172. Make up your own mind.

Have you ever met a person whose opinions are determined by the last person they interacted with?

You know the type of person I mean? Whatever conclusion they have arrived at or decision they have made can be instantly changed when presented with a differing viewpoint or opinion.

Even if that new opinion comes from a stranger they briefly sat beside on a bus.

Sadly, there does exist among us a breed of people completely incapable of independent thought who need input from others in order to make decisions, and those decisions once made are, at best, temporary.

These folks seem to believe, as gospel, everything presented to them even when new information contradicts old and they flip-flop on their stances, positions and decisions with an ease that we usually attribute only to career politicians.

It is extremely difficult to work for or around people like this for once they have given their imprimatur to a project or an idea they are likely to change their minds repeatedly as each and every thought presented to them by others becomes better than the one immediately preceding it.

I have, an occasion, met with folks like these and it seems to me that they have a high need to please others and therefore will be agreeable to any thoughts, suggestion or ideas in the hope that the previous presenter of thoughts, suggestions and ideas will not learn of their change of heart.

The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions does not rob us of the right to change our minds but rather serves to allow us to gather information and then move forward without the risk of paralysis commonly caused by indecision resulting from an inability to make a decision out of fear or concern that in so doing one might cause conflict by going against the suggestion of another or, worse yet, making a wrong decision.

Great leaders have long known that no one person has all the answers and that gathering information from others prior to making decisions is crucial when making critical decisions. They also know that managing by consensus is one of the surest ways of ensuring that nothing ever gets done.

The comes a time when each of us must collect available information, make a decision, stand firmly on that decision and change our minds only in the face of irrefutable, indisputable factual evidence to the contrary.

Many of the decisions we make are on nonfactual, subjective matters (e.g. design, taste, format, methodology etc.) and our lives will be made easier the moment we understand that others will have differing opinions and that their viewpoints are just that, opinions.

When decisions are based on pure fact – which is rarely the case – there should be little opportunity for contrary thinking as facts are facts and, as such, provide for very little subjective input.

The vast majority of decisions we are called upon to make are purely subjective and therefore, in making a decision, or simply expressing an opinion we hope that our choice will produce the desired result.

The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions means that you are willing to reach, and stand by, a conclusion or decision based on your best assessment of available data and not on whether others share your perspective.

And you do so with neither guilt nor regret.

The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions is also the Habit of Willing To Be Right because it is not possible to be right without risking being wrong.

And, as the old saying goes, the only guaranteed and assured way of avoiding failure is by never taking a risk.

And that makes for a pitifully boring life.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

171. Choose very carefully how you think of yourself.

There is a quote that speaks directly to what we began discussing last week when I introduced The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions.

I have been unable to trace the author as this quote is attributed to many different people. The quote itself is profound and is one which we would all benefit by heeding.

The quote states, “What other people think of you is none of your business.”

Far too many of us spend inordinate amounts of time worrying about what others think of us.

We all have a desire to be liked and while fear of rejection is our biggest fear and wanting to be loved our strongest desire, we frequently lose sight of the fact that we have little influence over what others may think of us, and yet stress ourselves to intolerable levels worrying about something over which we have little or no control.

The challenge we have by worrying what others think of us and, perhaps, adjusting our behaviour in order to please others, is that by so doing we lose sight of that famous coaching moment in Shakespeare’s Hamlet when Polonius turns to his son and says:

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Every time we modify our conduct in order to please others while sacrificing our preferred activities, we are failing to be true to ourselves and, in essence, are forgoing our happiness in order to feel well regarded by another.

What happens when we do this frequently is that we damage what we think of ourselves and, frankly, what we think of ourselves should bear far more importance in our lives than what others may think of us.

I have long been an advocate of the power of affirmation, as I believe that every thought going through our heads counts. If we aren’t constantly feeding ourselves with positive thoughts, then we are leaving the door open for years of cumulative negative and self-critical judgments to flow through our minds, unopposed.

And a powerful affirmation which I believe is essential if we sincerely wish to become true to ourselves is one that simply, yet powerfully states, “the only opinion of me that matters, is mine.”

