Difficulties in planning a personal strategy
Many of us have found ourselves quite a few times in the unpleasant position to wonder why it is so difficult to organize a method of managing the various forms of interactions or situations in general in our everyday lives. This question arises in particular when, looking back on the way we have dealt with a demanding challenge in our personal or working environment, we realize (sometimes in anger, sometimes in disappointment) that what we have given, one way or another, are noticeably more than those we received in return.
And those ceded may come in various forms: we accept as fait accompli facts and situations that concern us, we fail to answer back a dismissive word not knowing how to do so in a calm fashion, we fear or don’t know how to discreetly and astutely claim our space in our working field, we fail to neutralize encroaching acts against us in the personal, professional or social environment, we can’t utilize conversation and dialogue techniques, we are ignorant of negotiation methods and methods of balancing costs and benefits in our personal interactions, etc.
Although we have the initial desire and wish to organize a plan that will help us to effectively deal with the interpersonal challenges, along the way we realize that what we find a hard time systematizing a firm yet flexible personal strategic approach.
In essence, the issue is comprised of two distinctive levels. The former pertains to the difficulty we are faced with in our attempt to formulate a functional plan, which is both tailored to our personal status and needs and at the same time adjusted to the conditions and terms of reality. The latter is related to the expression of this plan in practice, namely the implementation of our strategy in our everyday life.
Despite the fact that these two levels are directly linked to one another, nevertheless they are not two aspects of the one and the same situation. Instead, the former pertains to the planning of a comprehensive strategy and the tactics that are involved. The latter is the implementation of this strategy in a steady and systematic way. For this reason, each level is analyzed separately. In this brief review we will focus on the first one.
Bottleneck in our effort to shape an efficient personal strategy constitutes the difficulty in observing our own behavior, both as a whole and in its individual facets as well. We find it hard to become external observers of the way we act, and occasionally even to interpret the reason we reacted to a certain stimulus the way we did.
Of course, this is not something unusual or expected. The opposite would probably be less common. The need for survival and for attending to the needs and desires blurs our judgment and consequently compromises our ability to stand as observers of ourselves. Besides, had it been easy to discern the intentions and motives behind our actions, humans would not have dedicated much of Philosophy’s inquire and the main part of Psychology to explore and understand those aspects.
An additional obstacle to come up with a compact personal strategy is that we occasionally fail to match each aspect of our action with the reactions of others to them. We do not notice (or we do not care to focus on) the kind of reaction that causes each pattern of our behavior, the similarities and differences each time depending on the context, the conditions and the persons involved. Starting from the simplest versions (such as a gesture or wince that we manifest in specific cases) to the more complex ones (such as a certain way of reacting whenever we find ourselves under stress in our working environment).
On the antipode, we may be arrantly aware of the range of reactions our behavior incites, yet we don’t know how to put it in a wider plan of action. Instead, we are confining ourselves to the small-scale benefits. We have, for example, realized that when we break out in desperate voices or tears each time we are to take on some responsibility, we incite interest and concern around us. As a result, there will always be someone rushing to carry out the work instead. Another timeless and well-known example is associated with the look: if nature was generous with us and endowed us with external beauty that tends to attract the eyes, early in our life we embed that this feature is an advantage, that from some point on we opt in reflexively.
Apart from that, the multiplicity of the challenges we face in our various interactions makes their distinction among them necessary. Although it sounds obvious when it comes to other people, it is not so obvious when it knocks on our door: an emotional relationship requires a different kind of behavioral approach in relation to the dynamics developed in the professional field, or within a family, the manner we manage a social interaction diversifies depending on whether it aims to get entertained in our free time or to upgrade the network of our business-related acquaintances, etc. Whether accidentally or deliberately, we tend to perceive the various forms of relationships as a common and unified field of operation.
In other occasions, even when we consider that we fathom the requirements of each field, our stance is rather the outcome of instinct and response to environmental stimuli, rather than a conscious distinction and understanding of the particular elements. Therefore, we are not in position to systematize our way of acting accordingly, in order to achieve what we want in a time horizon we have set.
Another significant reason hindering our effort is the ambiguity regarding the goals we want to achieve. This dimension is directly related to the understanding of our behavior and both of them with the effort of understanding oneself. The increased number of advisory manuals on the need to recognize and prioritize our goals reflects that exact importance of realizing what is this we are aiming for(to the humanly possible degree), both in the long and medium-term horizon.
Furthermore, the very notion of “strategy” and its distinction from the corresponding “tactics” is another cause of confusion in our pursuit of creating a viable action plan. On a theoretical level, telling the difference between Strategy and Tactic may seem easy and somewhat self-evident, but in real circumstances, and even when we are personally involved, this distinction is at times difficult and occasionally hard to accomplish. It goes without saying that there is also the obstacle of ignoring in the first place the conceptual distinction between them two.
As a closing remark, it is important to bear in mind that not all of the above reasons need to simultaneously or cumulatively concur. Each factor alone is sufficient to make it difficult for us to conceive and shape a consistent, personal plan for managing our interpersonal relationships and the challenges arising within them.