Once I’ve got beyond whether I want my breakfast egg scrambled or boiled, I can give myself a hard time over decisions. And even the egg question can be a bit of a facer on a bad day!
I have a tendency, if not watched, to see any number of sides to questions and have to make a conscious effort to get a grip on myself so that I don’t lose sight of the important things.
Putting on my coaching hat, I remind myself that what’s needed is a systematic approach and information – preferably high quality.
If you’ve read other parts of this blog, you won’t be surprised to know that I recommend Mind Maps (www.thinkbuzan.com) as a really helpful way of pulling together everything in your head on a particular topic.
Getting stuff from other heads needs care, too. Asking someone what the “best” way to deal with a problem is can put them on the spot and paralyse their thinking. Try asking “How many ways can you think of to deal with ....?” They then get to say all the things that come to mind and you can see what ideas that sparks off for you.
Once you’ve done your gathering, try the Cartesian questions on the alternatives:
What will happen if I (for example) resign?
What won’t happen if I resign?
What will happen if I don’t resign?
What won’t happen if I don’t resign?
By now you should have a much clearer picture and be better equipped to come to a decision you can feel confident about.
Tip: Don’t be hard on yourself if it turns out you made the wrong choice – it doesn’t help, either at that moment or when it makes you doubt your decision-making ability next time.
In JL Carr’s “The Harpole Report”, one character (a teacher) is incensed when challenged by the acting headmaster, asking how he dares to speak to her like that when she has had 30 years’ experience. He retorts “You haven’t had 30 years’ experience! You’ve had 1 year’s experience 30 times!”
When you do work that repeats some, if not all, aspects, it’s a challenge to come up with fresh approaches. After all, if you’ve found a way that works and within the time available, it could be risky to go down a different route.
Is it a worse risk than that of becoming a virtual automaton, so programmed that you just need to hear a certain phrase or encounter a certain problem and you click into automatic delivery?
How do you get different insights?
You can try a little role reversal, perhaps. Sit on the other side of your desk (literally and metaphorically) and see what being on the receiving end is like.
Or you could ask yourself what you would do if you wanted to make things go badly – and then do the opposite.
How about explaining what you do to someone who doesn’t know the job at all – can you gain any fresh insights from their reactions?
Maybe it’s possible to do a job swap and broaden your range.
I don’t want to disparage experience – far from it.
It enriches our lives and enables us to help ourselves and others out of difficult situations. It should also make us more caring and tolerant beings.
Tip: When you get into the habit of spending a few minutes each day putting what’s in your head down on paper, it clears your mind and it’s also handy for looking back and seeing what you did last time something happened – should you need either to repeat or avoid the strategy.
I often ask clients to name something about themselves they’re proud of – almost everybody finds it difficult unless they're prompted.
Your confidence can be so easily shattered and there’s the habit we have of not wanting to look boastful but I believe we’ve been conditioned to think that only the really big things can count as achievements.
All the talent shows like BGT, all the crushed participants who aren’t the winner. All the players who get knocked out of Wimbledon before the final (or in it!), all the Olympic athletes who don’t get golds – are they under-achievers? Are all eyes so firmly fixed on winning that all the work and success that went before gets overlooked?
Yes, of course we should have big goals and strive to do our best but we should also have small goals on the way to the big ones and we should revel in the sense of achievement that reaching them gives us. It all helps motivate us along the way and all the small achievements add up.
How much effort is enough to qualify? Who decides whether the objective is sufficiently commendable to count? Whose praise or approval do we need to make us feel we’ve succeeded?
You can assess your own achievement – did you put your best efforts into it? Did you improve on previous performance? Have the results (not necessarily final ones) moved you in a direction that is positive? (You’ll notice I don’t say “the right direction”.) If you can say “yes” to these questions, then congratulate yourself! Recognise your achievement and enjoy it!
Tip: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that, if you did it, it can’t be that difficult and therefore isn’t much of an achievement.
A bit of song lyric – from Morrissey – “I was looking for a job and then I found a job and heaven knows I’m miserable now”.
I don’t know if boredom was his problem but I’m sure it is for a lot of people – I’ve talked to plenty of them!
What a waste in an economy that’s in so much trouble. All that energy and creativity leaking away like water from a burst main that no one’s spotted yet when it could and should be being channelled into productive activity.
Picture a world in which everyone works at something that inspires and engages them. Where could we all be if everyone was focusing all their attention and talent on their work?
[Of course that would also require employers to “harvest” all this potential. I’m continually surprised and depressed by the number of firms who implement new or revamped systems without consulting the people who actually worked with the old ones. So often this just throws up a whole new set of problems and costs money instead of saving it.]
Back to boredom though: why are you bored?
