This topic has come up many times recently, and I wanted to share. Options, and no, not stock options (although those are nice too), frame how comfortable we are in a situation. My wife recently posted about how she gets nervous when I drive, even knowing I would never do anything to endanger her or our daughter. And when she drives, she often feels frustrated and finds herself stuck behind slow or erratic drivers.
In working through an advanced curriculum in her own coaching career, she determined that the difference was options. When I drive, I see options everywhere. Some options are better than others and based on where I am and where I want to be, I choose the best option available. When she drives, she doesn’t see as many options on the road as I do. So when she isn’t driving, the mismatch of perceived options makes my driving seem more daring from her perspective.
Applying this to a larger scope, take a moment and think about a time where you felt trapped or pressured in a decision. Keep thinking about that time and remember the number of options or choices you felt you had at the time. Now think of a time where you felt completely at ease in making a decision. And think of the number of choices you felt you had then. Odds are the more pressure you felt, the fewer options you felt you had, and vice versus. That has certainly been my experience.
The question becomes how to change what we perceive in order to be able to see more options. I have a few techniques that work for me.
- Breathe – My go to method for dealing with almost anything. Take a moment (or more), step away from the situation and just breathe. Breathing settles the mind and the emotions and allows for decisions and reactions to be made from a place of choice and not reflex.
- Meditate – For the really big ones where I have time, I look at meditation as breathing on steroids. Same benefits of adding space and allow for shifts in reaction to become consciously chosen and not a habitual reflex.
- Gut check – There has been a lot of buzz about the importance of our digestive system in overall health. I’m a big proponent of listening to my gut (instincts would be a good substitute here). Sometimes I will picture the scenario I’m in and choose one of my options. Then I wait for that tell-tale tightening that signals a less favorable decision. If I get a calm stomach, I’m probably on the right track.
- Make a list – Make a list of options you see. Make a second list of what the outcome you’d most like to see. Set the two side by side. Are there any options that get you to any of the acceptable results? If yes, you have a starting place for working towards your ideal resolution. If not, take a step and, breathe and think a little more. If all else fails, move on to number 5.
- Ask for help – I don’t know everything. Sometimes the options I see are limited by the fact that I don’t know enough about the topic. In those cases, I find a friend or mentor who knows more, and I ask for help. Not that they will make the decision for me, but they will be able to help me see more options so I can make choices that get me to or at least closer to my ideal outcome.
- Listen – I put this one in because it’s probably the most important tool. It is an essential component for all of the above to be successful. If you don’t listen to what you feel, to suggestions, to the other options that arise, you won’t be able to expand your available options and will likely remain stuck, see limited choices and feel frustrated and pressure.
Each of these can be used alone, or in groups (except for listen, which I advocate using in all of them). The thread that weaves all of them together is space. Making space for yourself to clear your mind, bring your full attention to your choices and see if you are able to lift some of the pressure, get creative and see the other options that might be available. Because the more options you see, the less pressure you’ll likely feel and the happier you’ll be with your choices.