The transformative power of having choices

Greetings! I hope those of you in the Delaware Valley are adjusting to the colder weather.
This month, I want to share a simple, yet powerful insight applicable to the adults and children in your life. Finding choices in any situations can have transformative power on your mindset and your actions – especially true if the situation is a challenging one.

CHOICE is good

Why? The absence of Choice triggers a threat response. Teenagers feel this acutely – they are so much more positive in their outlook if they believe they are making a choice.  This includes such trivial items as the trim on the family’s new car (real example, talk to me about the details).

As the psychologist at my son’s school told an audience of parents this week, feeling cornered and emotional is where our executive functioning goes offline. And generally we are not at our best, most thoughtful and mature when that happens. For my friends who are followers of the Chimp Paradox, here is where the Chimp brain overtakes your human.

Feeling like we have choice, allows us to be our best

CHOICE doesn’t have to be Binary

It’s certainly better to see ‘I’m all in’ and ‘I need to blow it up’ as options, rather than no options at all. It’s usually more helpful to have other choices – maybe there’s an option to sample alternatives? Design thinking helps us to think about experiments to test our options.

An early client was convinced that she wanted to work in a non-profit after leaving corporate America.  The role did not matter. After exploring the options, her choices evolved to a small list of non-profits with meaning to her, where she could apply her corporate skills. The cause was important, but she would have been easily bored doing work that was repetitive and didn’t engage her skills.

But you do need to choose

We know from the world of Neuroscience, you are less effective if you leave decisions open – the unmade decisions crowd your executive function. The more you’ve left undecided the harder it is to be clear in your thinking.

Deciding on a path can free up your rational brain to address the other cognitive tasks you have to perform. Valuable brain resource and time is returned. If you’ve had the experience of multiple competing priorities crowding your time, you’ll know that picking 1 thing to work on can have a transformative effect on your productivity. This blog is product of that experience – it took 60 minutes to complete in 2 separate blocks of time, largely by sidelining the competing priorities.

KEY MESSAGE – When faced with limited options, try to establish all of your choices, but then choose your path, before your productivity is affected.

It’s often hard to see choices when you looking for a new role, moving your business forward or in leading your team to the next level. As a coach, I see it as my job to help my client see their choices.

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