Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda: How to Make a Decision You Won’t Regret!

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could always approach big decisions head on, and feel little or no regret, regardless of the outcome? As Yogi Berra famously said; “when you approach a fork in the road, take it”. But seriously, why are decisions often such a source of conflict? Usually, there are three options:  making the safe choice, maintaining the status quo, or taking a risk. Any decision would be a no-brainer— if it didn’t involve some risk or uncertainty— since certainty of outcome is one of the biggest myths we harbor. So while big decisions can be daunting, there are pitfalls to avoid as well as ways to make a decision you probably will regret. Think about a current situation in your life in which you’re contemplating a big decision. Here is how to avoid second-guessing or regrets to feel best about your decision as well as to master the decision making process itself:

Be willing take risks-This isn’t to say you should be impulsive, overly risky or reckless. But keep in mind that when you’re entering the unknown there may be unanticipated hazards. Gathering as much information about possible outcomes can help to make the most informed decision; but remember, there are no certain outcomes. So ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” Imagine your worst-case scenario has already occurred. Feel your emotions. What reaction would other people have? How likely is this outcome? If some of these things did happen, would it really be as bad as I feared? And if things don’t turn out exactly how I hope, will I be able to handle it? Chances are you can absorb the consequences you fear, a lot easier than the “what if” consequences of inaction.

Set goals- Without setting specific goals related to an important decision, you’re setting yourself up for an unclear path moving forward. Set specific goals related to the choice you’re considering. What exactly would you like to happen, and when? Who else will need to be involved and who will likely be affected by this decision? Are there things you’re willing to give up in order to make your goal happen? Once you’ve thought about these things, ask yourself, “Is this goal still a priority in my life?” If the answer is yes, let yourself feel more confident in the choice you’ve made.

Be flexible-As you move forward with a decision, a change of course might be called for.  At this point, ask yourself if you’ll still be able to pull off meeting your goal.  Do you need to stick with the original plan, or change direction? The ability to recognize when a goal starts to become unrealistic is an important skill. And don’t let this get you down! Today’s accomplishments were yesterday’s goals, so continue to raise the bar even higher for yourself.

Conquer ambivalence-Ambivalence is actually a choice in itself—the choice to not make any decision at all. Remember, up until now you’ve most likely been able to make choices and take responsibility for your decisions and you will be able to do it again. Think of a crucial decision you’ve made that you feel proud of. Recall how exhilarating it was to achieve the goal you set for yourself. Making a decision to better your life and strive for greatness, regardless of the outcome, is still an accomplishment you can be proud of.

By doing these things, you’re on the path to competently and consciously take charge of your life. What life decision(s) are you considering making now? Maybe it’s a career change, taking steps to get more serious in a relationship or to end a relationship, making a large purchase, having or adopting children or going back to school. Whatever’s the choice at hand, allow yourself to dream.  Most of all, accept no excuses; and think about how far you could go if only you stopped getting in your own way.

Does Every New Relationship Feel Like Déjà vu? How To Break That Pattern

We, as humans, are creatures of habit. But while patterns and rituals are typically helpful in maximizing brain space, certain patterns in our relationships don’t usually serve us. For example, finding yourself in the “same relationship” over and over again can feel like déjà vu– and not in a good way.   If you find yourself saying “hmm, I’ve been here before.” and feel caught in the same issues with one relationship after another, maybe it’s time to take a look at your particular relationship MO in order to break the pattern once an for all, so that you can find the person you’re really looking for and then make that relationship thrive.

The first thing to acknowledge is what you really like about new relationships in the first place.  Is it something specific to this new and unique person, or is it that intoxicating feeling of excitement and intrigue that comes with almost any initial attraction? Chances are, it’s the “high” you have when you first connect with a perspective new partner along with the exciting prospect of a new relationship—with all the related fantasies— and the great sexual attraction. This together can feel so ecstatic and so right. Rogers and Hart nailed it in the song, “Falling In Love With Love.” It’s not until that initial fire dies down that you get to see if the relationship stands the true test of time. After this “honeymoon” period, you have a choice: move on to the next short-term relationship (aka déjà vu) or explore the prospect of you and your partner moving the relationship toward long-term status. At this point, do you find yourself having the same issues and arguments you did the last time around?  For example, is this person scared of commitment just like the last person you dated? Are you blaming him or her for your disappointment that the effortless initial passion you had together has gone away—as by definition, initial passion always does?

