Do you often seek the approval of others? Do you also seek your own approval? Approval is the opinion that something is considered to be good or acceptable.
Approval can be a double-edged sword, either helping or harming you. Seeking the approval of others is not in itself a bad thing. Others may have the power to make something happen. You may respect those you seek approval from and value their opinions. The flip side of this is when you seek the approval of others because you are not confident in your own thoughts or actions. This can lead to making decisions or taking actions that do not serve your interests, giving your power away or coming under the control of another.
The first approval to seek is your own. When you take or contemplate taking an action, thoroughly vet your plans with yourself and make sure you want to go forward. You can ask others for input as you do so; that is not the same as asking for approval. In some cases, another’s approval may be necessary for you to proceed. In that case, first and foremost, have confidence in yourself and your decisions. From there, you can deal with the approval or disapproval of others.
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Do you ever get yourself to a place where you think you have no choice in a situation? That is a falsity. You always have choice. Saying you have no choice is giving away your power.
Thing is, you may have a hard choice in front of you that you would rather not face. Better to face that hard choice. It never serves you to abdicate your power of choice.
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The opportunity to create a space in which to think is viewed as a luxury these days. However, taking the time to think things out ensures better outcomes and often saves you the time of redoing or repairing past decisions.
Do you take the time to think things out? If not, what are the reasons why – it slows things down, it is too much effort or it takes too much time? What is the last major decision you made as a manager? Did you think it out? How do the results of your decision relate to the time you took to think it out?
Taking the time to think things out often results in your interests being better served, anticipation of obstacles or problems that may result from your decision, getting the facts you need to make the best decision for you and your organization and avoidance of unanticipated consequences. Thinking things out may take time, but it is time well spent.
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Reality: the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.
Are your life and actions aligned with reality? You may say reality is a downer. It can be, but it is the best place to start from. Reality does not limit you or dictate your next steps. It just needs to be factored in, so that your choices come both from truth and the present moment.
Say that you are in what looks like a lose-lose situation at work. Do you pretend what is happening isn’t there? Or do you look carefully at the reality of what exists and find your way through it? I think the latter. When you align with reality, no matter how bad things are, you actually are in a very powerful place. Truth sets you free.
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Clarity is essential to making good decisions. There are many things that can cloud your vision, without your realizing that they are doing so. What kind of things? Here are several: biases, fears, attitudes, pre-judgments, ambiguity or confusion. Discerning when any of these things are present in your decision-making is a skill that is worth developing.
Take a moment and look back at a decision that resulted in trouble for you. What was going on when you made the decision? Did you have clarity around it? Then, look at a decision that went well for you. Did you have clarity when you made it? One way to create clarity is to stop when making a significant decision and bring yourself fully to the present moment. Ascertain what is happening in the present and let it inform the decision you make. Develop ways to clear your vision. With clear vision, you are able to see everything around you and your decisions will reflect your clarity.
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Sometimes you can find yourself on the edge of something and feeling a bit unsteady. It can be an edge between two options, or decisions, an edge that you are starting to step off involuntarily or an edge of conflicting emotions. When you are teetering on an edge, gather your awareness; you don’t want to fall.
You can get yourself to an edge unconsciously and be surprised that you are there. Or, your actions can lead you there step-by-step. When you find yourself on an edge, best to regroup immediately, figure out what got you there and steady yourself. Then, you can take the action that is in your best interest.
Have you found yourself teetering on the edge recently? Did you get yourself back to solid ground?
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In my coaching, I often see situations where people believe they do not have choice. You always have choice. As you make decisions, observe what choice is in front of you. Say, a project is taking a lot of your time. You are starting to neglect other aspects of your life and are feeling stress. The deadline is looming, so you feel you have no choice, but to keep going. Well, you do have a choice – several in fact. The challenge lies in what choice you make. You can miss the deadline, be a bit late on the project or push to complete it on time. As you identify your choices and evaluate them, how can you feel you have no choice?
Acknowledging that you always have choice is a way of taking responsibility for your life. When you see that your life is formed by your choices, you can consciously make the ones that are right for you. Your choices may involve compromises at first; but over time, I think you will see that life gets better, as you acknowledge choice.
The next time you have a decision to make, see it as a choice.
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Managers make decisions within uncertainty daily. Sometimes, critical decisions made within uncertainty involve high risk for a manager. When I worked as a manager at The US Environmental Protection Agency, one of our team’s most challenging projects was to develop guidance for scientists and regulators addressing decision making under uncertainty. In the project, we put a lot of our focus on the assumptions scientists and regulators made for each decision. Good assumptions can mitigate the risks inherent in decision making within uncertainty. Ideally, you have the time to make solid, well-researched assumptions, but that is not always possible. So, what do you do? Fly by the seat of your pants? No, you do the best you can in the time available to you. Some strategies for making critical decisions in uncertainty: bring your team together and use all your brainpower to identify first the unknowns involved and then the risks; devise the best course of action in the time available to you; document the assumptions and identified risks involved in your decision; get the concurrence of upper management both on your decision and on going forward within uncertainty. The unknown can become a bit more known with time, but will often remain, and decisions must be made. Get as comfortable as you can with uncertainty. Create a strategy that helps you deal within it.
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Overwhelm means to crush, submerge or destroy. Overwhelm derails your ability to manage well. It is a powerful energy that often comes quietly. You try to get just one more thing done. You think you can do what you can’t. The result: overwhelm overtakes you.
What’s the antidote? Prevent it. Be aware of your stress level and the signs you are going into overwhelm. When you see overwhelm approaching, end run it. Stop, plan and execute.
Sometimes you just need to regain your center, lower your stress level and you can proceed. Other times you may have to lay it out to your team. “Here’s what’s on our plate. What can we get done.” Other times, you have to throw the ball to your boss to set priorities. When you need them to, let management make the hard choices and set priorities with you.
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