2 Kinds of Indecision

2-types-indecisionYou are faced with a nearly infinite number of decisions each day. The cereal aisle in the grocery store used to be a sign of our mountain of choices, but you can now find enough varieties of any product to fill a store (or more) thanks to online shopping. The only problem with your freedom to choose is you no longer feel you have the freedom to NOT choose. (It’s no surprise we now use terms like decision fatigue to explain why this process wears us out.)

So, what do you do? If you’re like most of us, you put off choices when the decision isn’t clear. But some of these decisions could be important or urgent, so the procrastination technique isn’t always successful. Some decisions can’t wait, but you don’t have enough time to do everything at once.

This brings you one more decision to make: which choices will you choose?

In order to figure this out, it will help you to know which of 2 kinds of indecision you’re experiencing: indifference or ambivalence.

indifference-versus-ambivalence

  1. Indifference

    If you don’t care whether you eat at the Italian restaurant versus the burger joint, then you are indifferent. This is the type of decision you can defer. Let someone else choose or simply flip a coin to decide. If the meal isn’t imminent, you can also put off this decision until later.

  2. Ambivalence

    If you’re choosing between two very different job offers, but want each one for solid reasons… then you are ambivalent. This is the kind of decision that deserves your full attention. You may need time to research the options further, gather other opinions and gather your best judgment.

This seems somewhat obvious, but you can spend a lot of time pondering choices without considering how much you care about the outcome. By focusing our attention away from our indifference and on what you feel strongly about, you can accomplish more significance with every decision.

Do you struggle with indecision? Let me know if this is helpful or if you have other thoughts on this topic.

God from the Machine

JR-Ewing-Jeannie

Many of us remember when the TV show Dallas turned an entire season into “just a dream” in order to bring back a character who had been killed off. Viewers were furious with what they deemed a copout. The solution was much too convenient and it came out of the blue.

This is a prime example of what the industry calls a deus ex machina.

A deus ex machina is something inserted into a story which provides a contrived solution. In Latin, the phrase means literally “a god from the machine.” We may show frustration with Pam waking up or Tolkien’s eagles, but truth be told, we want our own god from the machine.

We want the pill that allows us to lose weight without changing our eating or exercise habits. We want that windfall of money from the lottery to solve our debt problems. We want our relationship issues to disappear as the other person realizes they were wrong all along. Basically, we want to wake up in the morning and realize all our problems are now as insignificant as a bad dream that rinses out of our lives in the morning shower.

Wishing for your own deus ex machina does little good. Your time can be better spent honing your craft, growing your following, rolling a snowball downhill and building momentum. As you do this, you learn how to make bold – but smart – decisions. This is where you can take the leap you’ve been preparing for your entire life (and the leap after that).

And maybe that’s it. Maybe it is a bit of god from the machine. Only, in this case, the machine is your life.

The Secret to Getting There

GroundhogDay

This fabulous gif image is from Chris Piascik: http://chrispiascik.com/2011/02/groundhog-day/

 

There can be an exciting place to think about.

It is where we want to go. We dream of it. We imagine ourselves somehow looking better – stronger, more secure, more confident, admirable, accomplished, popular, envied, relaxed, unburdened, successful – all because we have arrived there.

We paint a picture through goals and visions. We commit ourselves to getting there.

But so many times, we never arrive. We don’t even seem to make it to halfway there. We tend to stay here. And that is the secret to getting there.

We have to let go of here.

As long as we hold onto our here, it will always feel safer than going there. Once we let go, then there seems safer than the limbo we have created. But it is scary to let go of the trapeze. To trust our momentum to carry us through the vacuous space from here to there.

Maybe that is why resolutions are so hard to keep. We resolve to get somewhere different in the new year, but we hold onto the place where we are comfortable.

So, maybe you have a there, where you want to be in 2015. Are you willing to let go of 2014 in order to get there?

Swing yourself with confidence. Build your momentum. Generate velocity in the right direction. But if you never let go, don’t be surprised by the strikingly familiar surroundings.

How to Find Significance in Your Work

bite-sized-elephantCrossing numerous small hills doesn’t make you a mountain climber.

Dousing millions of lit matches one at a time won’t qualify you as a fire fighter.

Running a quarter mile every day for four months won’t make you a marathon runner.

The tedium of small accomplishments can lead you to become apathetic about what you’re doing. If you’re willing to take on the bigger challenge, you may find greater significance in your work. Each step gets you closer to the top of the mountain or closer to an important finish line. The thrill of knowing you can do something significant can inspire you to keep going.

They say the key to eating an elephant is to take one bite at a time. Unfortunately, we often look for bite-sized elephants instead.

That’s fine. Just don’t complain about the portion size once you choose it.

Does Seth Godin Get It?

