Goals are an expression of our desire for change.

Of course, change is happening all the time.

But we want the change we want. And goals help us influence the sprawling messiness of life in the direction we want it to go.

In part 1 of this post I introduced the Stacey Matrix as a tool to help select goal-achievement strategies that are targeted to your situation.

The Stacey Matrix has two dimensions:

  1. Certainty &
  2. Agreement.

These two dimensions result in four possible situations. Yesterday I considered two of them. In this post, I'll look at what to do when life is complicated or chaotic.

When Life is Complicated

There are two types of complicated situations, according to the Stacey Matrix, and each calls for slightly different handling:

Complicated Situation #1: high levels of certainty & low levels of agreement

In this kind of situation, cause and effect are clear. You know what your health issue is and you know what is provoking it.

But there are conflicting opinions about what to do about it, which makes it difficult to create a plan.

When there is a lot of contradictory information, it's easy to get confused. You don't want to do the wrong thing, but it's not always obvious what that is.

In this situation, it is particularly important to review all the evidence, make an informed decision and then pay close attention to what works for you.

Sometimes, opposing views relate to bioindividuality. Because some things work for some people but not for others. Like dairy products and intermittent fasting.

But we tend to assume that the same things work for everyone.

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Take the Assessment

Divergent perspectives can also occur during a paradigm shift, when people who are invested in the old order tend view things one way and those who have embraced the new worldview see it quite differently. (This was evident when Matthew and I interviewed three different doctors about nutritional treatments for autoimmune disease last year.)

And sometimes, low levels of agreement occur because no one has an opinion. There is simply no credible information available.

When there is no advice about effective strategies for the health issue you want to address, fall-back on n=1 practices and follow the recommendations for complex situations in part 1 of this post.

Specifically, focus on safe strategies to improve your health, like stress management, while you learn more about what's actionable in your particular situation.

Complicated Situation #2: low levels of certainty & high levels of agreement

When cause and effect aren't obvious, but there is agreement about effective strategies you have a variation on a simple situation. Yay!

In this scenario, everyone agrees that this thing usually works, but no one quite knows why.

You can follow the recommendations for simple situations in part 1 of this post, but be alert.

Lack of information about cause and effect can lead to unintended consequences. Taking the time to create a theory of change with interim goals and indicators can help ensure you get where you want to go.

And finally...

Beyond Complex: Chaos

When complexity tips over into chaos, traditional strategies no longer work well.

Chaos occurs when levels of certainty and agreement dip so low that there is no longer any discernible pattern.

Chaos can strike when a cascade of tipping points is reached, creating multiple interrelated health issues with myriad symptoms, and the inability to detect, or cope with, what is unfolding.

It can also occur as part of a creative destruction process.

Planning is almost useless in a chaotic situation because no one can anticipate what will happen.

This is where Matthew was when we started the Autoimmune Protocol just over 2 years ago, and it is a testament to the effectiveness of the protocol that his health issues are now merely complex.

Which means it has been possible to begin to tease apart what is going on and make some sense of it.

The most appropriate response to chaotic situation is to do what you can to increase agreement and certainty to create some stability. If possible, do this in consultation with your allies, and ideally, some experts.

Increase agreement and certainty any amount, until your situation becomes complex, and you can begin to understand it.

It may be helpful to remember that what seems like chaos up close, may have a pattern when viewed from a different vantage point.

Experts who are used to viewing health from a systems perspective (such as Functional Medicine Practitioners) may be able to distinguish these patterns, even if the situation seems like total anarchy to you.

Creating Intentional Change

Goals are about change. And the systems around us (and inside us) are changing all the time.

What we want is intentional change.

Here are my six steps for creating intentional change:

  1. Understand the system;
  2. Identify what's actionable;
  3. Assess leverage;
  4. Take action;
  5. Observe impacts & measure outcomes; &
  6. Repeat.

Emphasis on steps 1-3 is important preparation for successfully achieving your health goals, no matter what your situation.

And a quick analysis using the Stacey Matrix helps with all three.

Featured Resource


A structured approach to transitioning to an evidence-based protocol can help increase both certainty and agreement.

SAD to AIP in SIX is a an online program create by Angie Alt and facilitated by trained, certified coaches, who support the gradual process of transitioning to the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) over 6 weeks. Every detail of the diet and lifestyle changes required for the AIP is covered.

Enrollment for SAD to AIP in SIX is open 5 times a year.

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