How To Make Decisions That Leave No Regrets

I think subconsciously we hope we don’t have to make our next big decision for quite a while.  The reality? You and I will make a lot more of them a lot sooner than we like, and often when we least expect it. We all want to make the best decision, but how?

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I had to make four major decisions this year, two on the personal side and two professionally related.  In retrospect, I also made a lot of small decisions along the way that affected what happened with the big decisions.  A couple worked out the way I wanted, one turned out unexpectedly and another was a disappointment.  The one thing in common with all of them is that I have no regrets about any of them.

Making Decisions

You and I make a lot of decisions each day.  Most of those are small and occasionally some are big. While the results of our “small” decisions accumulate over time, the results of our “big” decisions  have a more immediate and larger impact.  Having a decision making framework won’t always lead you to the right decisions, but it will leave you with fewer regrets.

I like the following two-fold decision making framework because it takes the realities about ourselves and others into account:

Managing Yourself

  • In light of my past, what is the wise thing to do? What might not be an issue for another person could be a stumbling block for you.
  • In light of my current situation, what is the wise thing to do? What will be the impact of what your currently doing on your decision and visa-versa?
  • In light of my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do? Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should; what long-term effects will your decision have?

Managing Others

  • What is the real sum total impact of my options? Often you can’t answer this alone, so get insight and input from your inner circle.
  • What are my core obligations? How does your decision line up with your responsibilities; who else and what else will be affected by your decision?
  • What will work in world as it is? As my great-grandmother used to say, “don’t deal with life the way you want it to be, deal with it the way it comes.” Don’t be pollyanna and do stay positive while handling the negative.
  • Who are we? How does your decision line up with your core values, your team, your culture, home and community? There is often tension between these and knowing the answer to the first three questions can help you get clear when it comes to this one.
  • What can I live with? If you’ve given your decision the reflection time it deserves, processed it with  both your head and your heart, then commit….even though you may not have 100% certainty.46833006 - old wooden veranda and the cornerstone of natural stone

The first part of the framework comes from Andy Stanley (The Best Question Ever) and the other from an article by Joseph Badaracco (HBR, Sept 2016). The additional commentary is mine.  If you use all or part of this framework  or another, you’ll develop your own commentary to consider and share.

The truth is you already have a decision making framework, even if it’s one more akin to a “punt” or coin-toss. The difference is whether or not you’ve chosen your framework intentionally.

Your Decision Making Framework

Is your current decision making framework by design or by default? If you can articulate it, then your on your way to design; if you can write it out you know you are there.   The next step is to use it consistently.  Simple in concept and difficult to do, not just because we naturally bend toward default but because life is messy, hard and big decisions usually aren’t easy.

The good news is that when you practice filtering your decisions through an intentional framework, you get better at it and so does your framework; both you and it adapt toward a “best fit”.  And while you won’t always make the right decision or even the best decision, it’s a lot more likely you will.  And the best news of all is that  you’ll have few if any regrets.

Here is a challenge: write down your current decision making framework (literally). What’s serving you well and needs to remain? What’s not and needs to change?

Please leave a comment and let me know what’s working well for you.

How To Read To Succeed!

Why The Way You Read Matters

It’s easy to take for granted what you have or how you go about doing something.  So it is with books and reading. To compound matters, even when we do have good intentions for reading the reality is that our actions don’t match them.  Is it our lack of motivation that limits our progress? Or, could it have to do with how we are going about the task?

I’ve always been a “good” reader by most standards. However, I realized that if something didn’t change in my reading approach, my kids were going to find a long list and stack of unread books when I died.  More importantly, I also realized these were books that could help me grow in a transformational way, allow me to get to know the some of the most interesting people who ever walked the planet, and get a taste of the wisdom of the ages.

That’s when I decided to get serious and read Mortimer Adler’s classic book “How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading”.  For me, I came to the conclusion that how I was reading had a lot more to do with my progress (or lack thereof) in this area than did motivation. What follows are my main take aways from the book.

Know Why  you want to read059 AwakeMotivate II

Of course there is the overall “Big A” why for your reading…and that’s to grow and become more. How you want to grow and in what areas will be different for each person so it’s up to you to figure that out

The other “Little a” agenda relates to each book you read and your purpose for doing so. There are three primary ones: for information, understanding or transformation.  Do you need to know more, understand better, or become more as a person? Determine which it is before you start.

Know What you want to read

The primary distinction is between works of fiction and works conveying knowledge, or expository works. Both have their place and purpose, depending on your “Why” for reading.  Among expository works,  know whether your interest is theoretical or practical. Sometimes all you’re interested in is the former, sometimes all you need is the latter and sometimes you need both in order to get what you want.

