Today we begin looking at the permaculture principles. The goal of this series is to delve more deeply into permaculture not just as a design process with an agricultural focus, but as a design process for how to live a more fulfilling life. We begin with principle number one.
Observe & Interact
The idea behind this principle is simple. By taking time to observe whatever it is we’re designing a solution for, and by interacting with it, we will create a solution specific to that problem in both context and scale. In other words, this principle prevents the designer from attempting using one-size-fits-all solutions which tend to offer just as many new problems as they solve. Applying this to both our personal lives or our businesses is incredibly valuable.
Suppose we are running a small business with 15-20 employees and we start to notice some bad attitudes and a general drop in employee morale. We could throw money at the problem. Offering everyone a raise would be likely to help keep them from quitting if that’s a concern. We could also fire those who appear to have the worst attitude as a warning sign to others and a way of ‘cleansing’ the general negativity. Either of these solutions might help. Or, they might not. If we don’t take time to observe & interact with our employees it’s a fairly certain bet that we won’t know how to deal with employee issues when they arrive. For instance, it may be that someone on staff is particularly qualified in an area in which the business could clearly use them. Though those at the top may have been too busy to recognize this need, some of the employees may have already identified it and may be upset about the direction the company appears to be heading. By stopping, observing & interacting with the staff, we might discover not only a way to make our business run more smoothly, but also the person to help make it happen.
This concept can also apply to our emotional lives. Often we feel angry when under stress. The unfortunate result is that we take this anger out on those closest to us. For many, the anger seems to creep up out of nowhere and is suddenly too much to handle. We don’t want to yell at those we love, but we lose control for a moment and the yelling happens. Think about how different our interactions would be if we took a few minutes several times a day to sit quietly and observe our emotions. First of all, we would learn how to identify that anger at its source rather than when it’s already too late. By identifying an interacting with it at the source, we would then be able to ask ourselves, while in a reasonable state of mind, if that source was worth having in our lives considering its consequences. We would probably discover it isn’t, which would lead to larger changes in our lives. The final result is that we would be happier, our loved ones would be happier and our relationships would be stronger, leaving us more fulfilled.
These are just a couple examples of how to apply the first permaculture principle beyond the realm of agriculture. Obviously, there are numerous others, but he point is the same. Problems don’t solve themselves and they aren’t solved in a sustainable manner by forcing solutions. The solution typically comes from within and it’s usually not as complicated as we would expect. By slowing down, observing & interacting with the problem, we can find the solutions that really work.