Sunday, January 31, 2010

Provoking Introspection through Snowflakes and Spiderwebs

My son has a very big decision in front of him at the moment. His decision will affect a number of people close to him and it has the ability to affect his future in a very, very large way. He is 22 years old and is at what could be a pivotal time in his life. As his mother- who adores him-I don't feel it fair that I influence his decision in any way so I have given him his options without going in to the pros and cons of each. Those reasons for and against each option are what he must decide for himself and what will make the decision his and his alone.

I don't know if he realizes how very fortunate he is to have so many solid options, but I do. The decisions that we make, big and small help define us. One thing that I am going to suggest to him when I speak to him again is that he use the "Snowflake method" to review his different options.

If you are unfamiliar with the Snowflake Method, it is actually a way of plotting out a novel. If you google it- there are literally thousands of webpages devoted to how to use it and to the pros and cons of doing so. The thing that I like about the snowflake method is that once you become comfortable with it you can apply it to anything from its original purpose of crafting a story to figuring out how you will pay down debt, to making important life decisions.

The way that I would do this is to take a blank piece of paper and draw a triangle large enough to write inside, flip the paper over, and draw an equal triangle upside down on top of the first. This will give you something that looks like a six pointed star. At the center, write your option. In each of the six points, write different things that will happen if you chose that option- for example- what your job will be, where you will live,anything that needs to be considered. Now, on the outside of each point, draw a triangle for as many things for each point as you need to consider until you exhaust all of the possibilities. These can be the pros or cons or anything neutral. As you build upon each of these points- you will find that you have a lovely snowflake- and you have laid out all the things to think about- including the ones you may have missed had you not put it to paper.

The opposite of the snowflake method is something that I call the "Spiderweb". Spiderwebs are a way of looking back at decisions you have already made and seeing how your decision changed your life. Though you cannot unring a bell, there are two different ways of using the spiderweb to learn more about yourself and about the life choices you have made. This exercise can be both fun and enlightening. Both will be done using the same structure, it is all in how you look at your choices. The first way is to take a real decision that you have made and evaluate it, the second is to look at the opposite of a decision that you made and do the "what if" scenario. Either way you choose to approach it- you begin with a circle in the center of your paper. Inside the circle, write the decision. From there, bring out as many lines as you need to write how that decision affected your life. From each of those lines, bring over lines to show how each of these ties connect to one another and those should somehow create and outer circle. From those connections, bring out a line to show the effects of the outer circle and so on and so on until you have exhausted all of the possibilities and consequences.

I have done this exercise with many of the large decisions I have made in my life. What the majority of these spiderwebs have shown me is that many of the things that I thought that I wished I had done, would have changed my life in ways that would have made me an entirely different person, and many of the decisions that I thought I regretted- gave me more blessings than I realized.

We make decisions, large and small, each and every day. Taking the time to think them through before you make them, or looking back on their effects afterward can teach you to live your life without regrets. It can show you that even your "mistakes" are lessons that will allow you to grow. They can remind you of blessings that you have been given and may have lost sight of along your path. Those are gifts that cannot be taken away.

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