Make That Decision Work For You
I’m Aunt Ginny to seven young women and one young man, plus honorary aunt to a few others, and stepmom to my two guys, Jake and Jordan. And since Aunt Ginny is also Coach Ginny, I’m occasionally tapped for some on-demand guidance. Last week I spoke with Natasha and Mary Grace who are both in the process of finding the entry points to their careers.
During these conversations, I was keenly aware that as we guide our young people, part of it is advising and sharing knowledge - showing them the ropes of what for them might be a new experience, such as interviewing for a job. However, what’s most important is to equip and empower them to make their own decisions.
So while they’re used to Aunt Ginny having plenty to say and a story for every dilemma, I’m careful not to just info dump. I make sure I tell them, “Well I don't know, so let’s look at that together.” Because what I want for them is to become familiar with the landscape of decision-making: even the anxiety producing, bewildering, and no guarantee it will work out perfectly parts.
It’s never all done or all set. Life is full of decisions. So how do we support those we mentor in building their decision-making muscles?
I’m proud of both Natasha and Mary Grace for exploring their options, seeking input from others, and having the courage to look within and make up their own minds. I’ll skip the personal details (lest they never call me for advice again) and will instead list the aspects of decision-making that came up in our conversations. These included:
Dr. Ellen Langer, a Harvard University social psychology professor, has studied and written extensively on the illusion of control and decision-making. She asserts: “Rather than worrying about whether a decision is right, make the decision work. Look at the advantages that accrue from whatever happens, and then play it as if it was the right decision all along. Pay close enough attention to what happens so that if the decision goes wrong, you’re aware of how to improve things without changing course. That’s what successful companies do.”1
- Making one decision at a time and separating short term needs (where you are now) from long term aspirations (where you want to go);
- Using every experience as a stepping stone;
- Identifying the tradeoffs of each choice while understanding that just one or two items on that pro/con list might carry the most weight in terms of what’s important to you;
- Acting within your own integrity;
- Factoring what you think, how you feel, and what you know on an intuitive level;
- Admitting to yourself when you’ve already made the decision and respecting that;
- Knowing when it’s time to stop torturing yourself with analysis;
- Having the courage to communicate a decision;
- Taking action to bring about the scenario you favor, while responding to how things are actually playing out;
- Trusting that even disappointments will serve you somehow;
- Noticing the doors that are opening for you;
- Trusting yourself to continue following your interests.
As all you aunts, uncles, parents, mentors, and leaders out there know, every bit of advice proffered to others is an opportunity to check yourself.
This Week’s Call To Action:
- Using the list above, how would you describe your approach to decisions? How have you strengthened your decision-making muscles over the years?
- How do you treat yourself after you’ve made a decision? Have you learned to trust your clarity?
I often speak of decisions as defining moments that can set you on a powerful course. Even so, most decisions aren’t life or death and in our day-to-day lives, if we lighten up around decisions, we’ll make better ones. Instead of assuming there is one right decision, aim to make the best decision you can and go from there.
See you in the current,
¹Art Kleiner, “Ellen Langer on the Value of Mindfulness in Business,” (February 9, 2015, page 7).
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