This Decision Point is part of Arney's article entitled Perfectionists Kill Progress, which is part of his online educational series, The Serial Decision Maker.
The by-product of a perfectionist, especially when there are multiple perfectionists in an organizational setting, is that progress is slow at best because the focus is on an unrealistic standard for achievement instead of the effort needed to achieve. Delays and an unwillingness to delegate ultimately will bring progress to a screeching halt. Not only are things not getting done, no one is learning anything because the perfectionists are too sidetracked chasing a mythical objective.
This Decision Point is part of Arney's article entitled Perfectionists Kill Progress, which is part of his online educational series, The Serial Decision Maker.
Medium: The movie “True Grit” (1969 John Wayne version)
Line: Rooster Cogburn: Young fella, if you’re looking for trouble, I’ll accommodate ya’
Quintessential John Wayne and a great tough guy line.
Getting the Most out of Every Day
Managing your decisions to manage your life
How do you go about getting the most out of every day? In my seemingly never-ending quest to answer this question, I think I have come up with at least part of the answer.
To get the most out of anything, you need to have a thorough understanding of it. It stands to reason, then, that in order to get the most out of your life one day at a time, you need to have a good understanding of your life, what it means to you, and what you expect to gain from or get out of it.
This understanding, which will be different and personal for everyone who goes through the exercise, can be gained when you take the following steps:
Reflect on your Past
Reflect is the key word here. Your past must remain your past if you are to proceed with a healthy perspective. That means that you should neither ignore it nor dwell on it.
Professional athletes are successful, in part, because they are able to forget their last game or their last play, whether it was good or bad. In so doing, they neither carry any unnecessary baggage nor are they weighed down by inflated expectations. This does not mean, however, that they do not learn from their experiences. They just look at them for what they are. The same can be and should be true for you.
If you make an error, you reflect on it long enough to figure out what you did wrong and then you go forward determined not to make that same mistake again. If you do something wonderful, you reflect on what you did right so that you can go about trying to replicate that same feat the next time.
Focus on your Future
Your ability to focus on the moment and your role in what is going on around you will go a long way toward ensuring that you fully enjoy and appreciate each step along the way. Dwelling on your past or worrying about something that may or may not happen too far into your future will only serve to dilute your present. You certainly will be unable to get the most out of every day if those days are comprised of a series of diluted moments.
Notice that I am not imploring you to be happy, but rather to experience your present for what it truly is. You cannot rush through the bad stuff to get to the good stuff. Grief, pain, suffering, heartache, and aggravation are all part of a life fully lived. Turning toward those feelings and emotions will only help you to better cope with them, which will help you to be more appreciative and aware when the joy, elation, wonder, awe, and glee inevitably roll around.
Plan for the Future
The best way to be prepared for your future is to set your own course toward it. When you are the architect of your plan, you take a major step toward living each day with purpose and meaning.
When you plan for your future, you spend time making things happen. You know why you are doing what you are doing and you are much more likely to feel confident and determined because of that understanding.
You just need to make sure that you don’t overdo it. Winston Churchill once said that, “It is a mistake to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny is created one link at a time.” Trying to solve all of the mysteries of the universe all at once will only lead to frustration and discouragement and, once again, detract from the here and now.
Repeat as necessary
You may find that you need to repeat these steps many times throughout the day or that once a day is enough. That is up to you. Reflect, Focus, and Plan as often as is necessary to ensure that you get the most out of each day.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.
The ICE Man
Before I tell you about my super hero friend the ICE man, let me assure you that he has nothing to do with the movie Top Gun.
My friend actually obtained his name and his super hero abilities when he came up with a formula for dealing with the poorly behaved, bad intentioned people and the unintended or difficult circumstances he experiences in his life. The ICE part of his name is actually an acronym for the choices he has when he has an encounter with any of these people or has trouble on his hands.
He figured out that when he does, he can either Ignore, Confront, or Embrace the person or the situation in question.
