Give it to me BIG! I really, really need the big picture first.
I’m a conceptual thinker and mistakenly think that everyone is this way, when only about 1/4th the population is this way. I took a class recently with an instructor that was decidedly NOT a big picture thinker. She was very good at what she does, but her teaching skills did not serve a number of us in the class. It made me recall the trauma of my childhood – lost in a detail-oriented world. I can work the details, but I first need the big picture. Show me a map of where we’re going, if you want me to follow you.
The difference is like this: about 75% of the population learns step-by-step. Once you master the first building block, you learn the next. When it’s mastered, you learn the next, etc. At the end, you are at the top of a staircase, looking down, seeing how they all fit together to bring you to a new place or concept. Conceptual thinkers like to run up the staircase and see where they are supposed to go. They see how different pieces fit together to make the whole, then learn each piece as it fits into the whole. Nothing is isolated, each piece has a job in relation to everything else.
In my developmental years, my teachers were grounded, step-by-step people. They taught things one step at a time, and when all the steps had been covered, there was the big “reveal” when they showed how all the steps fit into a big picture. I didn’t realize how poorly this worked for me until my junior year in high school, when I took a government class and then a year later, an economics class. I was thrilled! These classes were big-picture concepts in their totality; it was all very conceptual and large-scale. I remember feeling so happy that I found something that made perfect sense, with rules that I understood.
Sometimes, I realize that what looked like a finished concept was actually a building block to a much larger construct. In this way, my world keeps expanding. I remember the day when I realized that my childhood church’s thinking was too small, too regimented, and exclusive. When I examined my personal beliefs, I realized that I no longer shared the group’s fundamental beliefs. I needed a different way that included additional elements that they excluded. So I made a change.
In other areas of my life, I realized I’d outgrown my previous paradigm, and moved on to a new world view that encompassed more of my experiences, beliefs, and way of life. I’ve grown, I’ve allowed my world to grow too. I’m a much better parent, partner, and individual. Some of this is just a change in maturity level, but some of it is because I’ve had the courage to reexamine where my building blocks take me from time to time.
With my experiences, my big picture gets bigger. I don’t make decisions based on what’s best for my family, county, city, state, or country; I try to consider the whole planet. I’ve accepted new constructs and approaches as I’ve expanded my conceptual world. This idea isn’t confined to conceptual learners, it is available to us all. Was this unsettling for those around me who didn’t want an expanded world? Yes. But you know, some of them have kept step with me and expanded their worlds too. You just never know how others will react. What have you outgrown, that you need to let go of?