Some of you may be familiar with the ∑ symbol, especially if you regularly use spreadsheet software. In spreadsheets, this symbol (the Greek letter Sigma) often means ‘Sum’ or the total value of things added together. I use this formula to remind myself that my Present Situation (big PS) is a direct result (equals) of the sum (∑) of all of the Decisions (big D) that I have made in my life so far.
To put it another way, where I am now is a direct result of all of the combined decisions I have made in my life and the consequences of them.
There are some people I meet who say things like “Steve, you’ve got to be joking? If someone is walking along one day and a car runs into them and they end up losing both of their legs as a result of the accident, then that wasn’t their decision, was it?”
Whilst I have to agree that they didn’t decide to lose their legs, and they didn’t jump out in front of the car. What I can assert though is that they did decide to walk down that street at that time. More importantly I can also absolutely say that how they choose to deal with having no legs is within their control. The way that they choose to live their life and how much they let the accident or the results of it dominate their lives and subsequent decisions they make (including their decisions over their own attitude) is 100% within their control. This isn’t anything new, there are literally thousands of inspiring books and films based on real life stories where people have decided not to let their circumstances or an unfortunate event hold them back.
What I think is much more interesting and much less spoken about is the way that people (myself included when I forget this formula) cope (or don’t cope) with the myriad of small decisions that altogether make up the path to their lives today. We often deal with these by looking for some sort of externalised ‘moderating factor’ whether we call that ‘luck’ or ‘fate’ or ‘destiny’.
When I am speaking and my keynote address gets to this topic one of the questions I ask my audience is “Who regards themselves as lucky?” usually I get between 25-35% of the room indicating that they believe that they are.
I then ask “So who would like to win the lottery?” invariably 85-95% of the audience put their hands straight up in the air. Finally I ask them to keep their hand up if they actually play the lottery on a regular basis, again invariably between a 35-50% of the hands in the room fall. This is usually followed by nervous laughter as people realise what they have just admitted to.
Not surprisingly a significant number of the ones who keep their hands in the air were the people who felt that they were lucky in the first place, that doesn’t surprise me. What I do find interesting is the 10-15% who don’t believe they are lucky but still play the lottery on a regular basis, perhaps they are hoping that their luck will change?
I happen to believe that you make your own luck in this world by the way that you deal with the situations that life throws up at you (and the ones that you create). I think this is equally true in someone’s business and personal life. How many times do you speak with people who wish they were in a different career, or had a different home life? How often do they blame their boss, the customers, the company that they work in, or the quality of their education? How often do they blame their partner, their kids, their parents or their upbringing in general? How many of them will be in exactly the same place (mentally, physically and emotionally) if you have the same conversation with them in a year from now?
The main reason that they give is that they have “commitments” that they just can’t get out of. I have to say that when I hear the excuses being trotted out I just start to switch off and think “blah blah blah”. If you want things to change enough you will always find a way of making it happen in a way that works for you (I specifically cover this is an upcoming formula that helps me to change my habits if they aren’t working for me).
The time when I find this formula most helpful is when I am in one of those ‘Life isn’t fair’ moods that we can all sometimes get into. For example, if I have over committed in my business life, or my social diary is getting in the way of something really really important that I need to do. I remind myself that I decided to agree to do the things that I have in my diary. I have a choice, I either leave things as they are or I start to sort it out. The one thing that really doesn’t help is sitting there and moaning about how overloaded my life is at that moment in time.
The funny thing about most people; is that even if they are good at taking responsibility when things go wrong, they often shy away from taking the credit for when things go well. So for me it’s critical that I also use this formula to remind myself that if something has gone right in my life, then I must have made some good decisions and I am enjoying the results of those good decisions (I made my own good luck).
If the bad decisions that you make can land you in trouble, then the converse must be true. Either way I simply remind myself that I must take responsibility for all of the decisions that I have made.
What type of person are you; do you own your decisions?
List some key decisions you have made that have led you to where you are now?
Provide examples where you can take credit for good decisions you have made?
Where do you want your life to go? What decisions do you need to make to get you there?
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