The wide world of choice


A recent discussion on about making career choices drew my interest as commenters indicated a variety of choices they could make around their careers within their workplaces. One comment that stopped me cold, however was one where someone said that you couldn’t choose your boss.

Oh contraire! Even your boss is a choice you can make. It might be scary or uncomfortable but there are always choices. So if we start with the “choosing your boss” example, you can decide how you’ll react to him or her. Did you inherit a bad boss in a reorganization? You have choices, even ones that scare you, about how you can deal with it.

There are choices to be made everywhere and every day if you think broadly enough. When a situation is difficult your emotions may prevent you from seeing the array of choices in front of you. In the case of a bad boss, you have lots of choices but may only see an option that is uncomfortable. So you think you have no choice but to stay and be miserable.

Choices abound even when things get uncomfortable

Sometimes discomfort is a good thing, bringing us learning opportunities that were unforeseen. It takes introspection and being open to possibilities to see that you have choices when things get uncomfortable.

Notice your discomfort and the cause(s) when it happens. Spend some time thinking about what “choosing” means in your particular situation. These questions can be used for many situations that you deal with on a daily basis:

Stay: What would it mean for you to stay with the discomfort you have? Is there some learning there for you? How might you deal with the emotions you have about the situation? At what point might you decide that you’ve had enough and you need to move out of being comfortable with discomfort?

Go: What perceived risks would you be taking if you (physically) stepped away from your uncomfortable situation? Are they real risks or imagined? Can you mitigate the risks? Who would you impact? What are the benefits of stepping away from the discomfort to you and those you impact?

Something in between: What is the middle road between staying with the discomfort and leaving it behind? Would the middle road impact you and others in a way that is positive, or is it simply a form of procrastinating on the real decision you need to make? Can something in between staying and going provide breathing space for a stronger choice at a later time?

Open up to the unconscious choices you can make every day. Spend time reflecting, becoming aware and making decisions/choices with intent. Once you see the wide world of choice open to you, you’ll watch your ability to lead soar.




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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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