When Are You the “Only” One?

In my work, I meet people who think their problems are totally unique. Their issue, their product, their managers—their context is unique.

They are correct. While each of us is unique, we have many common challenges. We can learn from others. We might be able to apply something to our situation.

I see this a lot in agile teams. The team doesn’t succeed the way they expected. I cannot count the number of books, blog posts, videos, webinars, all devoted to helping people see their alternatives. (Yes, I’ve written a bunch of them!)

I also see this in my fellow vertigo sufferers. Most of us are unique—vertigo rarely presents the same way, persists the same way, or even affects us the same way. Yet, we have similar alternatives.

I’ve been thinking about this problem for a while. What makes people think they are alone in this situation? What makes them think they are the only one with this problem?

Here’s my thinking so far:

  • The magnitude of the problem seems so big it’s unclear how to attack it. It might be unsolvable as is.
  • We feel as if we are the mercy of the problem—we can’t control it even to understand it. It controls us.
  • We don’t have the self-esteem because we are off-balance from the problem. We might not be congruent in our actions with ourselves and others. We might not have the basics of adaptability, right now.

Okay, it’s big, complex, messy and we might not feel good enough about ourselves to marshal our internal or external resources. What now?

Johanna's Problem Solving LoopTake a breath.

  • That breathing time offers me a chance to see my reality.
  • The more alone or unique I feel, the more I need to see my entire situation.
  • If I’m overwhelmed, I might not see my reality at all, never mind clearly.
  • If I’m overwhelmed, I might not have the adaptability to generate options, never mind take a small step and then get feedback.

For me—and you might be different—the first step is to see and recognize my reality.

I tend to attempt to think my way out of problems. When I’m stuck, I find it useful to sense my way through the problems. By that I mean, to focus on my five senses: see, hear, touch, taste, smell. When I ground myself in my senses, I might see my reality.

That grounding then allows me to consider options. That’s why breathing is such a big deal. Intentional breathing keeps me in my senses, not my head.

Once I recognize and stay in the moment, I can often solve my problem.

Sometimes, I can’t. That’s the value of a support system.

If you create a support system—even if people don’t have the same problem as you—you can gain moral support if nothing else. That might be enough.

If you’re lucky and you find a bunch of people in a similar situation, consider gathering others into a community. That might be enough so you don’t feel as if you’re the “only” one. As I say in my workshops, you are not alone. If you have a question or problem, chances are excellent others do, too.

When you talk about the issue, you remove the power from it. You gather people to support each other. And, if you’re lucky, you can solve it.

That’s the question this week: When are you the “only” one?

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