So now is the time to ask yourself what’s the pattern I keep finding myself in that keeps me from having the long term relationship I want? Once you recognize your specific pattern and take responsibility for it, you have empowered yourself to break that pattern and avoid revisiting your old relationship traps. For example, if you find that you often become another person’s rebound relationship, you can make sure to ask the right questions to satisfy yourself that a new person you meet is ready for a new relationship. Also ask yourself what do I really want now that’s different?  Make sure you enter the dating world with clear criteria for what you’re seeking in a new partner. In other words, use your head as well as your heart when searching for a mate. For example, if you’ve found yourself more than once in a situation with a person who is smothering or too demanding of your time, you may want to make sure a new partner has enough of a life of his or her own this time.

Remember: recognizing and then moving beyond the patterns that haven’t worked up until now is the most important step you can take toward find a truly fulfilling and long-term relationship.

If You are Single this Valentine’s Day, Defiantly Celebrate It!

At this time of year, the media couldn’t be busier reminding you to enhance your relationship, celebrate your romantic life and establish more intimacy as a tribute to Valentine’s Day. There are endless deals for romantic dinners and getaways, ads for Hallmark, flowers and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate.  But what if you’re not in a involved with anyone special right now?  In my practice, I’ve seen many people over the years who feel badly about themselves and their lives, only because they’re not currently in a relationship. And somehow when Valentine’s Day comes around, it accentuates those negative feelings.  But holidays or other yearly milestones don’t need to be triggers of gloom.  Instead, honor your single status by acknowledging it in a positive light.

When you’re feeling down on Valentine’s Day, (New Years Eve, your birthday, or even just an ordinary Saturday night), it’s possible that you’re comparing this year with the best Valentine’s Day of your life, when you were with a person you wanted to be with and it all felt great.  But if you really think about it, you’ve also probably had holidays when you actually may have preferred being alone.  Remember, loneliness is not about being by yourself. It’s more about that faulty notion that the rest of the world’s having a party, and you weren’t invited.  In the specific case of Valentine’s Day, you’ll set yourself up to feel lonely if you dwell on the happy and loving people around you and see yourself as—perhaps even being the only one—somehow failing to meet that standard.  And when you think about it, is that completely true?  Here’s a fact I’ve seen prove itself countless times: When you truly enjoy your own company and accept yourself as a single person, you will be so much more likely to find the right relationship. After all, it is out of the fear of being alone, that the worst and most dysfunctional relationships manifest. Become comfortable with your own solitude; and your next relationship becomes a true choice, never a lifeline. In other words, you’ll never stay in a bad relationship again.

The best thing you can do for yourself when you dread an upcoming holiday for lack of a significant other is to refuse to wrap yourself in negative feelings. Try this on Valentine’s Day: deliberately and defiantly stay home and have a wonderful evening for one.  Treat yourself, as you’d want a great date to treat you.  Maybe rent a favorite movie that you know always makes you laugh or smile.  Fill your home with candles or fresh flowers to create a happy or calming environment.  Have an indulgent meal—even if it’s takeout—from your favorite restaurant and enjoy a glass or two of wine.  You might even get yourself the gift you’ve been waiting for a special occasion to buy.

The point is to allow yourself to experience exactly what you fear the most–being alone.  When you purposefully face your oneness—really experience it and even enjoy it—you’ll learn that there is really nothing to fear.  And the truth is, if you can’t enjoy your own company, how can you expect someone else to enjoy it? So try to make this February 14th a day that’s just like, or even better than any other day of the year, by really caring for and nurturing yourself.  Allow yourself to experience the joy that solitude has to offer. It’s there if you acknowledge it and available 365 days per year, 24/7.   When you can truly enjoy your own company, that enjoyment will become contagious—and if it’s what you really want, the right relationship will find you.  Here’s the best news of all: If it still proves to be difficult for you, Valentine’s Day only lasts a mere 24 hours!

