Bigger picture thinking: Why it helps to go back to basics

I’m a big fan of seeing the ‘bigger picture’.  I prefer to get a rounded view of what’s going on before getting too bogged down with the detail.

Once I have the basics in place, I’m all set to engage with the specifics, because I have built a foundation from which to explore.

This approach isn’t tough and should save time in the long run.  However, far more often you’ll find people working in the opposite direction.  First they take on the specifics, only to discover what’s surrounding them afterwards.

I fully understand the need to specialise.  If nobody dug deep, we wouldn’t advance in the spectacular ways we do.

But you can’t specialise convincingly until you’ve taken account of the bigger picture in the first place.  There’s nothing wrong with getting back to basics.  It’s so much easier to achieve a clear, focused attitude once you see the big concepts that are flying around you.

photo by dvs

photo by dvs

You’re likely deep in exams and revision hell right now.  Either way, think about your revision technique and how you best take information in.  At degree level and beyond, a bunch of specialist facts without a grounding or any basic connections won’t get you far.  You can memorise all sorts of detail, but putting it all into place is practically impossible.

At any time you feel uncertain, whether it’s in your study or an everyday situation, don’t be afraid to look outward at the basic information until you reach a point of understanding.

Imagine getting lost when you’re out.  The first thing you want to do is find a familiar landmark or a sign for a place you can get your bearings from.

Next time you don’t fully understand something, try stepping back a little and take into account the basics.  Search for that familiar landmark.  Keep stepping back, revisiting more basic concepts each time until you reach a point of understanding.  From here, look again at what seems to be getting in the way of your grasp of the topic.  Quite often it’s not a specific detail you’re missing, but a more general overview.