Did you somehow fall into a job that you now realise isn’t “you”?
Has a previously satisfactory job morphed into something you wouldn’t have signed up for?
Is it a job you’re over-qualified for but you accepted it for lack of anything better?
Whatever the reason, don’t let yourself be dulled into putting up with it.
Journalist Katherine Whitehorn’s careers advice was “Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it.”
What do you love doing? How can you arrange it so that someone pays you to do it?
Tip: Don’t know what you’d really love to do? Start by asking yourself what you’d do if you knew nothing could go wrong.
I've joined forces with my friend, Luanne Hill of Accent on the Positive, to create a new group for women in the early stages of running a business and for those who are wondering if that's the way forward for them.
So many women who could move their working lives up to a whole new level don't do it because they don't feel confident of their ability to present themselves or their ideas, to sell themselves or their product or service.
They often feel that it's beyond them - that "People like me don't do that" syndrome - when all that's needed is some well-placed support.
So we're aiming to take the best bits of networking - finding people you can collaborate with productively and building a support system - and combining it with training in business basics.
Add to that the natural inclination of women to cooperate and learn from each others' experience and you've got a network strong enough to support its members long-term.
Like to join us? Find out more at www.RiseBusinessCircle.co.uk or contact us:
.uk or 0759 357 9636
Apparently, “The average adult thinks of 3-6 alternatives for any given situation. The average child thinks of 60.” And
“Research has shown that in creativity quantity equals quality. The longer the list of ideas, the higher the quality of the final solution. The highest quality ideas appear at the end of the list.” (Linda Naiman, www.creativityatwork.com)
I don’t know about you but I find the first quote depressing and the second liberating.
Why are we so quick to squash imaginative thinking in children? I know that they won’t always come up with entirely practicable answers to problems but must we break them of the habit of unrestricted inventiveness in the name of being “realistic”?
We end up being prone to editing ourselves – often we dismiss ideas as unworkable or silly almost instantaneously, as though embarrassed by their impracticality.
But even ideas that don’t work in themselves can lead on to something that will and, if you pay heed to the second quote and come up with loads and loads of ideas, it’s a fair bet that your brain will generate at least one interesting solution.
I also find that getting all the things that are buzzing round in my head out of it and down on a piece of paper really helps to clear my mind and relieve the stress of feeling that I have to keep it all, good or bad, in case I lose something important.
I’ve said it before, I’m a big fan of Mind Maps (www.thinkbuzan.com/uk) – their ability to pull ideas out of the recesses of your mind always delights me and, a bit like nesting dolls, inside each new idea there are more waiting to be found.
Tip: Before you dismiss your next “silly” idea, examine it for themes or elements that could go somewhere. Or think what the opposite might be or how another person might take it further. It could lead to something really interesting.
It’s all too easy, sadly, to look at our own achievements and accomplishments and dismiss or undervalue them because we did them. And what other people achieve seems so much more praiseworthy. But, if you learned something that took time and effort, give yourself credit – enjoy the feeling.
By the way, what is that feeling and where is it located in your body? Is it, for example, a nice warm glow in your belly? Is it a feeling that your feet are planted on something solid? Is it in your head? Whatever and wherever, take a moment or two to locate and identify it and then practise making it more intense. Crank it up as high as it will go and wallow in it!
Some other easy ways to feel better:
Tip: Pick an item (or 2 or 3) from one of your lists and make a point of keeping it in mind as you walk, lift your chin till it’s parallel with the ground, put your shoulders back and look the world in the eye. Make it a habit.
Why is the name of my coaching practice Design the Future?
Partly because designing the future is what coaching is about and partly to remind myself and others how important it is to plan actively for our futures and not just let someone else send us in whatever direction best fits their agenda.
I look back and think what a tragically amenable child I was (and that’s me putting a good spin on it!), always taking it that adults and teachers knew best. Just one example: I wanted to spend some of my 6th-form “free” periods learning to type. The Senior Mistress looked witheringly at me and said, “You don’t need to type – you’re going to university.”
Well, quite apart from the fact that, at university, I had to produce my dissertation in German and typed which was difficult and expensive, as we all now know the world is centred around the keyboard.
And what business of hers was it to direct my life based on her academic snobbery rather than what interested me?
We owe it to ourselves to pursue our own happiness: however well-meaning other peoples’ advice might be, they aren’t the ones who are going to have to live the consequences of it on a daily basis.
You don’t have to do it with a coach – although, of course, I think coaching gives you advantages it’s hard to find in any one other place.
If you’re going to make the best choices, you need someone who will really listen to you, someone to give you objective feedback on your ideas and someone who can lead you to insights you might otherwise have missed while focussing on you as a talented and capable individual.
With coaching or without, plan for your success and take action to achieve it.