Motivation in the Workplace For Optimal Results Is Not a “One Size Fits All” Implementation

Business leaders and manager at all levels usually agree on one thing: It’s a constant challenge to keep others in the work environment motivated and productive. This is especially true given the reality that what drives one person, can be quite different than what drives another. Thus, to be effective in creating a maximally productive work environment, it’s crucial to understand on an individual basis exactly what motivates each unique person you are trying to influence. So with this in mind, here are several different examples or prototypes of people you might find in the workplace and what’s most likely to inspire optimal productivity in each.  Believe it or not, these characteristics even correspond with the stages of development as humans by which each individual views his or her career. By understanding what drives each unique member of your team, you can effectively tailor the approach you use to get the most out of each person you’d like to motivate.

Some people are principally motivated by the simple belief that their job is secure and the reassurance that their work won’t become too hard or overwhelming. When motivating someone like this, accept their limitations and avoid pushing them toward advancement (which may feel to them like more of a threat than a reward, whether or not they admit it). Assuming that their work is satisfactory, however, continue to assure them of their security by maintaining consistency in their tasks, so they remain capable of sufficiently doing their jobs.

For others, the structure itself that exists within a company or organization is a perfect ongoing motivator for those who thrive in environments with clear and perhaps even rigid rules, procedures and guidelines. Doing what is expected, not making waves and staying on “the good side” of the authority is what keeps them going on a day-to-day basis as well as their power to “rule” their subordinates. Military type operations and certain large companies are good examples of where these people thrive. For these employees, provide positive reinforcement for following procedures and rules or doing things “by the book”. However, like the first group, avoid pushing them out of their comfort zones.

For many, it’s the opportunity to impress others or receive praise or validation, since their primary motivator is actually to gain recognition or approval from others. While you might correctly assume that practically everyone likes the approval of others, some people actually need it to flourish and don’t do as well when they aren’t feeling validated. So take the time to recognize that these individuals are doing a good job, for example, in the form of awards (such as, “employee of the month”, etc.) to help them feel appreciated and as though they are part of a “family” that appreciates both the job they do and them as people . Any way you can convey the message to “keep up the good work” can have a huge impact.

In our society compensation via salary, perks or other tangible rewards and benefits is obviously the most common form of motivation offered; and for some employees, it’s enough to motivate them maximally. Such employees or coworkers respond best to such things as raises, bonuses, time off and better benefits.

Notice that it’s the employer—managers or company policy—that provides all of the motivators discussed so far. However, those who fall into the next two categories distinguish themselves by the fact that the principal way they are motivated is intrinsically or from within. In other words, they are most satisfied by doing and being challenged by what they love and feel passionate about. As a manager or supervisor, it is crucial to recognize such individuals for the unique abilities and inner drive to perform them that they can contribute to your mission, since they see their work as a calling and their work environment as a place to be creative and to apply their unique gifts and talents. They need enjoy their work; and fit best in an environment, which values their contribution. When these needs cease to be met, they will be most likely to burn out and seek a new assignment or environment where they can once again thrive. They feel best about their work and themselves, when given the opportunity and freedom to apply their unique magic to the task. My advice to managers regarding these individuals is to resist any micromanaging and remember that they bring the lion’s share of their own motivation to the table. The only other things they need are the opportunity, some broad direction, the resources to get the job done and a way to measure the impact of their contribution. I believe that anyone who is willing to do what it takes to let their passion be the guiding force in their career can join this category. When I coach people on career change, I teach them many ways to access this part of themselves.

The highest level of self-motivation comes from the opportunity to serve a purpose greater than oneself. This may be the commitment to play an important role in serving a cause one believes in or solving an important problem— that’s much larger than oneself.  For these employees, the satisfaction of bettering the lives of others, changing some aspect of the world or simply giving back is what actually motivates them. In other words, they are beyond self-gratification in this part of their lives; and enjoying their work is far less important. When motivation appears to dwindle, it could be a sign that the work is done and/or another mission is ripe. At times they should also be reminded of the big picture, and how the impact of their contributions serve something larger.

So the next time you’re struggling to find a way to further one of your employee’s ability to thrive in the workplace, explore what he or she might really be needing—on an individual basis–to give you the best they’ve got. Consider the various possibilities. The key is to know what makes each employee ‘tick’. Of course, in the real world, most of us seek all of these motivators from time to time, but knowing a given person’s default position will go a long way toward both retention and helping them to serve your mission the best. As a business leader, never forget the power that a highly motivated team can deliver.