We open loops up every day. Each one can become a drain on our energy and emotional wellbeing if we don’t know how to close or complete them.
Are you aware of the open loops in your life?
A tap is a loop. We open it because we want water. This is good. But if we fail to turn it back the other way, to close the loop the water continues coming out and can cause problems. It gets wasted and maybe worse, it could cause flooding and permanent damage to the environment around it.
Where do we find open loops in our lives?
When someone leaves a message, sends an email, or communicates with you in some way they have opened a loop. If you don’t work hard to keep on top of them all those un-replied to messages and unreturned calls can can have a significant drain on your energy AND on how well you can recharge.
Schedule frequent times to go through and process all of the open communication loops.
Arguments, disagreements, and unresolved conflict, however small they may seem, are open loops.
Until we know the steps we must take to resolve an issue the tap stays on and our energy pours out. This type of open loop is not only bad for us as individuals but it can have a damaging effect on the wider culture.
Groups and organisations that don’t work to close loops of conflict (even if they are tiny), will find it doesn’t take long for these loops to get completely stuck and for irreparable flood damage to occur.
3. Anticipation (new experience)
When you believe something is going to happen you open a loop of expectation. For example when starting a job you know you will face lots of new experiences and respond to situations you’ve not had to deal with before.
These loops can be subtle and are opened by people without them realising. For example, your boss saying ‘maybe you should do the presentation tomorrow’. You go home panicking, and start to prepare like mad in a worried mess.
The following day he has forgotten everything he said. To your relief you don’t end up doing the presentation. But the loop remains open. Why? Because you’re now aware that you will have to do a presentation at some point. Your anticipation and fear wasn’t resolved in a proactive way.
It was just postponed. You still don’t know what it feels like to DO the presentation yet your mind knows how it feels to ANTICIPATE DOING it, which is usually a lot scarier.
If you get the opportunity to ‘do it now’ then take it. The short term pain and relief that follows is a lot less stressful than the long term drain that comes from an open anticipation loop.
When do you look at your social media news feeds? Do you place limits on it?
I am often quite flippant and reckless about this, habitually flipping through my social networks without thinking. Yet the implication can be huge in terms of opening up loops. News to explore, status’ to comment on, links to click.
Without a sense of purpose and intentionality, this bottomless pit of noise can become one unending loop that will never be satisfied.
5. Creative Ideas
I love getting new ideas, whether that’s articles to write, songs to record, projects to explore etc. But ideas are loops and can be dangerous because they feel exciting and urgent. They can make us believe that we have to drop everything else to focus on them right now until they are completed in some way.
This is true at one stage only. Making the initial note so that you remember what the idea was when you come back to it in the future. We must close the tap once we have recorded enough information so as to not forget the idea.
Then we may come back to it on our own time and work on it at a pace that suits us.
6. To Do List
Your list of tasks you need to complete is often a perpetual open loop. However much you get done the list only seems to grow longer. Like goals you should make every task measurable and time bound. If you write down tasks they become tangible and closable loops.
7. Saying Yes
When you agree to do something you open a loop until that thing is complete. Don’t underestimate the long term drain that comes from saying ‘yes’ to someone because it was ‘easier’ than saying no in the moment.
8. Guilt and Shame
The stories you believe about who you are today based on your previous experiences, failures and successes creates a loop. This loop encourages the past to dictate your relationship with the future.
It tells you a story about who you are and what you believe you’re capable of. Close the loop by making peace with your past and letting go of any guilt or shame that is making you behave in a certain way in the present.
Over to You
Can you see any other open loops that keep you from truly recharging or being at peace with the world around you? I’d love to hear what you think, please leave your answer in the comments below.