In our lives, we are faced with making all kinds of decisions every day, and those choices span all parts of our professional and personal lives. We choose to get married, say “yes” to a new job opportunity, pick a place to travel for vacation, buy a house, switch careers… the list goes on.
But how often do we find ourselves trapped in “the middle,” unable to make a choice because we are endlessly debating which way we should go? How many times are we afraid of making the wrong choice, so we do not choose? How many times do we let complacency and certainty get in the way of evolution and growth?
I regularly discuss in my workshops and keynotes that intentional leaders are deliberate about making decisions every day that move them, and those around them, forward. They take steps forward that push themselves into exploration and learning zones. They are OK stumbling—even failing—as they know great learning opportunities present in the face of complexity.
I love making decisions. Whether it’s been deciding to “go for it” and launch my leadership conference, ON (grab the details here), climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or starting my 19th business Trilix in 2016, I derive energy from making affirmative choices. I don’t like playing the middle, being average or staying neutral. Instead, I derive fuel from making a choice. Even if the decision leads to failure, I’d rather make it than do nothing at all. The middle is excruciating!
As leaders, I believe we tend to play the middle all too often. We simply don’t make a choice. Therefore, the decision is made for us and we must react or respond to the consequences. Not choosing to do something is a choice. However, not choosing to do something is a choice. When I studied Taoist philosophy and martial arts, I came across this awesome quote: No action is an action.
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Think about that for a moment… how often do you let decisions, change and action pass you by?
To be a more intentional leader is to look opportunity in the eye and welcome it. It doesn’t mean being unafraid that something could go wrong; it just means being more driven by the thought that something greater is on the other side.
The next time that you are concerned that you are stuck in the middle, try the following:
- Embrace Your Growth Mindset: I’ve written and talked for years on the importance of understanding the fixed and growth mindset, first explained by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, author of the must-read book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” When we are stuck in the middle, we are many times operating out of our fixed mindset. We make decisions that reinforce what we know to be accurate and that keep us safe. We are worried about the consequence. We are fearful of putting ourselves out there and exposing a weakness. Intentional leaders spend more time in their growth mindset than their fixed. They try new things, remain positive, embrace change and recognize challenges as opportunities. When embracing their growth mindset, they make decisions that move them forward.
- Invite Fear to the Table: What is the big fear that is holding you back from making a decision? Are you afraid of losing your job? Losing an important relationship? Impacting others’ perceptions of you? When we call our fear to the mat, we can start to move it out of the way.We can assess the fear more objectively and, in saying it out loud, begin to release it. Fear is essential; it can serve as guardrails to keep us safe. But it can also sabotage your potential and limit our possibilities. Give voice to your fear, honor the mention you have around it, and then figure out how to get it out of the way.
- Reflect on a Past Victory: It’s incredibly powerful to revisit a past triumph when stuck in the middle. For instance, if you are afraid to say “yes” to a daunting new role, consider how you felt and what followed the last time you did that, or something similar. Was it hard? Probably. Did you stumble along the way? Of course. But consider the lessons learned, new skill sets acquired and doors that opened along the way. Our past victories can be just the motivation we need to take one step forward and make that choice in support of our leadership journey.
When you think of how many choices, we have the opportunity to make daily, it is truly astounding. Each and every day, the pathway in front of us unfolds, beckoning us to make choices that accelerate our leadership potential. On some days, it can be easier to stay the course—to not make a turn in either direction. But on other days, it’s important to make a choice—even a small one—in service of the type of leader and journey we wish to have.
So, think about it… what’s one choice you can make tomorrow in support of your professional and personal goals?