Before you decide, be clear about where you are now
It’s like anything else. If you set yourself up as some kind of expert, friends, colleagues and family will be fairly brutal when you seem to be failing the “physician heal thyself” test. You might think I am getting better at decision making, having written a book about it. But nobody ever said it was easy.
I’ll share my personal dilemma with you. I have done the same day job for nearly 25 years. As AAI is my own company, by rights next July I ought to give myself a gold watch. I have worked for advertiser clients and with agencies of various sorts, sizes and nationalities in pursuit of forming better relationships, and making them more productive.
But that is not all. 2011 was the year I started writing in earnest – and not just blogs and tweets. At the end of March, I delivered the manuscript of Decide to my publisher. Ever since I have been working energetically on my new vision of how the agency pitch process should work – Mutual Decision™. As it happens, it is an idea that emerged directly from my research into decision science.
So I have two challenges:
1. A book to publish and benefit from
2. A new consulting service to launch
That gives me two clear goals, each of which is an identified opportunity to realise. Isn’t that enough as a basis for a whole series of decisions? You might think so. But what I want to share with you is that neither I, nor anyone else in this situation, will be really successful without first being brutally clear about where I am now – the jumping off point.
As it turns out, I wasn’t being honest with myself. I was actually overwhelmingly excited about the book and taken up with research, interviews, new learning, analysis, and the sheer sweat of writing one hundred thousand words. I kept telling myself that the day job was the continuum, and the reduced level of activity was simply a function of less hours in the day left over from writing.
Where was I – really? I think it was a sabbatical by any other name. The dictionary says a sabbatical is “a period of paid leave for study or travel”. Almost right – except for two important details: I wasn’t paying myself for it, and the ‘study’ was so engrossing that my normal frenetic travel almost stopped.
I now realise that once the Games and my normal two weeks holiday are over, I will indeed be coming back fully motivated and energised by the first sabbatical of my life.
That is an important piece of self-realisation, and will make planning the next few months much easier, and more productive.
Hopefully there’s a lesson to share here. It is always worth postponing planning and decision making just long enough to work out where you are coming from.
Of course it is not always going to be a sabbatical. There is a long list of possible situations:
• A career path that is about to change
• A city or country where you have lived for a long time, but are going to leave
• A relationship that is coming to an end
• Sadness, despair, grief, frustration
• Elation, happiness, increased confidence
• Realisation that one’s current level of income is inadequate
• Conviction that current concentration on maximising earnings has to give way to a different life balance
• The moment when one knows that priorities have to change in any important way
It may be that one’s situation is actually a function of more than one set of circumstances. But it will always pay to be brutally clear about where you are.