Who Makes the Choices in Your Life?

I spoke with a fellow consultant a couple of weeks ago. She asked for some coaching about rates. A potential client asked about a keynote. Then it turned into a workshop. Then it turned into a potential series of many workshops. Maybe even an entire agile journey for this organization. How awesome is that?

She was thinking of a modest keynote fee. I suggested she raise her fee. “I don’t know. That’s not what I normally charge.”

“I know. What do you normally consider?”

“Well, I normally keynote in driving distance of my home. Oooh. I won’t be, will I?”

“No. You won’t be. You’ll ‘lose’ the entire day.” We spoke more about the economics and the potential upside, downside, and what the client would expect. I’m not sure what she’ll do. Yes, I have made my colleague anonymous to protect her identity. This situation happens to men and women equally.

We make choices based on what we were, where we were, not where we are now. It’s as if we are allowing our four-year-old, twelve year old, twenty year old, 40 year old or whatever year old selves to make choices for us, instead of our current selves.

Don’t worry, we all do it.

You don’t have to be a consultant to do this. You can be a manager, a parent, any human who makes choices.

I do this with jeans and pants. It takes a lot for me to buy a new kind of jeans and pants. Why? Because sizes are not normalized across manufacturers. If I find a size and style that fits, I buy it, regardless of whether it still fits the situation, my age, or the context. Ouch. Yes, I just realized that. Oopsie. Might be time for a change, eh?

Sometimes, it’s difficult to say, “I am in the here and now. My context has changed. I need to change how I make my choices. I’m not in the there-and-then. The old rules don’t apply now.”

The old rules have been useful for so long, we forget we have them. My colleague has rules about keynotes. But those rules don’t apply when she has to fly to a keynote, and when the keynote is part of a package consulting deal, do they? Well, they might. But they might not. She developed those rules about ten years ago. The rules might have outlived their usefulness, at least for this client.

I talked about turning rules into guides in Do Your Rules Prevent You From Solving Problems?

I talked about being in the present in Are You In the “Here-and-Now” or in the “There-and-Then”?

This post is recognizing who you are. Sometimes, I want to retreat, to go back to the person I was. It’s easier. It’s more comfortable. That’s because I’m in a little chaos. No surprise there.

Satir Change ModelLook at the change model. Chaos is a time of uncertainty for many people. Certainly for me. I suspect for my colleague, too.

When I’m in chaos, I find it difficult to make great decisions. Or, I try to make a good decision and I’m not sure if it’s a good decision. I try something, I may or may not succeed. When I write proposals for clients with tough problems, I’m often in chaos until I get the transforming idea. Then, the proposal almost writes itself. (As I drafted this post, that happened last night :-)

It’s easier to retreat, to go back to something I already know and am good at. There’s a problem with that—I don’t grow. I don’t provide my clients my best possible work. Sure, it’s risky. But I know how to manage risk. This is the growth mindset at work: I may not know what to do right now, but I can learn it.

This is why you need to know who makes the choices in your life: you in the present, or you in the past.

Dear adaptable problem solvers, that is the question of the week. Who makes the choices in your life?

5 thoughts on “Who Makes the Choices in Your Life?

  1. Jason Comely

    Hi Johanna. First, I’d like to thank you for your book “Manage Your Job Search”. Such a great system. You explain it so succinctly and thoroughly. As for your question, who makes the decisions in my life, it’s a bit of both.

    With some aspects of my life, I’ve been burned so bad I doubt I’ll ever do it again. Classic “There-and-Then” thinking. However, I’m a forward-thinking person most of the time, and I practice my mindfulness on most days. I’ve learned that hope is a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly. It is not a given.

    Also, your comment about being in chaos until you hit that transformational idea really struck a chord with me. I design self-help games and write the occasional e-book. (it doesn’t pay all the bills, but it’s a source of revenue). I find the creation process is like a rollercoaster ride. At first it’s exhilarating, then frustrating and perplexing to the point of nausea, then I hit a corner and and I’m soaring on high expectations again.

    Unfortunately, my own “transformational ideas” (I get the impression mine are at a different phase then yours) never survive the rigours of research, design and development. Often there are too many moving parts, or it’s too impractical, or not novel enough to sustain my interest. The long list of infeasible and unfinished projects has financially bankrupted me (a few times over) and just recently I realised I’m out of time. I need to get a job.

    That’s when I bought your book. I think it will help a lot.

    1. johanna Post author

      Jason, thank you! I’ll send you a private email asking for a review somewhere of the book.

      Re your transformational ideas: I wonder if you could do more of a lean startup with the ideas? Do a little something, get some feedback, and see if there is any interest? Then, you could incrementally do the R&D, knowing that someone would pay? That would sustain your interest and you would know it’s practical. Lean startup doesn’t work for everything. It does work for many ideas. Some of us have great ideas, before their times. I am a pro at this. You might be, too.

      1. Jason Comely

        I always do MVPs (I call them proof of concepts or “concept hacks”) but they take time and resources too. They allow me to fail faster and move on to something more promising, but they also take their toll.

        I’ll be fine. I have a new idea, and this one is job search related. I think it’s going to work.

        Here we go again. Wheeeeee!

  2. Pingback: Does This Enhance My Life? | Create An Adaptable Life

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