He can choose one, two, or all of these options, but any decision he makes when dealing with these obstacles or challenges will involve these actions. He may start in one direction and then move to another as the situation evolves. He may choose a course and resolve the matter immediately upon doing so. It may be a long and drawn out course of action that involves all three of these choices, but no matter what he decides, it will be a choice within the boundary of these three alternatives.
The ICE Man is similar to my other super hero friends in that he has devised a simple process for mastering fears or handling unpleasant or unforeseen situations. Where he differs is that his skills apply to external factors, whereas my other super hero friends all confront fears and obstacles that come from within. His skill set often involves an interaction with someone and that alone makes his problem solving a bit more complex.
Working with other people can be difficult and challenging, especially if these other people behave in a way that has a negative impact on you. When you were growing up, there was undoubtedly a kid or kids who didn’t want to follow the rules, didn’t want to listen to the teacher, or was otherwise trying to get away with something. Worse yet, there may have been a kid who took to bullying you or tried other ways to intimidate you and make your life miserable.
The power of negative actions has always been stronger than the power of positive actions when matched up one on one. Further, you will always be at a slight disadvantage as someone who follows the rules and is respectful of others when having to contend with someone who acts as though the rules do not apply to him.
As an adult, you are likely surrounded by the adult version of the poorly behaved children just described. From the erratic driver who seems to think nothing of cutting you off on the expressway, to the slack at work who tries to get by doing as little as possible leaving you to carry their weight in addition to your own.
No matter where you are in life or what your chosen profession is, these people are present doing what they can to be underhanded, act unfairly, and generally get away with whatever they can while ignoring the rules.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can devise a plan to permanently avoid these people and don’t let yourself think that because you might have successfully separated yourself from one of these people there won’t be another one waiting to wreak the same amount of havoc and cause the same amount of angst in your life.
The ICE Man had too many of these unsatisfactory experiences for too long of a period of time and he finally determined that he needed to do something about it. So, instead of just telling himself it would all be better tomorrow, he decided to make a list of his options. To his surprise, after much thought and deliberation, he realized that there were really only three choices for him to make when a poorly behaved person or difficult experience presented itself.
He was actually comforted by the fact that he could only come up with three, in part because it simplified his thought process and made his task of setting a course to effectively handle these matters easier to comprehend.
Ignoring a badly behaved person can be advantageous because it sends the message that the poor behavior is not going to have any influence on you. This is a particularly powerful message when you consider that the motivation for most poorly behaved people is to cause turmoil and discomfort for well-behaved people.
Generally speaking, poorly behaved people and especially poorly behaved children, behave in that way because they are trying to get attention and any attention is better than no attention. Gaining attention is the avenue they use to get what they want. I want candy and my parents won’t let me have it so I am going to throw a fit until they give in. Or, I am hungry, but I don’t have a lunch so I am going to bully you until you give me your lunch money.
If you are successful at ignoring these people and this type of behavior, the avenue that they use to get what they want from you is closed. Even poorly behaved kids and adults will realize that they need to go elsewhere to achieve their desired result if they are continually unsuccessful in getting it through you.
These small steps or adjustments are exactly the moves that you need to make on your path of self- improvement. Rarely is their one thing that you can do that instantaneously erases your fears, doubts, or worries, but if you take the time to understand the root cause of those fears and worries and then identify steps that you can take to address them, you will eventually push past them and they will no longer present themselves as the obstacles they have previously been to you.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, simply ignoring someone, or your fears concerning them, will not make them go away and you must consider confronting him or her in order to mitigate or alleviate the problem they are creating with you. You likely do not enjoy or seek out confrontation. You may even try to avoid it all costs, but if you are completely unwilling to confront anyone or anything at any time, you must also recognize that you are sacrificing your long-term peace just so you do not need to take even a slight step outside of your comfort zone.
The ICE Man looked at issues that probably could have been short lived and he found that many of them ended up creating uneasiness and angst for him over a prolonged period of time. When he let situations or problems go unchecked, they festered and ended up being much more of an issue as time progressed.
