In this series, we're focusing on nourishing a culture of leadership by applying timeless principles of life to the art of leadership. In this episode, we're exploring the principle of choice. If it's true that making choices is the only power a human being really has, making choices intentionally becomes a critical leadership capacity - for life and work. What does it mean to make choices intentionally? And how can you strengthen this capacity?
Leadership Development Focus: Choice
For today, we invite you to think about Choice as being aware of the options in any given moment so that you can make a decision by taking action in a specific direction. Choice is the opportunity to make a decision. Choice is an option. The decision itself is finalizing the choice, acting on the choice.
We invite you to think of choice making as the only real power that a human being has. Life and leadership require a series of choices to be made. The power in choice making is about making choices consciously rather than unconsciously. The skill in choice making is about developing the capacity to assess the options and make decisions as quickly and efficiently as possible. The awareness that is critical to being able to fully develop this capacity is in knowing that your choice is always happening in the present moment. Past decisions can be changed, when necessary, with a new moment and a new choice.
The Effects of Choice
All choices and decisions have effects, or in other words, consequences. As you read this word ‘consequences’, your mind may have immediately shifted to negative consequences. Yet, in reality, consequences can be positive or negative. As human beings, we often give little thought to the positive consequences of choice, yet all of the moments of our lives that feel good come from a choice that lead to a positive consequence. As you develop your capacity in choice making, it can be helpful to pay attention to and celebrate the choices that had positive consequences as a way of building up your trust in yourself as a good choice maker.
Choice can also have negative consequences. These are often the choices that we recall, that we can even be caught up in ruminating about. They are the ‘if only I had…’ moments of life. Sometimes we make choices, given the data we have, believing that they were the best choices and then experience negative outcomes. Sometimes the most negative consequences come choice making that we are not consciously aware of doing, rather than from conscious choice making. As you develop your capacity for choice making, part of the skill is becoming more and more conscious of the choices you are making each day.
Choice is In the Moment
Many people are afraid to decide about one choice over another in case things get moving in a wrong direction. That fear can show up as seeking out ‘just one more opinion,’ researching on ‘just one more website’, making up excuses for why you need to delay, or even ignoring the choice completely. What’s funny to note is that each of these actions is, in fact, a choice too. It is the choice of ‘I’m just not ready’ or perhaps ‘I’m just not capable of making this choice.’
Sometimes these choices to delay a decision are simply about your intuition letting you know that there is something more that you need to be aware of. If this is true, open yourself up to the question ‘what more do I need to be aware of to make this choice?’ and see what comes up for you.
Often the choices to delay a decision are about fear or paralysis. What if I am making the wrong choice? Isn’t it better to not make a choice at all? In this case, it is helpful to remember that making a decision about a choice does not lock you in if you discover that it was the wrong choice. Rather than having to stick it out to the end or feeling like you have to somehow ‘live with the consequences of your decision,’ it is possible to make a new choice. A choice that is being made in this present moment, with the data and experiences you now have. A choice that feels better and is more in alignment with you achieving your goals.
Choice is always in the present moment. Change is a constant in the universe. Our choices offer us the options to affect the experience we are going to have within that constant change from this moment going forward.
Developing Leadership Skillfulness in Making Choices
We offer you the opportunity to develop leadership skillfulness in making choices through this 4-step process. The process will guide you through developing greater consciousness about your opportunities to make decisions and in how you can make choice more effectively.
Step One: Exploring Your Beliefs
Spend some time exploring your beliefs about choice making. It is simply true that choice making is an inevitable part of life. What matters is what you believe about that choice making.
- Is choice making a good experience or bad experience in my life?
- Do I believe that I am empowered to make choices in my life? In my work?
- Do I believe that others are empowered to make choices in their lives? In their work?
- Am I conscious about the choices I make? Or do I have lots of unexpected experiences from unconscious choices?
- Do my choices lead to positive experience and open up energy flow in my life? In my work? Or do my choices lead to negative experience and close down the energy flow in my life? In my work?
We believe that as a person develops skillfulness in choice making, that they are better empowered to lead their lives and their work. We believe that conscious choice making happens when you are in control of the energy flow. That conscious choice making opens up the energy flow and generally leads to more positive experiences.
There is a great importance in leadership of stepping into the power of being really conscious about the choices you are making, that you are constantly in those choice points, and constantly making decisions. Every one of those decisions leads to some kind of consequence. There is something really empowering in knowing that you are making choices and in being comfortable with doing so.