My guess is that readers of this blog are primarily interested in expository works. Because of that, I’ll include a reminder here to not forget the works of  fiction as they have their own way of informing and enriching. And because I’ll be a hypocrite if I say anything further about reading fiction, I’ll stop :).

Know How to read it

An overarching principle is to read actively. Too often we approach our reading passively, as if we are looking for the bottom-line to drop to us much like a package from UPS would. Active reading, on the other hand, is more like trying to catch a ball; you have to keep your eye on it the entire time and adjust until you have it firmly in hand.

The other important principal is knowing how you’re going to go about reading the book. Adler describes the following four general types of reading:

  1. Elementary- This is simply being able to consume printed content in an effective an efficient way. This level is most often addressed by speed reading courses that help you overcome poor habits of sub-vocalization, regression and other bad habits that can hamper your reading.
  2. Inspectional- The emphasis here is time. The goal is to get the most you possibly can out of the book in a limited  amount of time with a superficial level of reading, which can be quite a bit. That’s right, you can learn a LOT from a book simply by skimming or even superficially reading a book. The key is to look for themes, key content and become familiar with the structure. You want to avoid getting derailed by trying to understand the finer detail…which can cause you to lose the bigger picture. There are no “book police” that will harass you for not reading a book in detail. You have permission to skim (and skimp); enjoy it!
  3. Analytical- The goal of analytical reading is thorough understanding. While inspectional reading seeks to maximize limited time, analytical reading will ignore time in order to maximize your understanding. Unfortunately, most people think they have to read everything in an analytical way and that is not the case.
  4. Synoptical or Comparative- This is the most complex and systematic type of reading of all. It’s also the most rewarding because it allows you to come up with insights and concepts from many books that aren’t contained in any single book. Because this type of reading makes heavy demands on the reader even with simple books, it’s also the kind of reading some won’t want or even need to do.

Francis Bacon once remarked that “some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” The bottom line: know what you want and then partake accordingly.

We have so much information at our fingertips today it’s easy to get faked-out.  Just because you expend energy reading letters on a page doesn’t mean you’ve accomplished your purpose for reading.

And while knowing the Why, What and How of reading can move your toward your real purpose for reading a particular book, you still have to actually do it. In other words, you have to “eat the broccoli”. And to really grow, a haphazard or random approach to reading  just won’t do. There just aren’t enough rainy-book-reading-days or enough spare time to get it done. That’s why it’s important to have a reading system…..which is another topic for another time.

For now, the question is “How does the way you currently read need to change so you can get the maximum out of your reading?”

Please leave a comment, I’d love to know.

How To Recognize What’s Driving You

So You Can Make Sure You're Driving It

What drives people to do what they do? There are lot’s of reasons, too many and too complex to mention here. Even if we knew about all of them it still probably wouldn’t do us much good.  Instead, we would be overwhelmed.

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That’s why a heuristic can be helpful for dealing with complex matters. A heuristic is a model or  “rule of thumb” for to help explain things. Though not perfect, a heuristic can be “good enough” to allow you take effective action, which is why I love them.

Needless to say then, when I first heard of Tony Robbins’ “6 Basic Human Needs” it caught my attention. So did his story of how he put this “rule of thumb” together. And like many good ideas, it came to him while he was thinking in the shower.

6 Basic Human Needs

The premise is that we all have the following 6 basic human needs:

  • Certainty and Variety
  • Significance and Love/Connection
  • Growth and Contribution

I listed these in pairs because there is tension between them; they are opposites to a certain extent.

The 6 Needs In Tension

With regard to tension, take the first pair for example. We need feel certain and secure about some things in our lives and at the same time, we have a need to mix things up a bit (Variety).  Which fuels you the most? At the extremes would be the person who won’t venture out of the house for fear of bodily harm and the person who has to jump of a building in a flying suit in order to get an adrenaline rush that satisfies.

With regard to the second pair, we all feel a need to “be somebody”(Significance) as well as experience caring and loving relationships.  The extremes here would be the person who at all costs makes themselves the center of attention or a cause at all times, while the other bends anyway they have to in order to be accepted.

While the first two pairs are said to be personality needs, the final contrast is said be spiritual in nature and essential for flourishing. At the extreme of Growth would be someone who is always taking in information and content and never sharing or doing anything with it to contribute to the common good.  Contribution is the opposite. At the extreme would be someone who is giving, giving, giving, unable to accept the fact that they might need so much as an oxygen mask on occasion.

Although a select few folks may get close to the examples I described (know any in your life?), for most they occur along a continuum. While we need all six, one or two usually fuels us the most and we prioritize our energy and activity toward getting more of it.….and that’s where contradictions of behavior can arise.

