making choices

making choices

"Those who say no can also say yes."


What a great quotation that is. A truism. Fundamental in its truthfulness and its simplicity.

Or, another way of putting it, blindingly obvious.

But don't we lose sight of this simplicity so often? We tie ourselves up in knots when we are confronted with a choice. We so often tell ourselves that we don't have any choice - that someone else is holding all the cards, making the decisions for us - our hands are tied. Or if we think we do have a choice, we agonise over making the 'right' choice, whatever that is.

Does it have to be that complicated, even for major life decisions?

Even if we don't have a great deal of choice about our current situation, for example, for those of my clients in a redundancy situation, you can choose how to respond. Do you lie down and play dead or do you use it as a wake-up call to a new future - one which you hadn't previously envisaged?

Choice, at its most fundamental, is simple, not complex. There are, essentially, only two ways we can react - to accept what we have or to move on to something. Surrender or shift. The key is not to do either without conviction, and the way to make a decision from a place of conviction is to be truly grounded. If you are not grounded, you stay put out of fear and rigidity or you move on too often - you have no staying power. When you are grounded you are clear about what you need to do and your action is from a place of strength.

Being grounded gives you structure, stability and security.

Oh, so that's easy then……

Those of you who have experienced redundancy or have been a victim of restructuring at work might have read the sentence before last and wondered what planet I'm on. Structure, stability and security - where, pray? Haven't had a sniff of any of those for a while. Wasn't that the 80s boom?

You're right to be sceptical. Those things can't be relied upon on out there. The only structure, stability and security you can depend upon is what's inside you - your own resourcefulness.

How do you get a grip on your own resourcefulness? Two ways, I'd say.

The first way - from knowing yourself - how you really are, not how you think you are, what you have to offer, and what your personal values are. Self-awareness is the key here. For if you know what are your strengths and shortcomings then you're well placed to deal with the situation - any situation - you can learn to use your strengths to counteract your weaknesses. So, personality profiling can be useful here, otherwise any feedback is useful.

Other ways to understand yourself are to accept and understand conflicting emotions. Differentiate between what arises from a feeling that you 'should' do something and that which feels more true to your nature.

Evaluate your past experiences - how you've made choices in the past - have you fallen into jobs or made a proactive choice? Be wary of repeating past choices automatically. Think through how it worked (or didn't) for you last time. Wanna do it differently this time? You could, you know.

The second way - there is also strength to be gained from knowledge about the external environment - the opportunities available, and how they relate to you.

Find out what's out there. It takes investment in time and energy. It might challenge your preconceptions. It might even blow your mind. Be prepared for that. But do it. One thing is for sure - you'll learn something, even if it's that you'd rather stay put for now.

Don't flounder in indecision. Get together a strategy for deciding, that'll make you feel more in control. It may be a SWOT analysis or force-field analysis. Identify the decision-making strategies that work for you.

I'm one of life's great list-makers. I recall that when I was confronted with the biggest decision of my life, my strategy was to compile a list, or rather, two lists - reasons to stay and reasons to move on. After four hours and careful thought, I had twenty-two items in the 'reasons to stay' column and when I turned to the 'reasons to go' could come up with only one. But seeing it there in black-and-white I knew the course of action which was right for me - to move on. No doubt about it. Sometimes getting it down on paper is what it needs; sometimes it's talking it over with someone. Whatever works for you, do it.

By the way, you might have gathered by now that a theme is emerging. This, ALL this, can be summed up in two words - taking responsibility. Choice means responsibility.

You often hear about people who faced and worked through a crisis who go on to make unprecedented changes in other aspects of their life. I'm sure that it's not because they get hooked on change and crisis - it's because they suddenly realise with crystal clarity what depths of resources they have at their disposal. Take those steps to understand what you're dealing with - you'll never look back.

And isn't this grappling with choice just such an essential part of being human? Embrace it. Relish it! - it's always going to be there!

This article © Copyright Ad astra Career Management. Please do not reproduce this article without permission. If you wish to reproduce this article please contact us.

Recommended book

The big difference - life works when you choose it

Nicola Phillips
ISBN 1-843-04001-8; 203pp

The big differenceAnother great book in the Momentum series. I haven't yet found one that doesn't hit the spot. As with the others in the series, this is essentially a practical manual for dealing with life in all its glory. In an early chapter, Nicola Phillips explores the difference between choice and decision, a debate which, I have to confess, loses me a bit, but she picks up speed when she gets into the nitty-gritty. Her book is heavily based on using the performing arts as metaphor and guide - she explores plots, scenery, suspending disbelief, dialogues and movies, and embarks upon a narrative of..…narrative. Story-telling, and why it's important. She delves down to peel away the layers that may have prevented acceptance of our story for what it is - which can often be a defence mechanism. She explores fantasies as an important part of that dialogue and helps us to differentiate between when our fantasies are helpful and when they stop us from making a difference to our lives. And much more. Her essential and ultimate question is 'What's stopping you from making the change'


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