Change, Growth and Decision Dilemmas
Wednesday, January 11, 2017 42 Comments
Another glitch in the Change Management process
© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Edited reblog from an earlier post, Choices & Decisions
Chocolate, vanilla or tutti-frutti? Early Monday or late Thursday?
This drawer or that one? Move away or stay put?
Have a baby, adopt a baby or remain a dual-income-no-kids couple?
Avoiding the Agony of Deciding
We each must make a great many decisions every single day. A few of them we think about consciously and carefully, and some we make quickly and unconsciously – sometimes even really big and important ones.
Since our mental processes are subconsciously influenced by our emotions and memories, more frequently than not we remain oblivious to what really drives those decisions we make.
Then there are the many times we’re thrown into the agony of indecision – even between choices that are actually too small to, ultimately, make much of a difference in our lives.
Change, Growth & Decisions
There is no doubt that the process of change and growth would be easier if it were as predetermined and automatic as the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly.
However, I can’t help but wonder if, were we humans relieved of the task of having to decide what comes next, we would be more comfortable with life’s changes or more frustrated by them.
As difficult as most of us find the process, it seems we are practically “hard-wired” with some kind of drive to exercise our free will.
- Since early childhood, few of us have been especially happy when someone else tells us what we must do.
- More than a few of us absolutely refuse to acquiesce. (Why else do you think we describe that particularly early transitional stage characterized by the single word NO! as “The Terrible Twos?”)
So how come so many of us AGONIZE when it comes time to decide?
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The Difficulty of Choosing our own Pathways
The Wikipedia article on decision-making tells us that, “In psychology, decision-making is regarded as the cognitive process resulting in the selection of a belief or a course of action among several alternative possibilities.
Every decision-making process produces a final choice that may or may not prompt action.”
Action? Get into ACTION?!
Give me a break! Before we can even begin to get into action, the first step is always the need to decide what might be the best thing for us to do first, and then attempt to figure out what we will be the best thing to do after that.
Superlatives like “best” and “first” generally give everybody pause, but
they can be complete stoppers for those in the EFD community.
Making Choices Conscious
I firmly believe that it is certainly within our power to make conscious choices and decisions that will lead to our greater well-being.
It may not be quite as simple as the productivity gurus make it out to be, but I know it can be done — with a bit of understanding of the process (and more than a bit of attention to it.)
It is essential to understand a fundamental, psychological truth about all human beings, ADD/EFD or not: we are conflicted about growth and change. At bottom, most of us crave safety as strongly as we crave freedom and adventure, although not in equal measure at all times and about all things.
The fact remains that there is a conflicted relationship between
making choices and preserving freedom.
Whenever we choose one thing over another, a great many alternative courses become closed to us, possibly forever. The sad reality is that ALL decisions close more doors than they open.
And THAT leads to feelings of anxiety –
task anxiety, of course, but primarily decision anxiety.
We must learn to make peace with our conflicts, at least to the extent that we remain able to change and grow (and to accomplish much of anything) — if we are to continue to evolve into the human beings we were uniquely created to become.
We understand the import, so what’s the problem?
Duh! “Importance” speaks to motivation – we need help with decision-making and ACTIVATION. That begins with understanding our stoppers, on the road to normalizing our behaviors (so that we can remove the self-flagellation that is a major impediment to action).
Normalizing our Reticence
On a level just below conscious awareness, we all buy into the mythology that there is a “right” way to do life that will, if we do it right, lay all of life’s goodies at our feet in a nice, neat row.
And if we do it REALLY right, getting the goodies will require
no input or assistance from anybody else.
Feeling like we might “blow it” is highly stressful for anyone, and especially so for those of us who seem to step into holes more often than our contemporaries. Attempting to soldier on alone in a valiant effort to avoid the internalized humiliation that comes from not understanding exactly how to accomplish what “everybody else” seems to do rather easily, we agonize.
Rational decision making is a multi-step process. It begins with problem identification and moves through solution selection, sifting through options on the way to making logically sound decisions.
OH NO! Tiered tasks are the worst – they overwhelm us, decimating our resolve to get into action.
