How Being Human Can Help You Thrive In Today’s Complex World

We as humans have lost our way, amid the world of connectivity and complexity. Luckily, our humanity can bring us back to life.

Photo credit: Niklas Rhöse

With every day that goes by, the world becomes increasingly complex. Modern life is riddled with anxiety-inducing circumstances that hit us from all angles, both at home and in the workplace. On any given day we have more visibility into myriad areas of life on a global scale than we’ve ever had before, and we’re in the midst of learning how to deal with this, both as people, and as organizations. Thanks to technology, we’re constantly connected, always up to date, and able to be fully aware of what’s happening at any given moment, in any part of the world.

So why are so many of us struggling to get a grip?

Despite living in the age of abundance, there’s a feeling of overwhelm that has crept into the lives of people around the world. On an individual basis and within organizations, the complexity we face — along with the sheer abundance of choice, unpredictability of the future, and volatility caused by technological disruption — has even the most experienced and visionary leaders scrambling to figure out how to lead themselves, their businesses, and their communities into a brighter, more prosperous tomorrow.

While everyone works towards figuring out their right path forward, I’ve been working on something to help any person, in any situation, figure out what’s best for them, and then apply those insights towards creating the future they’re seeking. And yes, that includes you! Whoever you are, and whatever your situation may be, I’ve distilled ancient wisdom into three key practice areas that are designed specifically to help you thrive in the midst of today’s highly-complex, rapidly-evolving, unpredictable world.

Whether you’re working on behalf of an organization, or you’re just you, the person who woke up today unsure of what direction to move in, these human-focused practices will help you gain new insight, generate new ideas, and figure out what steps to take next. And then it’s just rinse and repeat!

Three ways your humanity can move you forward

AWARENESS

Awareness is key for every endeavor. Awareness of yourself, your environment, your privileges, your actions and beyond, is perhaps the first step of forging your path forward. Only when you stop and look intimately at your behaviors, surroundings, interactions, relationships, perspectives, biases (both conscious and unconscious), etc, will you be able to truly understand where you are in relation to the world around you. And once you understand that, you can begin moving forward on the journey towards where you want to be.

REFLECTION

Once you become aware, the next step is to make time to think. Time to ponder. To wonder. To assess, explore, and question the world around you. Question everything! Your curiosity is key, but this requires space, which you need to make for yourself. If you’re going through these exercises as an organization, you need to make sure you and the people you work with create space for reflection, as that’s where your insights will come from. Same for you as an individual person. By stepping back and reflecting, and diving into deep thought and discussion about the challenges you face and the things you’ve recently become aware of — with yourself, as well as with other people — you’ll learn more about yourself, and begin to spark new ideas that will help you figure out what your next steps will be.

CONNECTION

Relationships are the third component, and another area of your existence that’s worth focusing your attention on. If you want to move forward and create change, you cannot do it alone. The people in your life will become an essential network for support, by offering friendship, camaraderie, guidance, inspiration, and help along your way. But beyond people, it also helps to build strong connections with the environment that surrounds you, the work you partake in daily, the communities you’re a part of, and, most importantly, with yourself. Learning to form bonds with the elements of life you experience on a daily basis will help you get in touch with the natural rhythms of the world, which is kind of like unlocking a superpower. You’ll see things in new ways, create opportunities you previously may not have even noticed, and discover more fulfillment throughout your life.

Embrace these human traits as you practice awareness, reflection, and connection

While these may seem easy on the surface, I’d like to note how truly challenging each of these components of life can be. It takes a lot of effort, practice, and patience, to really become aware, learn to reflect, and build strong connections. Yet it’s totally possible for anyone to master these skills!
When I think about what it takes to truly embrace and live these practices, certain human traits come to mind that will become foundational in getting the most value out of your efforts. You may find it helpful to explore these traits and move yourself towards living with these values, as you start down the path of awareness, reflection, and connection:

Patience • Agility • Assertiveness • Curiosity • Honesty • Resilience • Respect • Kindness • Confidence • Empathy

These are some of the most critical — and useful — traits a person can possess, and each one of them can take years to develop to a level of proficiency. However, it’s those who strive to live by these values who will find themselves unlocking things in life that often sit just below the surface of our daily interactions. While there are surely many others that contribute to a successful life, starting here, you’ll be able to build up individual skills that will help you as you pursue self-awareness, reflective practices, and human connections.


In the end, these practices are always available to help you when the future looks and feels uncertain. They can help you build capacity, accrue resources, and experience joy, or they can simply help you discover a deeper purpose in life or sense of direction when you’re feeling lost. Moving through life can be challenging, as can creating the future you want. Whether a business leader, independent artist, skilled craftsperson, aspiring professional, community activist, or any other motivated individual, the world will throw things at you that you never would have expected, and the rate of these obstacles only seems to be accelerating. So what are we to do?

Turn inward, and you’ll find the answers. Trust yourself, and you’ll see in new ways. Listen to your environment, and you’ll know how to proceed.

In time, if we all set intentions to explore these practices, we’ll each create our own groove, and ultimately, thrive amidst any amount of uncertainty. In business, within relationships, throughout life; professionally and personally; collectively and globally; we can all thrive, regardless of the circumstances we face. We simply need to look inward.

Mike Tannenbaum | February 2017


I help people and organizations thrive in this period of major complexity and uncertainty. Through workshops, consulting, and collaboration, I’m here to help you develop fresh perspectives, design better strategies, and deliver better work.

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