The 3rd Alternative by Stephen R. Covey is moving from choosing your way or my way to finding a higher way. Our society is naturally competitive, so we are inclined to pick a winner, someone better than the other. The 3rd Alternative pushes the ideas of both sides to an idea better than the two. Then we win, and it's not a you or me decision.
The 3rd Alternative goes through a synergy process.
Synergy is when one plus one equals ten, a hundred, a thousand. Synergy is not compromise, but going beyond to something new. It's bigger or better than my way, your way, but our way.
In alternative thinking you pick one or the other. Those who aren't picked will continue to fight for their way. So it creates perpetual conflict and inertia. No progress is made. In a committee meeting, the congressional floor, the dinner table... conflicts increase. Compromises can be made, but quality does not increase.
To arrive at 3rd alternative thinking, it takes self awareness and valuing the difference of the point of view I represent, and understand that point of view thoroughly. Then it is possible to move on to synergy.
Synergy requires four conditions.
We must be genuine with ourselves and others.
Second, is accepting, caring for and prizing ourselves.
Third, empathize with and understand where the other person is coming from.
Fourth, is having a positive regard for the other person and myself and knowing what is going on in my heart and mind.
So the Paradigm is:
I See Myself
I see myself as a unique human being capable of independent judgement and action.
I See You
I see others as people instead of things.
I Seek you Out
Deliberating seek out conflicting views instead of avoiding or defending yourself against them.
I synergize with you.
This stage has some obstacles.
We must overcome the wall of opinions. When we do not seek to understand the point of view and be deliberate to find areas of conflict, we stall. Covey suggests the Talking Stick method. In the Indian Culture a talking stick was used to make treaties. The one holding a long walking stick, the talking stick, had the floor to explain their position. The other person could not speak until they had the talking stick. The rules were when talking the words had to be soft and warm and from the heart. They had to speak truthfully and wisely.
The emphasis was on empathetic communication, empathetic listening. It's a listening to understand, for content and the emotion of the person. As they would say, we should not criticize until we walk two moons in someone else's shoes. It's giving time to perceive the shoes the other is walking in. When you listen emphatically with another person, you give that personal psychological air. When that need is met, you then move forward and effectively enhance problem solving. So the cycle of I seek you out, I hear you, and the walls come down.
Then the fourth step evolves... I synergize with you. The 3rd Alternative is in motion for finding a solution better than either one of each others. It also prevents getting caught up in the cycle of attacking one another. The process of synergy is ask, define, create, arrive. Get to synergy
on purpose by following these steps.
1. Ask, "are you willing to go for a solution that is better than any of us have come up with."
2. Define the criteria of success. Ask, "what would better look like."
3. Create third alternatives. Experiment with possible solutions, creative prototypes, new frameworks, turning thinking upside down. We suspend judgement for a time.
4. Arrive at Synergy. We know when we are arriving at synergy when excitement begins to show up in the group. We keep working until we see that creative dynamism bursting forth.
Covey goes on to show how to apply this to work, home, school, law, society, the world, and life. Learn more at:
With Christ in the School of Prayer is a leading classic by Andrew Murray on prayer. The alternatives for our lives the Holy Spirit gives are Divine alternatives with God's Power behind them. When we advance, knowing the Spirit of God directed it, we confidently know His Power goes with us. Here's some excerpts from With Christ in the School of Prayer.
The complete book is online at:
‘Lord, teach us to pray.’ Yes, we feel the need now of being taught to pray. None can teach like Jesus, none but Jesus; therefore we call on Him, It is Jesus, praying Himself, who teaches to pray. He teaches, by breathing within us the very spirit of prayer, by living within us as the Great Intercessor. ...amidst our stammerings and fears He is carrying on His work most beautifully. He will breathe His own life, which is all prayer, into us." Jesus teaches us how to pray within prayer itself, so pray and Jesus will teach you.
In prayer everything will depend on our understanding well and practicing the worship in spirit and truth. The man who would truly worship God, would find and know and possess and enjoy God, must be in harmony with Him. Worship in the spirit must come from God Himself. God is Spirit: He alone has Spirit to give. In accordance with the truth of God’s Word. And so worship in spirit is worship in truth; actual living fellowship with God, a real correspondence and harmony between the Father, who is a Spirit, and the child praying in the spirit.
Alone with God
"Every one must have some solitary spot where he can be alone with his God. The secrecy of the inner chamber and the closed door, the entire separation from all around us, where our spirit truly comes into contact with the Invisible One. Remember your Father is, and sees and hears in secret; go there and stay there, and go again from there in the confidence: He will recompense. Trust Him for it; depend upon Him: prayer to the Father cannot be vain; He will reward you openly."
The Model Prayer
"Our heavenly Teacher has given us the very words we are to take with us as we draw near to our Father. We have in them a form of prayer in which there breathe the freshness and fulness of the Eternal Life. So simple that the child can lisp it, so divinely rich that it comprehends all that God can give. A form of prayer that becomes the model and inspiration for all other prayer, and yet always draws us back to itself as the deepest utterance of our souls before our God."
The Prayer Model given by Jesus...
even a child can follow it, and we can.
Our outline of how to pray.
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
The Certainty of Answers to Prayer
"‘You shall receive, you shall find, it shall be opened unto you;’ and then gives as ground for such assurance the law of the kingdom: ‘He that asks, receives; he that seeks, finds; to him that knocks, it shall be opened.’ We cannot but feel how in this sixfold repetition He wants to impress deep on our minds this one truth, that we may and must most confidently expect an answer to our prayer."
"It is in prayer and its answer that the interchange of love between the Father and His child takes place. Every one that asks, receives.. Let us not make the feeble experiences of our unbelief the measure of what our faith may expect. Let us seek, not only just in our seasons of prayer, but at all times, to hold fast the joyful assurance: man’s prayer on earth and God’s answer in heaven are meant for each other. Let us trust Jesus to teach us so to pray, that the answer can come. He will do it, if we hold fast the word He gives today: ‘Ask, and you shall receive.’ "
Spend time alone with the Lord.
He will teach you as you worship him,
as He ministers to you,
you also receive His Answers, His Directions, His Power for you.