He realized that he wasn’t doing himself any favors by choosing not to deal with situations as they arose in a direct and forthright manner. He eventually found that, sometimes, just by dealing with something immediately, he was actually able to minimize the confrontation that was necessary to solve the problem.
Often times, a swift and decisive confrontation will settle a matter or shut down a behavior once and for all and that is something that even a dedicated pacifist must consider. This is not to suggest that you turn toward physical confrontation. Many times, your willingness to address poor behavior through your use of sound logic and reason will take care of the matter.
However remote the possibility may seem, some people are simply unaware of how they are coming across to you and once you let them know what impact their behavior is having on you, they either adjust their approach or go elsewhere.
Confrontation can also involve the use of an authority figure or a trusted third party. A productive meeting conducted by an effective mediator can go a long way toward resolving these situations.
The main point here is that an effective confrontation, conducted responsibly and with pure intent, can create an undesired consequence for the poorly behaved person. Most bad behavior exists precisely because it has gone unchecked. Once an undesired or unexpected consequence for that action is created, the poor behavior is likely to go away or at least go elsewhere.
The ICE Man certainly learned this first hand and he now counts his willingness to consider confronting a person or an issue that is causing him grief and aggravation as one of his three viable choices for effective resolution.
Just as confronting a matter can lead to a desired result, so too can the opposite action. Embracing a problem or a particular individual who has previously created difficulties for you can work just as well.
Embracing a person or problem is obviously different than confronting one from the standpoint that you are considering the possibility that there may be some common ground between you and that person or problem.
In a confrontation, your desire is to make the bad behavior change or go away. When you embrace someone or something, your desire is to develop a better understanding of what is being said or acted out with the possibility that the common ground you develop will help to resolve the problem.
Sometimes, your own anxiety can mask something that is valuable to the decision-making process. You may get yourself so worked up about a problem you are having with someone that you will miss a clue that could very well lead to a viable solution to that same problem. That clue may be found in the form of a common thread that you did not realize existed between you and your supposed nemesis.
The ICE Man discovered that if he were at least willing to consider that he might have something in common with someone who had otherwise caused him trouble, the situation may not be as dire as he originally thought.
Have you ever taken part in an argument with someone only to realize that you were actually making the same point, but you had somehow started off on the wrong foot and gotten so upset that you focused solely on making yourself heard instead of also listening to what the other person was saying? It happens. It tends to happen more frequently to people who have opinions and are passionate about certain causes and beliefs.
The idea of possibly embracing someone or something that has been troublesome to you takes some work, but it does open up another choice for you. Another choice leads to another possible and positive consequence and that consequence may be just what you need to effectively resolve a troubling matter.
If the embrace of the problem person or matter leads immediately to a resolution, it is all the better. You effectively resolved a situation and found common ground with someone or something that was previously a nemesis to you. In many ways, this is the strongest resolution you can reach because you have taken an enemy and made them an ally.
While it is difficult to get to that point, especially because that type of resolution often involves the actions and willingness of someone else over whom you have no control, there is no better way to eliminate a problem than to take it from the negative column and put it squarely in the positive side of your experiences and learning moments.
The ICE Man also found that if he first chose to go the route of embracing a troubling person or issue, he still maintained the option of confrontation and that option would become even more powerful if he chose it as a second course of action. If he chose confrontation at that point, he had the benefit of knowing that he had at first tried to accept what was happening. Sometimes, that knowledge strengthened his resolve and made it easier for him to take that step.
The next time (probably later today) you run across a person or a situation that is bothersome or troubling to you, remember the options that the ICE Man identified that ultimately led to his super hero powers. You can choose to either Ignore, Confront, or Embrace. When you do, you will be effectively taking action and working toward a much more desirable result.
This is the sixth chapter of Scott Arney's Super Hero Series.
Be sure to check Scott's Spot on Patrolmen's Dispatch for each chapter of his Super Hero Series, which starts with Fear is Our Enemy; and his ongoing Serial Decision Maker series.
Published articles, original content, opinions and commentary by Scott Arney, CEO, Chicago Patrolmen's Federal Credit Union.