How to deal with a dilemma?

It is not uncommon for us to be confronted with a dilemma from time to time.

Sometimes these dilemmas may not be easily resolved and we may feel frustrated or angered at our inability to integrate or resolve the conflict we may be having in our heads.

Sometimes such a dilemma is being characterized as a conflict between the head and the heart, or even as a conflict between how a finite resource like time is being torn between two or more seemingly important demands such as family time and work (money).

Whether we like it or not, such conflicting thoughts, ideas and desires are bound to present themselves at different stages in your life.

How opposing ideas help in innovation

In my professional work as a Design Thinking facilitator and a creative, I enjoy the opportunities for creation that arise from the creative tension between seemingly opposing values and ideas.

It is often in these seemingly impossible conditions set upon by parameters that are seemingly opposed to each other, where we find innovative and breakthrough ideas.

In the field of innovation (as shared in this HBR article by Matthew E. May), this is sometimes referenced to as a ‘stretch goal’ whereby, two seemingly conflicting objectives are set upon an innovation team in order to facilitate a ‘breakthrough’.

Sometimes in order for innovation to happen, teams need to be presented with a well-framed challenge, (i.e. how might we reduce the cost of packaging while reducing the number of damaged packages in a supply chain firm?).

More on that in another post on Innovation and Design Thinking.

The key takeaway from this is to understand that conflicts and perceived constraints need not always be a bad thing.

When these constraints and seemingly impossible conditions are framed in the right way, they can present fertile conditions for breakthrough.

An indication of ‘First-rate intelligence’

Moving away from the context of groups and how well-framed conflicting ideas can be useful for breakthrough ideas, having the ability to possess two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, while retaining the ability to function has been regarded as a sign of first-rate intelligence in the words of author, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In his 1936 essay “The Crack-Up,” Fitzgerald writes that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” For example, he says you should “be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

The key of course is being able to retain the ability to function in-spite of having the two opposing ideas in one’s head.

Dealing with personal dilemmas

While we may understand objectively on a conscious level that:

  1. Conflicting ideas can be useful in facilitating a breakthrough, and that;
  2. Being able to function while holding two opposing ideas in one’s head is a sign of ‘first-rate intelligence’;

Yet, despite understanding these concepts on a conscious level, we may find ourselves reacting very differently on an emotive level when we are personally confronted by the frustration caused by dilemmas on a personal level.

Sometimes simply understanding this on a conscious level is not enough and we have to work through these dilemmas by going to the root of the cause.

This can be achieved through a few simple ways including:

  1. Identifying in a specific manner what the conflicting parts are
  2. Going through a guided process of questioning and understanding the higher purpose behind each conflicting part
  3. Allowing your subconscious to understand and accept that these parts are part of the whole

In addition to having a method for going to the root cause of the conflict by diving into the subconscious, we can also help individuals develop their capability to generate alternative behaviors and/or responses by tapping into the complete set of resources available to them on both the conscious and the subconscious level.

Request for an initial consultation with us to find out how you can work through conflicting dilemmas you may have at different stages of your life!

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