Personal Growth


The hardest aspect of change is that it asks us to make a different choice from the one we made yesterday.

Our lives are defined by our choices and decisions. Many of our choices are patterned, unconscious responses which turn into habits. Our psyches seek comfort in the familiar, so making known choices and responding to events and situations in the way we always have keeps us contained within our known frame of reference. We feel safe and in control.

But life has a way of bringing in the unexpected. Receiving a curve ball threatens that known frame of reference and our psychological safety, as our instincts tell us that a different and unfamiliar choice is required. Our tethers to control are loosened, as we struggle to know how to make a different choice and where to start.

The best response in the face of uncertainty is to pause, as the act of pausing creates an interruption to our usual neural pathways.

Here's an example. I know you’re familiar with the irritation of being interrupted when you’re speaking and 'on a roll'. When this happens, and your concentration and focus is broken, you may have uttered the phrase "I’ve lost my chain of thought". This intuitive description of chains or connections being lost is literal, as the break in rhythm causes a suspension in the brain’s electrical activity.

It is in these moments of suspension, however fleeting, that you’re in freefall, not hindered by the past, but not yet anchored by your future. A vacuum asks to be filled, a truism that makes these snippets of space rich in possibility. Your challenge at these times is this: resist the urge to quell the anxiety of the unknown by filling the space with the familiar. Instead, you need to harness your courage and look to see if you can occupy the space with a different choice.

3 Takeouts to Help You Make Different Choices

1. Balance instinct with intellect

Our analytical minds can hinder us at moments of change as rationality and logic seek sequence and predictability. Instinct supplements cognition, and can sometimes transcend it, as instinct comes from an earlier part of our evolution and is rooted in the limbic or emotional brain. Use what you deduce and what you sense to arrive at a more synthesised and coherent choice.

2. Make the unconscious, conscious

Look at what lies beneath your choices. Think about what your choices are saying about your values, your self-worth, your ambitions and your limitations. Understanding the why, helps us to break the pattern. Active self-enquiry and reflection can bring the shadow into the light.

3.  Update your self perception

Very often, our choices are based on an outdated version of ourselves. Assessment and development tools such as profiling, coaching and peer feedback can reorient us to the present, as they provide a current day snapshot of how we are viewed by others and what science is telling us. Don’t let your current day choices hold you hostage to your history.

Decision Making
Personal Development