Step Two: Developing Awareness
This step is simply an exercise of expanding your awareness about your choice making. The exercise in this step is simple, yet will provide you with profound insights as your awareness grows. This step does not involve making judgment about the choices you make. It is just about awareness.
In a journal, create three columns.
First column is for recording the choices you had the opportunity to make.
Second column is for acknowledging whether the choice became a decision or not and what that decision was.
Third column is for recording the consequences of the choice.
Keep the exercise to the bigger choices you are making as there are too many choices that you make in a day to keep track of them all. At the end of each day, make a note for yourself of the opportunities for choice that really stand out. For a week, keep track of all major choices that you are making in your life and in your leadership.
Step Three: Enhancing Awareness
At the end of the week, take some time to reflect about what you have recorded, and how you are feeling or noticing. In the process, you are enhancing your awareness of yourself as a choice maker. Are the feelings pleasant or unpleasant? Did you feel good about it or did that choice make you feel uncomfortable? What did you notice about this awareness exercise?
Step Four: Expanding Your Capacity
Once you have an enhanced awareness of yourself as a choice maker, draw some conclusions for yourself about what you personally need to do to grow your skillfulness with choice making. Here are some questions you may wish to consider as you make your conclusions:
- Were my choices conscious as I was making them, or did I only notice the choice after the fact?
- Did I make my choices quickly or slowly?
- Did I make my choices easily or was it difficult?
- Did I make my choices on my own or did I need to seek a lot of opinions first?
- Did I feel like I had all of the information required to make each of these choices?
- Were the consequences of my choices what I anticipated? What did I notice about the process through which I make choice?
As you reflect, you will notice that some of the choices work out well and others may not. If they work out well, great. If they don’t work out well, one can quickly choose to redirect the choice to something else. This awareness and willingness to quickly make a different choice when you notice that something isn’t working out well or isn’t feeling good is another component in the skillfulness of choice making.
As you reflect, you may discover that you sit in paralysis or undertake other forms of delay in making a choice. This, in itself, is a choice and has consequences that you may or may not feel good about. What do you need to do to develop capacity to move out of paralysis and get on with choice making in a way that feels good?
You can direct yourself, increase your capacity and your confidence as you pay attention to what choices you feel good about, and what choices you do not feel good about. The most helpful tool that you might use in increasing your capacity with choice making is to guide yourself by what feels good to you.
If you are finding that many of the choices that you make are not leaving you feeling good, it is an opportunity to look at whether the choices you are making are in alignment with who you are; in alignment with your sense of purpose in your life; in alignment with where you are wanting to take your life and your work in relation to your vision for yourself; in alignment with your own personal values and thus the values you bring into your work.
Strengthening Your Leadership Skillfulness in Making Choices
Skillfulness with choice making is such an important skill in life and leadership that if you feel stuck, afraid, or disappointed in how you are making choices, it is good to seek the help of a ‘practice buddy’ or coach to grow your skillfulness. You may find that in order for you to feel better about your choice making, you need to do some deeper work with your sense of personal purpose, vision and values, upgrading them to what feels true for you at this time. This provides the base from which you can excel at choice making that feels good to you.
You don’t know what you don’t know. If you keep working by yourself, you might not be able to see how you can improve and be more effective or accelerate the strengthening of your capacity. It could be helpful to you to seek a practice buddy from within the Extraordinary Leadership Network and work on strengthening your capacity with choice making together.
If it feels right, add your intentions for becoming skillful in being a catalyst into your personal leadership development plan.
About the Developing Leadership Series
We work the Genuine Contact way, nourishing a culture of leadership, applying timeless principles of life to the art of leadership. In this learning series, Birgitt Williams and Rachel Bolton are sharing our own wisdom and insights about the art of leadership. We'll be inviting you to consider your own experiences in life and business so far, and how you want to further your leadership development with this theme.
In this series, our intention is to offer you unique opportunities to continually develop your leadership. By developing your leadership you expand your potential. Your life changes and you gain greater insights and capacity for leading your life. Your leadership of your team, organization, congregation, and even your family brings about possibility thinking, transcending ordinary thinking and ordinary results.
In each episode, we will be exploring one key principle. You will hear our own experiences and understanding of each of these timeless principles. We'll suggest simple activities you can do to develop your own leadership by working with these principles too. Subscribe to receive future episodes by email.