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  • Writer's picturedianemckenzie

Thinking Outside the Box

When we are offered new ideas we perceive them differently from, and the same as other people. Sometimes we pick up those thoughts and include them in our existing set ideas, the ideas we live our lives in. We usually benefit from those existing and new ideas. Because the place where we live with our ideas usually feels comfortable it is easy to consistently default to our existing set ideas, those thoughts that persist in our minds and our worlds. We often resist new ideas.

I was reminded again the other day how many of the entrenched ideas we believe, support, and repeat don't always equate to our best thinking.

I had read yet another article about how to be successful in agriculture. While the narratives are always a little different, they generally boil down to the same old exhausting tropes. Makes me want to tear my hair out.

For too many decades I have been reading about how to think outside the box, challenge my mindset, pivot, write vision statements, and infomercials/articles about who to pay for life and business coaching, etc. There is often a good dose of - you can do it! - served on the side and of course, another answer to everything in life and business (particularly if you are a woman) is to learn to be a leader. Secrets of success (whatever that is) are not often shared for free. Google says the self-help market was 41.2 billion in the US last year. I doubt that number includes the business advice market.

Unfortunately, the "you can do it!" mantra and challenges to mindsets advice often overlook the stark realities of privilege and individuality. In the case of agriculture, many generations of future farmers (and of course people who do not farm) have had no access to the resources to farm, decision-making access to land, for example. It is an extraordinary privilege to have the resources to "pivot," with the vast majority of folks barely keeping their heads above water in regards to money, life, mental health, family circumstance, physical circumstance, parents/siblings, farm diversification - in its many forms, the list goes on. What about access to time? Some would argue that it is all about choices. Still, for deeper insights, the mindset gurus could take a stab at making astute business/personal choices without sufficient resources, without sufficient support.

Do I know the answers to farming business and life successes? No. Do I know we can't pull ourselves up by our boot or bra straps and we shouldn't expect others to do so? Yes. Regrettably, the historical and contemporary "outside of the box" thinking isn't outside the box at all but a very familiar refrain of large corporate, white male-dominated, patriarchal, capitalistic thinking we all exist in now and have been stuck in for time immemorial.

New thinking and new ideas are often difficult to digest. They may start as a little glimmer, a little spark in the distance that questions your current thinking and ideas about how things are. Social, cultural, and political powers (e.g. agriculture publications) are very adept at keeping our thoughts on the existing track or if you prefer, in the box.

In my last blog I talked about inequalities in agriculture and how exposing those inequalities can be a way forward for everyone, and a way to consider/reconsider our current "mindset." It is difficult to change ourselves or change much of anything unless we're aware of the system we are working in. If we're aware of how we participate contemporarily we can imagine a different way of participating in the future.

There are certain dangers in only listening to the same stories (in our heads or otherwise). Thomas King has said, "The truth about stories is that that's all we are." We don't have to abandon our old thinking to consider new ideas. We can add to our stories.

Next time I am going to talk about some ideas, ideas that were new to me. Ideas that made me uncomfortable, and how those ideas have become integrated with my traditional thinking and changed my story. After all, thinking outside the box is supposed to be - outside the box.





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