Take a blended approach to learning

No matter what the subject, there are a thousand people who have a one-size-fits-all solution to sell you. As a new parent, I’ve been reading a lot of parenting books lately, and the sheer amount of contradictory advice can be overwhelming. But this is true is pretty much every arena where I have an interest: self improvement, getting organized, writing, even taking care of the environment. Green Daily identifies this problem in the article, “Green impotence, or the ‘every solution creates a problem’ problem.” The truth is that there is no one solution that will fit everyone’s needs. But just because you can’t find an easy, packaged solution doesn’t mean you should give up altogether. You’ll have more success by taking the time to craft a solution that fits your individual needs.

Not even the great guru of getting organized, David Allen of Getting Things Done fame, can claim to have the one solution to all of your organization woes. He has developed the perfect system to meet his specific needs, and in his book about it, he shares a lot of good ideas, some of which may work for you or me. The trick is to identify and borrow those ideas that are workable for you, and leave the rest. There’s no need to go to extremes: to either adopt the system wholesale even if it causes you pain or just abandon it altogether and declare it evil. Take what works for you, leave the rest and thank Mr. Allen for sharing.

This is the best approach to all new subjects you are learning about, whether it’s parenting or self improvement or how to manage a project effectively. Read widely and absorb what many people have to say on the subject. Try out those aspects that make sense to you and see if they work for you. If they do, adopt them. Leave the rest. Keep learning and tweaking and adapting as you go along. You are not obligated to all or nothing.

Unfortunately, this is just what proponents of a particular system would have you believe. Take attachment parenting, for instance. If you get at all involved in the community, you might think that if you don’t practice co-sleeping or baby wearing, you aren’t doing “real” attachment parenting. And probably you aren’t, not the way it is defined by its fanatical adherents. However, you can adopt only those aspects of it that make sense for you and your family, and you’ll be doing quite all right. There is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. And I don’t mean to pick on this one particular community. All “movements” seem to have their extremely rigid adherents who claim that if you don’t practice by the book, you’re not really practicing (even hula-hooping).

I propose that it is better to question, test and draw your own conclusions — in other words, think for yourself — rather than blindly follow any system set down in a book or website.

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