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Sunday, 2 December 2018

Shall I or Shan’t I? It Is All a Matter of Conscious Choice!

From time to time someone says something and you realise that it has significant resonance and, gratefully, for me is a topic for the blog.

We had the pleasure of hearing the brilliant Kate Marshall speak at my Vistage Key Executive peer group this week and among a myriad of insights she mentioned choice and how significant it is in our businesses and lives in general.

Having done some limited research as a consequence I am in awe that this little word can have such a defining impact on us, each and every day.

The generally accepted wisdom is that the average adult makes 35,000 decisions a day and given that will not include sleep time, it equates to almost 2,200 an hour or an extraordinary 36 a minute all resulting from choices that we make.

We make a  vast proportion of these choices without thinking about them. They are an integral part of what we do and how we do it.  For example if we are sitting and decide to stand up it is a natural movement and we do it subconsciously. We don’t need to have an internal discussion about it.

However, the next phase is the one that starts off the need for choice. Do I want a gin and tonic or a beer to cheer me up watching rubbish on TV?

There is, of course, a simple process, an algorithm, that we go through in order to come to a decision and it all starts with the choice we make.  

The questioning process is :

  • What is the precise description of the issue?
  • What is the ideal desired outcome?
  • What are the alternative options open to me?
  • What is the cost, financial and other, for each option?
  • Which option seems to be the most desirable?

Make a decision  and take action. (The best solution is to join a Vistage peer group, of course)

All of this process can be collapsed into a simple binary choice, shall I or shan’t I and these comprise most of the 35,000 a day. It is the rest of them that cause us to be more analytical.  

But are we always analytical?  How many times do we say that we have a gut feel about something and make a decision that, on the face of it, could be construed as perverse?

And what about the decision on based on opportunity?  I recall meeting someone at an exhibition many years ago and after a very pleasant conversation he gave me his card and said that if ever I felt like a change I should give him a call.  He turned out to be the Chairman and/owner of one of the biggest companies in Italy with a global reputation. In fact it was a binary choice in the early stage. Do I contact him or not? Foolishly I didn’t.

Shakespeare in Julius Caesar wrote:   There is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.   The key to this is “taken at the flood” which implies that some conscious thought has been given to the choice to be made.

Great leaders seem to have an inbuilt ability to cut through all the “stuff” that accompanies a need for a decision and to focus on the desired outcome. Then the choice becomes easier even if the risk element has not been reduced.

In the end we make 35,000 decisions every day and that means that we will get a lot of them right and presumably one or two that could have been better.  It is a matter of choice and thinking about it so that we improve our decision making.

It is largely an unconscious exercise.Try it out.  First thing every day when we get up choose to have a great, productive  day and remind yourself about that choice during the day. It really does work.

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