SO, rather than move directly into an action that might make a difference, we “procrastinate,” turning our attention to low-ROI activities [return on investment], spending our energies on things that really won’t, ultimately, make much of a difference.
Action by itself, however, is not the goal – it leaves us running around in circles – motions that don’t get us anywhere.
- Ticking off an easy task or two on our to-do lists can be useful to create momentum.
- Ticking off a bunch of of those tasks is a waste of time – despite what the “do anything that will take two minutes or less, without delay” advice might tell you.
Have they ever MET anyone in the EFD crowd?
We can spend entire days rapidly ticking off one relatively unimportant two-minute to-do after the other. Even Peter Drucker, touted management guru, admits that “there is nothing quite so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
Ways we make deciding more difficult
We don’t mean to make things harder – and we rarely believe we do. Yet most of us have any number of unproductive habits that slow us down – and sometimes stop us completely. Let’s take a look at three of the most common.
1. Lack of Sleep
Many of us with Alphabet Disorders have comorbid sleep disorders that leave us little choice, but there are many others who have a tendency to push through our sleep windows – doing our best to ignore the signals that we need to go to bed.
At other times we deliberately (or unconsciously) delay the onset of those signals in more than a few ways: caffeine, television watching or late-evening internet browsing, for example. Our alarms jolt us awake the following morning to make it to work on time, despite the reality that we’ve had “a short night.”
None of us make the best decisions, even when slightly sleep-deprived,
and most of us in today’s crazy/busy world are more than slightly sleep-deprived.
According to a Psychology Today article by Dennis Rosen M.D. [Making Important Decisions When Sleepy is Like Rolling Dice]
Researchers at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital recently found that people who were sleep deprived performed less well on a standardized test simulating real-life decision making known as the Iowa Gambling Test than they had at baseline when they were well rested.
According to author Kirsten Vala, in another article from Psychology Today [Choking on Choice?], there are two different types of decision-makers: “maximizers” and “satisficers.”
Maximizers consider every possible option, and “satisficers” keep checking out options until they find one that is good enough.
Guess which ones WE tend to be?
Vala says, “There may be people out there who try to maximize on everything and, in the process, end up making decisions that don’t satisfy what they’re looking for. These people will, literally, never be satisfied.”
When we continue to be dissatisfied with our decisions, they are all that much tougher to make.
Here is the unvarnished truth
We simply cannot give every element of our lives our 100% best efforts — NOBODY has that kind of time. If we expect to be even marginally successful, we need to maximize only those most important elements of our lives.
If you’re struggling attempting to decide what those most important elements are, try a technique I often use with my clients: play the All-NO-Week game to help clarify, saying NO to everything new that crosses your path, and refusing to do more than a C-minus job on anything else. Really!
Your most important elements are the areas where you absolutely REFUSE to play!
3. Giving too much weight to discomfort
Many of us tend to RUN, metaphorically, at the first sign of emotional discomfort. Most of the time we don’t even give those feelings a chance to subside, much less expend the energy to push through them.
If we want our lives to be productive, we simply MUST be willing to push through more than a few feelings that are uncomfortable.
The fact that we are conflicted about change means that we must expect the BIG decisions to be initially uncomfortable, which arms us against those feelings somewhat.
What we also must understand is that the same unease can accompany even the smallest of decisions – especially when we are overwhelmed with choices, or when we have attached a great deal of import to the outcome of those choices.
Since we want the BEST outcome, we want to make the best decisions about each and every little item that leads us in that direction.
We tend to interpret that feeling of discomfort as a signal to take a second look at our decisions (and hyperfocus on making the right decision), usually doing something else while we’re thinking: decision anxiety rather than truly procrastination.
Think about THAT the next time you’re agonizing over straightening up your home office (or anything else). Maybe it will help you push through to that bigger decision you’re avoiding.
Let good enough be good
According to business author Barry Schwartz, it’s better to settle for “good enough” most of the time. Lower expectations lead to fewer regrets. resulting in greater happiness levels for people who “settle.”
He and I both believe that considering every single option is rarely necessary, and needs to be reserved for life’s most important decisions.
Ultimately, it’s more important to maximize happiness than options.
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