer amount of money. They keep saying the time isn’t right. These are all strategies that match the strategies someone would run if they wanted to be a business owner. They are not the strategies someone would run to be a business owner.
They are running the exact strategies someone would run who wanted to be a business owner.
Someone who was going to become a business owner would have a product chosen, and would build a website, an Ebay store, perhaps, and open business accounts with their new business name. They would have a job that paid the bills and didn’t interfere with their dream, which they would work on in their own hours.
There is a difference between wanting, and being.
They are not the same strategy.
Some people run a strategy that was never going to get them the results they say that they want. They say they want to feel happy. They say they want to have a life of meaning. Yet they don’t learn the strategies for happiness, or for building a life of meaning. They stay caught in the strategies that could never work. Relationships which are unhealthy. Constant tapping into emotions designed to make them feel sad, bad, or angry. Persistent lack of effort to discover what gives them a sense of meaning.
You can combine agency and structural thinking here, along with pattern recognition, generalisations, and consequential thinking. The person described above is not aware of, or accepting, the level of agency they perhaps have here. They are overly convinced that their structure (circumstance of their life) is the reason for their misery. They don’t want to, or can’t, recognise how their own choices are feeding the patterns of misery they perpetually experience, so they don’t recognise the patterns. They don’t, or won’t, generalise that if today they are sad, this will more than likely lead to more sadness tomorrow. And they don’t, won’t, or cannot see the consequences of their repeated patterns of thought, feeling, and behaviour.
To the outsider, it may seem we could feel sorry for them. And think they’re ‘doing it really tough’. And this is true. But if there is agency here, and there is in this example, at what point does it become self-perpetuated hardship? Unless structure is imposed onto them, and they have no personal agency, how is this anything but an example of cause and effect in action?
On the flipside, perhaps for some people, even with this information, seeing their own personal agency in their pain is too hard to achieve, is out of focus, or is simply unavailable to them. For this, we refer back to the significance that self-awareness, and what it takes for us to achieve true self-awareness.