“Life is like Ikea furniture, once you have managed to assembled one item, you know what not to do,” some wise words from my brother.
When I moved out of my parents’ to study in Vienna, I bought six dining chairs at Ikea. A friend of mine and me spent an entire afternoon trying to assemble “Mikael” and his doppelgängers, but for some reason, we could not figure out how. No matter how we moved the pieces, Mikael was stubborn and he and his friends lay unassembled in the dining area for a few days. I then invited another friend to help us. He looked at the chair, turned one of the legs in a way we had not tried and within minutes, all of the six Mikaels were assembled.
What Mikael and his friends taught me was that sometimes, it just does not help to keep applying the same strategy. With so many things in life, I could or should have done exactly the same. I can be extremely stubborn and when I think something has to happen in a way I have planned it, I keep trying and trying and trying. Very often, I fail to see that just because I keep doing the same thing, it does not mean I will succeed eventually. Instead, I should just think about Mikael and take a step back, take a break and try to think differently. And sometimes, we just need to ask for help.
I really like the analogy with Ikea furniture, because it is always a bit exciting and scary at the same time when you open the Ikea boxes. Will it be difficult to assemble? Will this be one of the projects which will end up half-finished in the basement? Will this trigger a relationship crisis? But once you went through it – you assembled, dissembled, assembled again (maybe cursed a bit in between) and then you see the finished product: it was worth moving out of the comfort zone.
Similarly, when we come across obstacles in our professional or private life, they seem daunting at first sight too. We may think, we never manage to overcome them and have no idea where to start. But similar to the paper instruction booklets supplied by Ikea, there are always some things guiding us. Have I been in a similar situation before? What have I done then? Do I know anyone who could help? What does Google say? Can I find a Youtube video? (By the way, I discovered Youtube videos for assembling Ikea furniture and there is one for almost every product taking you through all the steps. It would be great if there was something like that in real life: How to pass the next exam. How to get out of a toxic relationship. How to get that promotion. How to launch a new product line How to move abroad as an expat. I would have an endless list of ideas, if you like to start a Youtube channel. (And I am not talking about click-bait videos which only use the title but are nothing but self-promotion.))
When we then look back at what we have achieved, things always seem easy. We do not remember how uneasy we felt when we had to move out of the comfort zone. And once we have overcome the obstacles, our comfort zone just expanded. And soon, we will move out of this one as well. Furthermore, we admire people who effortlessly manage things we struggle with. But maybe they have done it before, maybe they have more practice? I only built a “Malm” chest of drawers once, but I know if I ever have to do that again, it will be a breeze. Maybe that coworker who seems to get everything has done something similar in the past? Maybe the serial entrepreneur is so successful because it gets easier to keep fighting in the long-run? And I am sure even during awkward conversations, we would know what to answer to a an inappropriate comment if it was made again.
What do you think? Do you think that life really is similar to assembling Ikea furniture?
PS: This Postcard was in no way shape or form sponsored by Ikea.