When Do You Choose to Rebel or Comply?
Since I live in the US, I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of our society and when we choose to continue the status quo or change.
Some societal problems, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, have prompted many people to rebel against the status quo. And, problems I assumed people would comply with—such as wearing masks, physical distance and hand-washing to manage COVID-19? Some people rebel against those guidelines.
That’s when I realized we each have our continuum for rebellion and compliance:
I’m not going to address societal issues in this newsletter. Instead, let’s talk about when we might choose to rebel or comply. Given where we are in the Change Model, we might choose to rebel or comply, on a continuum. (For more information on the Change Model, see Where Are You In Your Changes?)
When Do I Choose to Comply?
I often comply when I have specific advice and I know that advice is correct. I might have validated that advice with personal or I’ve researched it for evidence. As a work example, I’ve known about Parkinson’s Law (work expands to fill the time allotted) for many years. Because of that, I’ve experimented with timeboxes at various lengths to finish work I want to complete.
As a personal example, for years, my doctor told me to use a low-fat approach to my diet to lose weight. I successfully gained almost 50 pounds, just 7-10 pounds per year. Finally, back in 2006 (or so), I decided to go low carb.
For me, the low-carb (and now keto) approach worked. We now know that weight loss is not just about “calories in/out,” but is much more about the insulin response. We did not have evidence that low-fat approaches worked for people. We had a supposition. For me, at least, that supposition didn’t work. (Let me clarify: I am not saying low carb is the One Right Way to proceed for your optimum health. It works for me. As with many physical issues, your mileage will vary.)
When Do I Ask Probing Questions?
When people tell me they have found “the one right answer,” I ask questions. (You are so surprised!) I rarely find that one answer works in all situations. As an example, I often use timeboxes to start and finish some writing. However, I use different durations for my fiction (7-14 minutes) and my non-fiction (20-40 minutes).
I know there is not one right answer for teams who want to use agile approaches, or companies who want an agile transformation. I know there is not one right answer for vertigo “cures.”
I ask probing questions when I hear the One Right Answer. I want to understand all these ideas:
- What was the context under which this thing worked?
- What were the circumstances when it failed or had less success?
- What were the other options this person considered?
Sometimes, when I hear some of these answers, I rebel.
When Do I Rebel?
When I worry that people will fall for the One Right Answer—and I know there are many possible better ways—I rebel. I admit to yelling at the television when I watch the news. I know that’s not very useful.
I write and speak to help people learn why conventional wisdom is wrong—and what they could do instead. I wrote
several all my books because I knew conventional wisdom didn’t work, at least, for my clients. (Yes, I started to write “several” and realized it was “all.” I expect some of you are laughing out loud.) I knew that more people would benefit from seeing alternatives.
When Does “It Depend?”
Each of us decides when to take which stance—it depends on our context.
My place on the continuum often depends where I am in the Change Model. For example, after a decade of slowly gaining weight, I was ready to try almost anything else to lose weight. I had persisted in trying to find the Transforming Idea that would work for my weight loss. That’s when I asked probing questions and then rebelled.
Hearing the “One Right Way” creates a Foreign Element for me. That’s when I ask probing questions. And, when I know we have alternatives, I rebel.
I can use the continuum to remind myself I have several choices. And, for me, that’s the point of deciding how and when to rebel or comply. How about you?