In today’s rapidly changing world, we are often at a loss as to how to move forward. Whether in business, government, education, healthcare, or in our personal lives, it’s easy to get lost in the complexity and complications in all that is going on. Without realizing it, we get caught in the assumption that the solution or way forward must also be complex and complicated. And we get trapped in the question of “How?”

There is another way. While I certainly don’t claim to have all of the answers, what I do know is that approaching complexity with complexity can almost guarantee that nothing will change. If change does occur, it will probably be a long time in coming and the road will most likely be painful and slow.

The way through complexity actually starts with asking very simple yet powerful questions that can cut to the essence and potential wanting to emerge. We’re not looking for a complicated plan of action. In fact, we’re not even looking for a plan! What we are looking for is a simple and fundamental shift in perception or understanding that can open a new door. And once that door opens, we will see where to go from there. All we need to see is the next step.

“The Deep Simple” is one of many powerful and leading-edge tools in Transformational Presence work. It’s a set of five simple coaching-style questions that, taken in order, can pierce through the complexity and help us find the starting place. The tool is equally powerful for use with individuals and with groups or teams. It can also be a very effective self-coaching tool.

The five questions of “The Deep Simple” are:

  1. What are three things I know to be true about this?
  2. Which of those things holds the greatest power for us to explore right now?
  3. With that thing that you choose to explore, if something new was trying to emerge or something wanted to shift, what might that be?
  4. Who is that asking you to be? What role is it asking you to play in that shift?
  5. What is one step you can take now that begins movement toward that shift?

Let’s look at these questions one at a time. First, “What are three things I know to be true about this?” Even when we think we don’t know anything about how to proceed, we still know at least three things about what is going on, even if one of them is, “I’m angry” or “I’m lost.” We’re not looking for big capital “T” truth. We’re just looking for what is true in this moment. Whatever comes up is what comes up – no judgment. The first step is just to acknowledge three things that you know right now. One of those three things will lead you to a shift in perception or some clarity on a next step.

Once you’ve acknowledged three things that you know to be true right now, which of those things feels most important for you to explore? Which of them holds the greatest power in your circumstance? Perhaps another way to ask the question is: Which one do you feel like you could actually touch and work with right now? Or which one scares you the most?

By answering those first two questions, you now have a place to start. With that information, we move on to the next question. With this one thing that you have chosen to explore, if there was a shift trying to happen, what might that shift be? Other ways to ask that question could be: What is the opportunity available in this moment? Or, what is the breakthrough ready to happen? In other words, what wants to happen now? Notice that we are not asking, “What do I want?” We are asking, “What wants to happen?” It goes beyond you to a bigger picture.

That shift that wants to happen or the potential waiting to emerge now asks something of you. Perhaps it needs for you to “show up” to the situation in a particular way, to look at it from a different perspective, or to take on a particular role in facilitating that shift. Who is the potential asking you to be right now? And how do you choose to respond?

Finally, what is one step you can take now that begins movement toward that shift? Just one step – that’s all we’re looking for. Take that step and then return to question #1. Continue to work through “The Deep Simple” as many times as is helpful to find your way.

With some issues, “The Deep Simple” can cut through to the essence quickly. With others, each time you return to these powerful questions, you will peel away another layer. It’s OK either way. Just take one step at a time. Don’t worry about how it will happen. Just start with the questions and see what unfolds. It will unfold – perhaps not immediately or as you had thought that it would – yet if you stay with it, a pathway forward will become clear. Through the process, something within you and within the circumstance will transform as well.

“The Deep Simple” can break open complexity and show you a next step. The next time you or someone you care about is overwhelmed by all that is going on, start by identifying just three things that you know to be true about your situation. Check to see which one of those things would be the most helpful to explore right now, and continue through the process. A shift will happen.


P.S. You will find many more leadership and coaching tools and approaches in my latest book, Create A World That Works. It’s the primary resource book for the Transformational Presence Leadership and Coach Training program. The book is also available in digital format.


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