After reading Seth Godin’s latest book What To Do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn), a friend and I talked about it. She questioned why there is such a disconnect between how most people live their lives and the possibilities Seth talked about in his book.

It was a really smart question, and it begs another.

Does Seth Godin get it?

The reality we experience tells us otherwise. In our reality…

  • The tallest blade of grass gets cut. So fly under the radar by keeping your head down.
  • Generosity doesn’t scale. You gotta get your own in this world.
  • Art doesn’t pay. Get a real job with guarantees and certainty.
  • Picking yourself is a fool’s errand. Your energy is better spent getting the attention of the powers-that-be and persuading them of your worthiness.
  • If you don’t know if it will work… don’t do it. It has to work or it isn’t worth the investment.

Seth’s book (as well as his long-lasting blog) tells us otherwise. His possibilities tell us…

  • You owe it to the world to pick up the microphone and say something meaningful.
  • It’s your turn to give a gift. Just because you can.
  • If you are open to uncertainty, you can be a pathfinder for the rest of us. There is art in that.
  • You have to TAKE your turn, because it’s rarely given to you.
  • This might not work, and that’s OK. Dance in the duality of work/not work. Don’t run away from the fear, but don’t ignore it either. The ability to live in that tension and discover what you can do in the midst of that… that is artistry.

Godin is definitely seeing something else. The world he paints isn’t the one most people see when they walk into their slate gray cubicle on Monday at 7:59 AM. It’s not the one we see in the eyes of the department store clerk… partly because he won’t make eye contact with us to begin with. This isn’t the reality presented to us by television, human resources, our colleagues at the water cooler or by bureaucracy.

So, does Seth Godin get it? If so, why is this so hard for us to see?

A Business Carol: Don’t be a Scrooge with Your Story

John Leech illustration used by Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/John_Leech

John Leech illustration used by Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/John_Leech

In the spirit of Christmas, here’s a fun way to make sure your business is engaging for you, for employees and for customers. Pay a visit to the ghosts of business past, present and future.

The Ghost of Business Past

Have you captured your origin story? Do you share it with employees and customers? On his Brand Autopsy blog, John Moore gives some great examples of this from the early days of Whole Foods.

By visiting the Ghost of Business Past, you can inspire folks with the original purpose and drive that was the genesis of your organization. The challenges overcome in the beginning can encourage folks when they face adversity today. Your origin story can also instill a sense of purpose and belonging for employees and customers alike.

The Ghost of Business Present

Sharing your origin story is a good start, but it’s not enough if people don’t understand who you’re serving or why you exist. Is there a clear understanding of your business’ mission, the purpose it is fulfilling TODAY? We need reminders of the unique needs you are serving, so we have a clear picture of the hole that would be left if your business disappeared.

I’ll allude to another Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Maybe your business is like George Bailey. By realizing how some customers and employees would miss your business if it never existed, you can recognize the unique value you bring. Once you’re aware of the value only you bring, you can put more emphasis on that value and let it drive your mission as an organization.

Chick-Fil-A’s corporate purpose reinforces the decisions employees make on a daily basis, because it instills purpose:

To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.

When employees understand why your business exists today, they can be decisive knowing they are in line with the organization’s purpose. It also gives customers the confidence of knowing why they should choose you over your competition.

The Ghost of Business Future

Once you’re clear on how you started and where you are today, you need to paint a picture of tomorrow. Have you cast a vision of your company’s future? I’m not talking about, “We’ll be doing the same thing for twice as many people.” I’m talking about a compelling vision that will show what has to change in order to move from HERE to THERE.

Your mission will help everyone understand why they do things today, but a vision will help them know what has to change to reach tomorrow. And just like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, you have the opportunity to change that future.

Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

So, if you tend to say “Bah, humbug!” to putting time and effort into capturing your origin story, branding your business or crafting mission and vision statements… maybe you need a visit from these 3 ghosts to transform your business.

Being Aware of the Bird in Your Hand

bird-in-hand

A bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush.

So, have a firm grip.

There are strong winds of change blowing.

Hold onto that bird tightly. 

Question everything and trust no one.

Don’t let anyone see what’s in your hand, lest they take it.

Worrying is like gripping a bird tightly for fear of losing it. Then you look down too late, only to see your fear has crushed it and to realize the bird was your own soul.

We worry because it gives us a sense of control. If we can’t control circumstances or other people then we turn that control inward. We squeeze ourselves with anxiety and fear. Often, this is fear of something (or some things) that may never happen. We anticipate the worst in the future while missing out on the best of today.

Are you worrying today? If so, what are you gripping tightly? What are you squeezing life out of? Maybe if you’re aware of how you’re reacting to stress – you can lessen your worries, relax your grip and enjoy today.

You don’t have to always beware. Sometimes you just need to be aware.