“If you can’t change a situation, change your mind” unknown.
Are you one of those people who makes decisions easily and once made stays with them, come hell or high water? Or do you dance at the waters edge, considering every possible eventuality before you will get even your toes wet, and once you have, do you back and forth from one stance to another?
I received some feedback as part of an annual review that labelled me indecisive. I can remember really clearly how that made me feel – hurt, disappointed, frustrated and indignant. When the soreness had abated enough, I became curious about why this had riled me to the level it had and I reached the conclusion that it had because, if not completely true, it had an element of truth to it. It also came from someone I admired and whose opinion I valued- which made the sting worse.
I recognise that decision making does not always come easily to me. When I was wearing my professional hat (I’m thinking corporate world), it was certainly easier, but when I viewed the decision as personal or one of particular magnitude, I struggled. I would often be heard telling my husband that he should make decisions around such things as dinner plans, social engagements, what film to see, because I had spent all day/week making decisions at work, and I was now all out.
I have since learnt that knowing what you want is crucial and was hugely lacking for me, at this time. Had you asked me, I would have honestly told you I didn’t know. Much of my work now is around determining what you, the client wants, even when you protest that you too don’t know what that is. Mining for values is a key component and as I explain it to others, it creates the navigation system from which we can start to plot a course through pending decisions and upcoming junctions in our lives. When we understand what we need and what we want, decisions become much less daunting and overwhelming, we are better in tune with ourselves and from there, trust our own inner knowledge. It’s an exercise I went through with a coach, and I continue to revisit, because as life progresses, we change and so too will some of our values.
Getting decisions “right” and significantly, getting them right first time seems to hold much power over us. I believe that’s learnt over time and there has certainly been something of a negative vibe around failure (large understatement) for me in all aspects of my life. We can all spend considerable effort pondering that 'what ifs' of our opinions and decisions. My early career, in the manufacturing environment placed heavy emphasis on right first time – a worthy baseline in a process driven world, but does it translate over to a leadership space and into our personal lives? I have to currently conclude that I find it creatively restrictive.
Fail fast, fail forward became a bit of a go to quote to challenge that mentality, but although I may have recognised the positives of such a strategy for the good of creativity and growth; it truthfully was not something I was ever really able to embrace. My inner critics would always seem to march out with their clipboards and apply rather a punitive score which left me feeling dismally crap. I have finally concluded that I am not alone – that there are a huge number of us, to whom failure is a dirty word.
We’ve spoken before about perfectionism – what can be achieved when we can learn to make friends with good enough. Can we apply this same mechanism to decision making? Is any decision, better than no decision? Is certainty and clarity always the end goal? When applying to my trusted sounding boards they gave me the following pearls of wisdom and experience:
1) The body does not like the feeling on indecision – I concur, it’s agonising.
2) By not making a decision, having someone else do it, we may learn a new perspective – yes – albeit we have landed at decision by default and are our needs and values met?
3) By delaying decision to ponder, we may gather strength to make the brave choice, as opposed to the obvious secure one – Agree, the intention behind the ponder has significance here I think – is it procrastination or to muster the courage?
So my gut tells me that certainty and clarity are the eventual must – at least for the “now” we are in.
I have been describing the current period in my life as an experiment – it gave me the permission (yes permission!!) I needed from myself to try something very, very new and very, very risky. I refer to the leaving of aforementioned company and career and all the stability and security that afforded, to plunge myself into self-employment (somewhat reduced stability and security!), starting again, if not from the bottom, then at least from several rungs down. And by labelling it an experiment, I leave myself the option to change my mind. I had to make many big decisions to bring it about thus far, but I have not had to make up my mind forever, which has previously frequently held me in the starting blocks.
Those starting blocks beautifully illustrated by @LizandMollie, because truthfully what are we missing out on by waiting to be ready?
The ability to change one’s mind, is, I feel, an enormous show of strength and an invaluable skill to master. It relies again on laying down the perfectionist part, being humble and accepting that there is growth to be had now and always.
“Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”. George Bernard Shaw
It is also imperative that we can have the courage to say we were wrong, whatever the reason may or may not have been. Perhaps there is new information, John Maynard Keynes said: “When the facts change, I change my mind”. Sometimes we change and sometimes, well we tried something, thought something and it just didn’t work out, or it no longer reflects where we or the world are. To me, that’s growth, a sign you are learning, listening, evolving and I see it in the most interesting of people. Have you ever been embroiled in a conversation with one of those people who just won’t hear the other perspective – who at best pays lip service, but really has no intention of allowing themselves to have their mind changed? How stifled and stagnant a place to be. To change one’s mind it the very essence of courage.
"A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will". Spanish proverb
With thanks to Janet Calgan and Uzma Mohamedali
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