Needs Don’t Dictate Behaviors

Regardless of your dominant need, it doesn’t dictate the behaviors or vehicles you’ll use in order to fulfill it. In fact, the variety of behaviors or vehicles that can satisfy a need are almost infinite and seemingly contradictory at times.  Continuing with the use of extreme examples to make a point, take someone with a dominate need for Significance. Osama Bin Laden used the vehicle of terror to meet that need while Steve Jobs chose to give us the iPhone; same common need for both and contradictory ways of fulfilling it.

Einstein once said that “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” I think the fact that this heuristic incorporates both tension and contradiction helps it meets that criteria and gives me something I can use.

Be Aware Of Your Own Needs To Get You Where You Want To Go

Using the heuristic with others to know what’s driving them 29575504 - luxury service with chauffeur opening the doorcan be a challenge because you often don’t know their context and their motives. However, using it with yourself can be more straightforward because its easier to take those two elements into consideration.  And  once you’re aware of what’s driving you, you can do something about it.  You can either cultivate a different need by shifting toward the other end of the spectrum, focus on another pair altogether, or choose a better behavior or vehicle to meet a given need.

It’s a great time of year to start thinking about what you want to get, what you want to hold on to, what you need to let go of and who you want to become more of in 2017. And reflecting on which of the 6 basic needs is driving you is a great place to start.

So, which basic need or two is driving you?

Please leave comment, I’d love to hear your perspective on this.


Hey, Don’t Judge Me!!

What "Judging" Really Is and What To Do About

“Hey, don’t judge me!”  It’s one of those lines that we’ve all been either on the giving or receiving end of, likely both.  But isn’t telling someone not to judge making a judgment? Of course it is .

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And that’s why we need clarity and awareness to get this one right. Otherwise we can end up throwing around a catch-phrase to either excuse our behavior or our responsibility to others.

Who Me – Judge?!

The difference between judgement and “judging” is huge. An we’ve all been impacted by both of these, whether our own or someone else’s.  Whether it’s someone getting behind the wheel after drinking too much or the friend who decides to stop them, the judgement we exercise can have huge ramifications…..I do want good judgment to be exercised.

On the other hand, I don’t want someone looking down their nose at me for what I look like, what I do or what I represent. In other words, I don’t like it when someone has a judgmental attitude toward me. Or to use plain vernacular, when someone is “judging” me.  I don’t like the way it makes me feel or the way it makes me feel toward the “judger”.  I bet you don’t either.

Unfortunately, I often find myself doing the same to others.

What I do find interesting is that both the people who protest when being judge and those “judging” often use the same source to justify their position: the Bible and Jesus himself! How can that be?!  While this isn’t a bible study, it’s with noting that the same Person saying “…don’t judge so you won’t be judged” in Matthew 7 also says “….judge according to righteous judgment” in John 7.  Based on this and what other ancients have said, “judging” is an age old problem without cultural or generational borders.

What’s The Difference and Why is it Important?

Exercising good judgment is simply making the best choice possible based on the information you have. In that regard we make judgements all the time about all kinds of issues, things and people. We can also be judgmental. The former is necessary, right and good. The latter is universal to us all, wrong and almost always hurtful.

Once you understand difference between the two, it’s much easier to embrace and make good judgments while recognizing and countering the ill effects of “judging”.

So what are they?  I think the key differences between the two are ones of object, intent, and spirit.

Good Judgement:

  • Object- the decision itself46774934 - judge hammer, isolated on white
  • Intent- make best decision for yourself and others impacted by it
  • Spirit- Truth and objectivity


  • Object- the other person/group/issue
  • Intent- passing sentence on another in order to  self-justify and self-elevate
  • Spirit- Pride and Hypocrisy

Why Do We Judge So Much?

For me and probably most, just looking at the “judging” list is a huge turn-off. Why then, do we engage in it so often?

I think there are several reasons we engage it. First, “judging” can give us a false sense that we’re “better”, that we are are “right” as well as a false sense of security. Second, it makes us feel good in the short-term. I haven’t looked this one up, but my guess is there is a brain-science study somewhere that shows “judging” releases dopamine and all the other endogenous substances that give us a hit and corresponding high.

Here are some other less obvious reasons:

  • We are compelled to do it when we see our own faults in others, hence their “splinter” becomes the “log” in our own eye.
  • We are often blind to it.
  • We usually don’t see (or ignore) the devastating consequences it has, both on us and on others.

The cost/benefit ratio doesn’t add up here so we need to exercise good judgement and just stop it.

How Do We Stop It?

Simply becoming aware of the difference between exercising good judgment and “judging” is the first step (and the easiest). Others include:

  • Self-reflection and examination- Ask with who, what and where you’re prone to judge; we all have ‘em.
  • Check yourself in the moment- Ask what it is your really doing, exercising judgement or “judging”? Assessing your object, intent and spirit will help you know which it is.
  • Cultivate curiosity- Challenge your judgment by asking “what’s another reason a sane, reasonable person would be doing this?”
  • Demonstrate empathy- and make sure to include all three types: cognitive, emotional, and empathetic concern or compassion.

