Integration: The Key to Harvesting Solutions from Problems
Anytime we feel lost, out of balance, or in conflict, we can be sure that something in our life is calling for integration. For example, when we feel an inner conflict, it’s usually the case that our thoughts and feelings are independently predominant; the mind and the heart are separately clamoring for our attention. In other words, our thoughts may be telling us one thing, and our heart is telling us something else. The mistake I think a lot of people make is that they assume only one can be right. The way that nature resolves two seemingly opposing forces is through integration, often by introducing a 3rd element; the fruit of a tree with only water will rot, and with only sunlight will dry up. But add the two together with soil, and you get a new tree! Humankind has done a lot to imitate nature in order to solve problems over the centuries, so could the concept of integration then lead us to solutions in seemingly dead-end situations?
One definition of integration from the Merriam-Webster dictionary is:
coordination of mental processes into a normal effective personality or with the environment
I like this particular definition because it speaks to ‘coordination’; meaning the resources are already present. We just have to solve the puzzle, per se.
Today being the first day of Autumn in the northern hemisphere, I’m focusing on integration as a way of harvesting the fruits of our labor. In the tech industry, we talk a lot about integration, especially when it comes to connecting multiple applications. Integration is a very popular approach in this industry, as experts have come to realize that the best applications are typically those that do ONE thing REALLY well. When a solution requires multiple things to be done really well, that’s when we look to integrating two or more apps. Due to the popularity of this approach, companies have sprung up with the sole purpose of integrating multiple apps quickly and efficiently. Two examples of this are IFTTT (If This Then That) and Zapier. Both provide integration services that don’t require any coding, making them suitable for anyone who wants to run their business more efficiently.
Integration is a concept that I believe we should pay more attention to in our personal lives as well. It holds the key to resolving conflicts, mending broken relationships, and even improving our health. I can attest to these examples from experience, as my tendency has been to look for ways to integrate what’s already at my disposal to find an optimal solution. I’ve resolved conflict in my relationships and overcome addictions all through the process of integration. In my opinion, it’s a powerful strategy for solving many tough problems.
Finding what I call the integrated path starts with putting our faith in the idea that two or more seemingly opposing forces can be ‘coordinated’ to create a sustainable solution. At the level of the human condition, we see historical figures such as Gandhi or Dr. Marin Luther King used integration to solve enormous problems. In the case of Gandhi, here was a man who went to school to become a lawyer. He received an education from a system that was designed to keep his people in their place. Logically, we might think that an Indian man of that era who obtained a good education would simply use that education to make a good living and avoid poverty. Instead, he chose to integrate the knowledge he received with the passion in his heart to liberate the impoverished people of India from British rule.
When we seek integration, we step onto the path toward abundance. Just as God creates a harvest by integrating resources in nature (all the food in the world is created by integrating the 4 elements of earth, air, water and fire/sun), we can tap into the power of integration to create a harvest from just about any situation.
For anyone thinking that integration cannot be applied to every problem, I’ll cite an example that [on the surface] appears to be a combination of two incompatible forces. You may already know that soap is a combination of oil and water. We all know it’s impossible to combine the two on their own. When you introduce a 3rd ingredient, lye, the two are able to combine to create something of great benefit to humanity. And so it is with most integrative solutions; there are two opposing forces that are combined through a 3rd to create something that works.
Relationship counseling is another example. Often when two people are at odds with each other, a 3rd party (such as a therapist) can draw from their knowledge and experience to introduce new perspectives that allow the individuals to re-establish harmony in their relationship. A good therapist knows how to reveal the opportunity in the conflict between 2 sides, which [to me] is a form of integration.
From all of my experience creating integrated solutions in technology, one thing is clear. The catalyst for integrating two or more systems is an open mind. If we look at the situation and say, “this is never going to work” or “it’s too difficult”, then we block access to our creativity. Creative ideas are the birthplace of integration. Research, testing, and validating are the activities that follow the creative thought process, and can lead to discovering integrated solutions.
Tony Robbins, one of the most well known personal development experts of our day, suggests that when faced with an adversity, we can ask one simple question:
What’s so great about that?
I love this question, mainly because it immediately interrupts the negative thought process that’s easy to get stuck in when experiencing adversity. If we honestly ask this question in the face of a problem, we are stepping into the realm of creativity. To paraphrase Tony’s process, you start by releasing doubt, then list opportunities that can come from the current struggle. I’ve used this process numerous times in my business and personal life, and I always come away with new ideas for solving my problems.
It goes without saying that this has been a challenging year for society, and I would guess that experience has been reflected in many of our personal and professional lives. So if you’ve stuck with me this far, I challenge you to write down your biggest problem at the moment and answer the following questions:
What has this experience taught me so far?
In what areas of my life have I become wiser as a result?
What resources do I have that could help the situation?
Who do I know that may have dealt with a similar problem?
Once you’ve made your list, consider ways that you can organize your resources to try new things. Also consider reaching out to close friends and colleagues for ideas and support.
If you’d like to share what came up for you or have any profound insights from this exercise, I’d love to hear from you in the response section below.
May the Fall of 2016 see the rise of new solutions for you.