Search for Significance; Part III

Continuing our look at Robert McGee and “Search for Significance”, he speaks of the Biblical notion of the need to renew our mind. I have found this to be true in so many facets of life and business. As leaders in our business, our community and our families, we need to be ever-mindful of the significance our actions can have. But before we get to action, we usually have a process that starts with each and every situation that comes our way. Knowing the key elements of the action sequence can improve the outcome.

It starts with an understanding of this flow diagram of how we typically process our response to a situation.

Decision Flow ContinuumLet’s talk about this spectrum.

1. Beliefs –  When a situation arises, we first filter it through a set of beliefs. I am not talking exclusively about any particular religious belief. Rather I mean a set of core values, understanding, and evaluation of things important to us or things we have assumed as drivers for who and what we are. Most of these beliefs have their roots in our early childhood development; life experiences including things were taught expressly or things we learned as outcomes to events. These experiences establish a set of core beliefs that have a strong influence in how we react to new situations in later years. Unfortunately, most of keep a portion of negative beliefs mixed in with the good things. e.g. I am not smart enough, strong enough, or pretty enough, etc.

2. Thoughts –  the messages that stem from our beliefs control the thoughts we formulate about the new situation. The thoughts can be something as simple as is this moment a good thing or a bad thing? It is easy for a whole swirl of thoughts to emerge when faced with one fairly direct situation.

3. Emotions –  The thoughts trigger emotions. The emotions become the response to the situation. They power and drive the creation of our ‘answer’. Most importantly they become the basis of the final step, Actions.

4. Actions –  This is our response or reaction to the situation. Every time this topic comes up, I am reminded of an old adage about being treated by a doctor for an illness or condition.

“If I react to the medicine, that is a bad thing. But I respond to it, that is a good thing.”

This continuum can play out in very rapid fire. Often this sequence happens so fast we cannot have time to break it down into these components. I firmly believe that is why the wise old person once said “count to ten” before you respond.

That pause gives us time to process the flow. We can check each step and possibly temper the conclusion or redirect the energy before taking the final action.

By breaking down this process, we have time to renew our mind, meaning we challenge our own thinking. The first impression we reach may not be a good assessment. Maybe we need a moment to rethink our belief so that our thoughts are more solid and objective, not rooted in bad information.

The next time you are surprised by a sudden situation at work or at home, try to build in this process of renewing your own thinking about the situation. Here are some simple ideas on where to start:

  • Ask yourself “is my first reaction a valid conclusion”?
  • Does this situation really relate to what I am thinking about it? i.e. is this personal or just a situation I need to handle?
  • Do I really need to take ownership (see my earlier post on “Not my circus, not my monkeys”)
  • Ask yourself, why am I feeling this way about this. Let the sequence double back on itself before committing to a final action.

I hope this helps you make a better response to your next situation.

As always, join the discussion and post a comment below.

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