When we talk about relationships, we commonly refer to human interaction. Between two people, a family, a workgroup, or an organization. It sometimes focuses on identity. Other times levels of trust and depth of honesty or communication. Close or distant are terms used when describing them.
The term “things” needs some explanation. It could be physical things like your house, car, desk, stove, or patio. “Things” could also refer to non-physical items in our lives such as our to-do list, the software we use, the junk drawer we have in our kitchen or office, the project we are working on, or the challenge or problem we are trying to solve.
Our relationship to physical things can be used to impute status in our lives. When we choose to drive a new, great-looking expensive car, it could well be it’s because we want to show others that “we made it”. We are successful and trendy. Convincing ourselves of our worth by showing off to others in the process.
But what about all of the other “non-human things” that are not physical? Rarely do we step outside of ourselves to think about our relationship with them. They tend to randomly accumulate and in a strange way “cling” to us just like a shadow.
The concept of consciously evaluating the way we use all of the non-physical and non-human things in our lives is both foreign to us and rare. Yet can be very valuable.
We need to think more like a carpenter or mechanic. The tools in their toolbox are equivalent to the “non-human things” we carry along with us in our lives. What do we do with our email? Where is our to-do list? How do we approach a project or problem given to us? With emotion or logic? Planned steps or do things as they come? Where will we keep our notes? What “non-human things” are in our toolbox that will help get the job done? In what sequence or order? The question of why we have acquired this non-human “thing”, where we choose to use it, and how we approach things in relation to this tool, is more important than you think in becoming more effective.
Non-physical things are a world unto themselves. They need us to bring them to life. How we interact and use them defines our relationship with them as well as their role in our lives. Many times, used randomly based on a situation. Looking at the outcome desired first and then seeing what’s best to use in our journey is rarely considered. Our uniqueness makes our relationships with “non-human things” different for each one of us. Making their value to an individual much more variable than you think.
Conversations around artificial intelligence are helpful in illustrating what I mean by our relationship to non-human things. Many conversations focus on what artificial intelligence can do. Who it will replace? What human work will disappear? The more interesting conversation needs to focus on how will WE use artificial intelligence. Under what circumstances will we use it to help us? In what way will we find it helpful? It’s our relationship through this human interface of interaction with artificial intelligence that will create value for us.
When we can begin to make explicit our relationship to the “non-human things” in our lives, where they fit into our lives, & how we will use them is where we begin to find clarity. A clarity of process that leads to focus that then leads to action. Making life simpler and more engaging when found.