When you put an end to judging, you’re much better able to see people and things the way they really are, make better decisions, and build better and more effective relationships. The other thing is that you become a better you.

Keeping in mind the difference between exercising judgement and judging can keep us from two errors. The first would be throwing around a catch-phrase like “don’t judge me” to excuse our own behavior or our responsibility to others to make good decisions about tough issues. The other is to keep from being a smug, self-righteous “judger” who sabotages themselves and damages others.

Unlike the disappointing cost/benefit ratio associated with judging, the cost/benefit ratio of stopping  is compelling.

One of my colleagues thinks “judging” is one of the most powerful addictions on the planet. He also argues it has the highest rate of recidivism and that we are always in some stage of recovery.  I think he may be right. Addiction or not,  we all do seem to have an “inner Judge” that wants to rule the roost, so to speak. So how do you exercise sound judgment while effectively keeping your “inner judge” in check?

Please leave a comment about something you’ve found to be effective because we all need help with this one.

Why Our Righting Reflex Get’s It Wrong

Why & How Not To Believe Everything You Think

There’s a bumper sticker that says “Don’t believe everything you think.” I think most of us would agree, at least for much of what runs through the fertile fields of our mind. The exceptions, of course, are our cherished personal opinions and positions.

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Just as sure as the righting reflex in an infant automatically causes their body to follow their head, so does our need to prove ourselves “right” when talking with others. And unlike the infant righting reflex that we’ve all outgrown, our “need-to-be-right” righting reflex is persistent and has to be actively managed.

I was reminded of that reality once again during a discussion with one of my adult kids just the other day. Once again, I had already said too much, too quick before realizing it was mostly in the service of proving my point vs adding to the shared pool of meaning through dialogue (much to my chagrin).

What exactly is the “need-to-be-right” righting reflex? It’s the desire to fix what seems wrong with people, make them see and concede to your position and set them promptly on a better course. It involves the belief that you must convince or persuade the person to do the right thing.

While the righting reflex is normal, it’s also counterproductive to our personal and professional lives.

What Drives It?

Many things. One is the delusion that if you just ask the right questions, find the right arguments, give the right critical information, provoke the decisive emotions, or pursue the correct logic that you’ll convince the other person to your point of view.  Once done of course, the other person will clearly see the error of their own mistaken ways, change and adopt yours!  The reality? We are all wired to look for evidence to support our views….including the person your trying to convince.  And if we can’t find evidence we often conveniently piece stuff together to make it up, make it fit, or make us feel better. The problem is that  because it goes both ways, a vicious positive feedback cycle occurs. What usually ensues is called an argument.

What’s the Impact?

Usually, a very directing and monologue style of communication that almost always repels the other either into some form of silence or violence. As result, healthy dialogue, creativity, resolution and our relationships suffer…..or can be lost. Even if a person is willing to consider your position, the fact you’re forcing it on them automatically turns him or her in the opposite direction, makes discord more likely than dialogue and turns a potential friend toward being a foe.

What To Do?

  • First, realize what resisting the righting reflex is not: It’s not admitting that your wrong! It simply 37056008 - group of school kids with pens and papers writing in classroommeans your open to learning.
  • Understand that your reflexive response to correct, fix, or make change happen may not be the best choice; you could be mistaken, misunderstand one or more points, be flat-out wrong or simply have a legitimate difference of opinion.
  • Challenge what you’re thinking without a rigid attachment to your own perspective.
  • Listen actively and reflectively. Reflective listening means you can feedback to the other person what they said and ask for understanding or clarification
  • Express an openness to looking at your conclusions from other perspectives; be curious.
  • Be gracious when disagreements remain and remember that the topic is separate from the relationship.

Why Curiosity and Openness are effective.

There are several reasons, not the least of which is that people value their autonomy and agency highly and want to come to conclusions ourselves and not have them forced on us. The other is that curiosity and openness foster rapport and engagement, which helps you better understand the other persons needs and motivations. Once you do, you have a better foundation for effective communication, collaboration and enabling change.

The reality is that our own thoughts are not necessarily the most reliable source when it comes to the truth. Yet it’s so easy to forget that. When we do, we become rigidly fixed in our own perspective, closed to seeing things any other way, and very attached to being “right”. I said it before and will repeat it here: remaining unattached to your position and curious about that of others isn’t admitting you’re wrong, it just means you’re open to learning.

Where is the righting reflex showing up in your life and relationships? Once you answer that question you have a choice to make: you can choose to be effective in a winsome way or you can choose to be “right”.

Comments are valuable, so please share yours.