When my stepdaughter was ten, she walked into a local restaurant in our town in the Netherlands and asked the Greek owner whether he would sell her an over-sized wooden rosary that he’d brought from his homeland and hung behind the sales register. She knew I’d seen it and liked it, and she wanted to give it to me as a present. It was a bold thing for a little girl to do.
She said that the idea came to her, and she got really excited about it. And it just seemed like it would work out the way she wanted. She felt confident, and she wasn’t nervous about asking, and she wasn’t thinking about how the plan could fail. She just went for it! And in the end, instead of selling it to her, he gave it to her.
How we feel about our choice is more important than whatever we decide, because our feelings indicate our expectations, which shape the result.
If we have several options, and we feel good about all of them, any one of them can work for us, because there are many ways to get to where we want to be. But if we feel bad about our choice, it’ll be difficult to create a positive outcome, no matter how hard we try.
Asking, “Why do I want this outcome?” helps, because it directs our attention toward that instead of something else. Looking at what we want, and why we want it, leads us in the direction we want to go. But focusing on how, when and who can keep us stuck where we are.
Second-guessing a decision – by continuing to weigh the pros and cons, or by focusing on why it won’t be successful, or by complaining about the consequences – unmakes the decision and blocks its success.
Say yes, and then believe in the yes! It means safekeeping our choices long enough to let energy begin moving, which allows the how to present itself.
The role of intuitive intelligence.
Each of us has an inner knowing that leads us toward positive outcomes. But most of us were taught as children to neglect our intuition. If we can’t see it, touch it or feel it, it’s “just our imagination,” and not valid or reliable.
If we believe that acting on intuition sacrifices clarity and intellect, we’ll “take a few days to think it over,” and we’ll add our interpretation, based on our beliefs and biases. If instead, we act spontaneously, we may make a “mistake.” But if we’re all right with that and we’re willing to take the risk anyway, mistakes lose their power to negatively affect us. If we’ve already decided that it’s all right to make mistakes, whatever we do will be all right for us.
Win-win makes agreements doable.
It’s important that agreements not become requirements or demands, where someone feels held captive. Naturally, we want people to keep their word. But if they decide to change the rules, it doesn’t work to punish them or hang on to them. Renegotiating agreements may include supporting people as they walk away from us.
What we do with them is less important than what we do with ourselves, because getting stuck in wanting people to do something that we can’t make them do will leave us feeling disempowered.
If we’ll focus on the consequences we’ve set in motion through our choices, instead of blaming others for whatever results we’re experiencing, our interactions and relationships will improve.
No one’s wrong.
It’s popular to “agree to disagree.” But it’s not enough, because it doesn’t include a vital element of relationships, which is acceptance that the other person is also right from his or her viewpoint.
Another person’s rightness doesn’t nullify our own. And it’s important to be able to validate people when their values and behavior don’t match ours.
Resolution needs two conditions.
When conflict comes up, two elements are necessary to reach resolution. And without them, there’s really not a clear way forward.
The first is an acknowledgement by each person involved that a problem exists and that it’s affecting everyone, so it’s not just “your fault.” The second is a willingness to do whatever it takes to find an answer.
It can help to physically move from in front of the person, to sit beside him or her. When we’re shoulder to shoulder with heads together, we’re more inclined to stop resisting and to better understand the other person’s needs and motivations. Then it becomes easier to view the problem cooperatively and find common ground.
Commitments are rare.
In Despicable Me, when adorable, little Agnes pirouettes up to Gru in her tiny tutu and asks him to pinky promise that he’ll come to her dance recital, she’s looking for a declaration from him that his word will be unchangeable, indissoluble and incorruptible. That’s what a commitment is.
Commitments are not about compromise, or meeting people halfway. We’re completely, not halfway, responsible for how we’re experiencing life, through our beliefs, perspectives and expectations. And if we’re willing to go all-in, 100%, it will work for us, which is when we go beyond agreement to commitment.
There will always be endless reasons for breaking an agreement and justifying doing it, which is past the point for its renegotiation. The difference between an agreement and a commitment is that a commitment is kept, while knowing from the time that it’s made, that there are no conditions under which it will ever be broken. If that’s not the case, it’s best everyone knows from the beginning, so no one is surprised to discover later, that someone had one foot in the door and one foot out.
Commitment says, “There are no conditions under which I’m willing to break this agreement. I don’t even anticipate renegotiating it. I’ll support it with my whole being to make it work, for the rest of my life.”
When a real commitment is made and it’s understood by everyone involved, which is a rare and valuable experience, a confidence is formed that can withstand anything.
As William Hutchison Murray wrote in The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951):
“We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money, booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: ‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!’”
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