From what I can tell, the idea of the slippery slope is well known in some arenas and unfamiliar in others. I roughly remember when one of my library science classes presented the idea of a slippery slope and it stuck with me – as they talked about school libraries removing books – like Mark Twain. Removing one book could become a slippery slope for people to then challenge any number of other books included in the school library collection. And not only the possible challenges, also the predicament of how to decide and where to draw the line – how easily you can find yourself sliding down the slope after a few missteps.
This idea – as I learned about it – was about being aware of the small things, and if you ignored the accumulation of small changes you could find yourself down that slippery slope. Imagine yourself on a literal slippery slope – the effort required to go up compared to down. It becomes simplest to let yourself slide to the bottom, although it’s certainly not the only outcome – and if you pay attention to things, you can avoid getting too far down the slope.
The slippery slope is also – apparently – known as logical fallacy where essentially the idea suggests that one step will lead to a cascading of bad decisions and undesired results – the domino effect. Some people suggested it was not a logical fallacy when a middle ground was recognized – does that one misstep would land you at the bottom of the hill or that there were many missteps before you might find yourself muddy at the base.
Yet, what does this have to do with organizing or systems and habits?
The slippery slope can also be a part of systems breaking down and if we ignore or avoid dealing with that we can find ourselves staring back up at the place we used to be. And if I haven’t said if recently, systems do break down, and what once was a great approach has become a problem. If you suspect your once working system is becoming less functional -the first step is to evaluate what parts are still working well and looking for which aspects have become problematic. This gives you some time to see if the issues persist before you take any action. Meanwhile, your awareness and evaluation will prevent you from any more movement in that slippery slope.
When we close our eyes to a growing stack of mail, newspapers, and magazines – it can overtake our surfaces surprisingly quickly. So, when we’re facing challenges, maintaining our systems and organization can take a backseat. Sometimes this leads to suddenly finding yourself surrounded by accumulated stuff – at the bottom of the slippery slope and out of practice.
The slippery slope can sneak up us – for perfectly good reasons just as much as once we’ve taken a series of missteps, it can become easier to make excuses or justify our future missteps. If you look at the recent past of this blog, you will see inconsistencies – which is in strong contrast to over 4 years of regularity. There was no intention of it becoming a pattern, yet as I struggled to finish a blog (there’s more partly written pieces than I’ve ever had at a given moment), it was easier to justify another missed date.
Whatever it is that starts us on the path down that slippery slope, all too often we can find ourselves already there before we recognize our missteps. Then, if things are such that correcting our habits isn’t a high enough priority we fall even more out of practice – potentially adding to the challenge of reestablishing positive and supportive habits.
When you find yourself muddy, bruised, and embarrassed at the bottom of the slippery slope you encountered it might help to know a couple of things:
- The slippery slope can sneak up on any of us, and likely we all will end up at the bottom more than once in our lifetime.
- It didn’t really ‘sneak’ up; we took any number of missteps to land at the bottom.
- Getting yourself back to the top – not even attempting to climb up the slope you slid down – yet still finding your way back to helpful habits will take time and effort.
- The journey and the path back to the top might end up being a completely new experience. We’re shifting and changing all the time so the approach you need to take might be dramatically different than how you handled things before. You have learned things since your last arrival to the top.
This idea of a slippery slope offers an image of what’s happened that also reinforces that reclaiming helpful habits isn’t going to be automatic, we get to find our way back to the top. You probably cannot predict how long it will take or what you will find on your journey – there’s a chance it might even seem completely foreign to you. Yet, you have something to conceptualize the process and hopefully that can help you avoid self-recriminations ~ which won’t be of any benefit as you set out on your journey back to the top! Thinking about the slippery slope can also help you to be aware it exists, and then you can try to avoid too many missteps; if we can recognize our entering ”dangerous” ground, we can then take action to prevent any additional slipping.
So, what do think about this slippery slope idea? Does it seem like a logical fallacy? I have a fascination on logical fallacies, so it’s probable there will be a post on it one of these days!