Owning our decisions is one of the most important actions we can take. This means we need to do 2 things. We need be aware we’re making a decision, and then we need to commit to that decision. It’s not good saying we’ve decided to stop smoking, eat healthier, or maintain a positive attitude unless we also commit to taking actions that move us toward our goals. We also need to remove those things that inhibit that decision, like getting rid of junk food, throwing out the cigarettes, or deleting our Facebook profiles.
Owning a decision can be a challenging thing for people. It means taking responsibility, admitting that we are mostly the cause of the discomforts and challenges in our lives. It also means accepting that we’re not as perfect as we think and that we will fail. You decide to marry someone, only to discover a few years down the road, that you’ve changed and the person you’re with is no longer the right person. Do you commit to recreating your relationship with that person? Or do you decide to end the marriage? There’s no right or wrong answer, and each decision comes with the possibility of failure. In either case, you need to make a decision. You need to take action.
You also need the flexibility to recognize you made a poor decision and correct yourself mid-course. Is the new assignment is too much for you? A talk with your manager may get you more resources (time, money, people) to help you complete the project on time. You can’t stick with the new eating plan? So, you find one that works for you. You can still reach the goal you wanted, but it may mean trying many paths until you find one that works for you.
Owning your decisions can be tough, but it’s the first step to making the most of the time you have left. A the proverb goes, the best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago and right now.
Much of my writing this month is influenced by a wonderful book called “The Thinking Life” by PM Forni. At under 200 pages, it’s a very short read. Those pages are full of useful information. If you only ever read one book on improvement, this is the book to read.
Forni is both eloquent and terse at the same time, using only the exact words he needs to make his point. At times, he comes off as gruff, but his words are meant to challenge us, to move us out of our comfort zone and to take on the central premise of the book.
Tha premise is that thinking is the foundation of the elusive good life many of us seek. His argument is that quality of our lives increases when we devote a few moments every day to thinking. That thinking can take many forms. Retrospection, introspection, decision making, planning, strategizing are all discussed in the book. At the end of each chapter is a series of questions meant to engage us in the book’s content, and help build our thinking skills.
I agree with Forni’s treatise. The explosive technological growth we’ve seen in the past few years is amazing. Most of us walk around with a more powerful computer in our pockets than used for the first lunar landing. We’re always connected to the Internet, ensuring that entertainment and information are never a moment’s notice. Distraction is commonplace. We are to avoid boredom at all costs.
I cannot understate the value and convenience these technologies bring to our lives. Their use as a way to excise boredom and to distract us is disturbing. Boredom is crucial to creativity and distractions prevent us from focusing on the important things in our lives.
I wish I had a clever way to close out this post, but I’ll l just reiterate the call for you to spend an evening enjoying Forni’s terse words.
Every organization, whether’s is commercial, nonprofit, or private has managers, leaders, mentors, executives, and followers. Many people assume that managers and executives are leaders. While these individuals may have leadership skills, being either does not make you a leader. A dog sledding team can help illustrate the difference in these positions.
To be a leader, a person needs to have a goal to lead others to. It can be a location, a deadline, a financial amount, anything. This person also needs to have an idea of how to there. The best leaders lead by inspiration and guidance. They lead by example. The lead dog on a team is out front, pulling the team forward, changing direction as needed to keep moving forward.
A manager manages things. In most companies, this translates into money, but it also applies to projects and people. A manager’s role is to understand each of his reports, and how best to position these people so they can complete work on time and on budget. The driver of the sled team fills this role. He understands the relationships between his team, and how to set the lineup. He watched over their energy, knowing tired dogs aren’t as fast. He ensures they are fed and taken care of. His aim is to get everyone to the destination.
A mentor is easy, that’s a person a manager or a leader can turn to for guidance. In our example, a veteran sled driver is a mentor. He can teach valuable lessons and help prevent tragedy.
An executive is someone who set strategy. He defines the actions to take and not to take. He then “executes” on this strategy by getting managers who will create the teams needed to implement the strategy. A good executive will then revert to a manager, managing his managers to ensure his goals are met. The owner of the delivery company that hires the sled team would act as the executive. This person defines what goods are carried, what areas the company will serve, etc.
Finally, last but not least are the followers. In many organization with hierarchy and trees, these are the nameless people on the bottom. Yhey are important. A good sled team is not may up of one dog and a driver.