24/01/2022 0 Comments
2. Take a moment before you decide
“Emerge yourself in the question. Answers tend to drive us away from authentication. Dwell in uncertainty. Anxiety is not a medical condition, it’s awakening.”
- Professor Kevin Aho, giving a lecture under The Global Existential Summit 2022
Everybody is a leader.
Existential thinkers disagree a lot, but few quarrel about this bottom line: As human beings we are all given the same existential conditions of freedom (to some extent we always have a choice, and that’s why anxiety is a natural part of life), temporality (we learn that our time is limited), meaning (or lack of it), and individual uniqueness (authentication).
This means that everybody is supposed to lead one’s own life.
Leading means taking responsibility for your freedom, both when you lead yourself and others. At work this requires the skill of making decisions. Temporality often comes in as an important factor: The deadline for decisions can be very tight.
When working in journalism I was forced to make quick decisions 24/7. Should we publish this piece of news in this format now? Should we bury this topic to be able to write about that topic? Should we send our own journalist and/or photographer to that location, or buy material from somebody else? Decide NOW!
In that work environment the most important criteria for a decision was that it was fast. Afterwards I found out whether it was good or bad. Afterwards I fixed what I could when a bad decision for example had damaged others’ reputation and thereby our brand - thank god we didn’t do brain surgery!
Looking back I’m not proud of my lack of courage to sit down and reflect more often. When you are in a hurry you don’t ask, listen, read, ask again, think, try to find other perspectives. You just rush forward like a train in a tunnel, and the light you see in the front might be another train instead of the exit of the tunnel. But you don’t have time to reflect on that, either…
Journalism is far from the only industry where you're supposed to push decisions, without a fair amount of facts, thoughts, discussions. Bad decision making costs a lot of money and eats leaders’ peace of mind (and might cost them their job).
That’s why reflection - individually and in groups - is essential.
Many see reflection as a privileged luxury for only a few leaders. But you don’t have to put on a sunhat and sit down in a comfortable chair somewhere exotic (as the lady in my painting above) for hours or days. Here is what you need to do:
Make a choice. When you or somebody you trust has a gut feeling that this decision needs more information and new perspectives, have the courage to consciously take a timeout.
Define what reflection means for you in this situation: Why is this decision so important? How much time can you spend? What material do you need? Maybe you have all the information, but you need to open some parts of it deeper - what parts? Will you reflect alone or together with somebody else?
Identify time pockets that you can use. Sometimes reflection must be marked as a slot in your calendar. If so, just do it, and let nothing be more important. But often reflection comes naturally when you are in movement: walking the dog, driving your car, cleaning your home. Decide to use those activities for reflecting on decisions you have to make.
Find methods for focusing. Reflection is a combination of thought and feeling. If you can solve a problem intellectually, you don’t need deep reflection. But when the facts in the plus and minus columns are equally long, you have to trust your intuition. To really get a grip of what your intuition tries to tell you, give it space! For me the methods are meditation and yoga - the state of mind these exercises give me makes me able to hear and feel what my decision should be. What methods work for you?
The courage to follow that insight is the last step before you take your decision live. Accept that every big step into the unsecure future gives you anxiety. Dare to jump, anyway.
Be grateful if you actually did reflect before you made the decision. Be sincere when you ask yourself (and those that helped you) if it was worth it? Why? Why not?
In painting focusing and reflecting are basic tools. In 2011 I thought that the painting above was ready. But something disturbed me every time I looked at it. In midsummer 2020 we decided to paint with a friend. I had no new canvases so I took out this one, thinking I could start all over. I just focused on it, and on another friend that sat reflecting in a sunchair.
I made a decision based on a feeling, and grabbed the brush. The lady in the chair is the only thing I added to the painting. You might notice that she is not reading the book she holds.
Waiting, looking, reflecting upon the painting during nine years taught me a lot about the creative process, but most important is that the painting is ready.
How do I know that?
It gives me great joy every time I watch it.
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