The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions reminds us that the most powerful of all the gifts we received at birth – the power of choice – includes enabling us to reach our own conclusions about ourselves and to not be concerned by those of others.

The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions gives us latitude to not only choose to be unaffected by how others view us, but also to form our own conclusions of ourselves without the risk of critical input from others.

Accepting that the views another person has of us is none of our business is a liberating truism that enables us to say yes to ourselves by saying no to others rather than constantly doing this the other way around.

The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions means we alone determine our worth and do so from a perspective of our own assessment, free from the pressures of fear, guilt, or obligation that frequently cause us to compromise our own values while seeking approval from other people.

The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions is not license to treat others poorly because we no longer judge ourselves by what they think of us, but rather it enables us to make decisions in the best interests of all, without the concern of how we may be thought of.

And it is my belief that we will be far more skilled at encouraging others to like us when we don’t go out of our way to do so.

I think that’s called win-win, isn’t it?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

 

There is a quote that speaks directly to what we began discussing last week when I introduced The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions.

I have been unable to trace the author as this quote is attributed to many different people. The quote itself is profound and is one which we would all benefit by heeding.

The quote states, “What other people think of you is none of your business.”

Far too many of us spend inordinate amounts of time worrying about what others think of us.

We all have a desire to be liked and while fear of rejection is our biggest fear and wanting to be loved our strongest desire, we frequently lose sight of the fact that we have little influence over what others may think of us, and yet stress ourselves to intolerable levels worrying about something over which we have little or no control.

The challenge we have by worrying what others think of us and, perhaps, adjusting our behaviour in order to please others, is that by so doing we lose sight of that famous coaching moment in Shakespeare’s Hamlet when Polonius turns to his son and says:

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Every time we modify our conduct in order to please others while sacrificing our preferred activities, we are failing to be true to ourselves and, in essence, are forgoing our happiness in order to feel well regarded by another.

What happens when we do this frequently is that we damage what we think of ourselves and, frankly, what we think of ourselves should bear far more importance in our lives than what others may think of us.

I have long been an advocate of the power of affirmation, as I believe that every thought going through our heads counts. If we aren’t constantly feeding ourselves with positive thoughts, then we are leaving the door open for years of cumulative negative and self-critical judgments to flow through our minds, unopposed.

And a powerful affirmation which I believe is essential if we sincerely wish to become true to ourselves is one that simply, yet powerfully states, “the only opinion of me that matters, is mine.”

The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions reminds us that the most powerful of all the gifts we received at birth – the power of choice – includes enabling us to reach our own conclusions about ourselves and to not be concerned by those of others.

The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions gives us latitude to not only choose to be unaffected by how others view us, but also to form our own conclusions of ourselves without the risk of critical input from others.

Accepting that the views another person has of us is none of our business is a liberating truism that enables us to say yes to ourselves by saying no to others rather than constantly doing this the other way around.

The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions means we alone determine our worth and do so from a perspective of our own assessment, free from the pressures of fear, guilt, or obligation that frequently cause us to compromise our own values while seeking approval from other people.

The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions is not license to treat others poorly because we no longer judge ourselves by what they think of us, but rather it enables us to make decisions in the best interests of all, without the concern of how we may be thought of.

And it is my belief that we will be far more skilled at encouraging others to like us when we don’t go out of our way to do so.

I think that’s called win-win, isn’t it?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

170. Opinions are opinions and facts are facts.

A friend recently asked me what plans I had for the weekend.

I replied that Gimalle, my wife, had mentioned wanting to see a particular movie and his response took me completely by surprise.

“Don’t waste your time going to see that movie, it’s just junk. Every review I have read has panned this as being the worst movie ever made so please, spare yourselves and go and see something else.”

His response reminded me of a similar comment from another friend when I’d mentioned we were meeting friends at a particular restaurant for dinner.

She had immediately gone off on a rant about the terrible experience she had at that restaurant and why I shouldn’t even consider going there.

What I found interesting about both of these responses was their presumption that I would be influenced easily influenced by their opinions.

When critics slams a movie all they are doing is presenting their opinions of the movie and certainly, when they use words like “junk, garbage, pathetic, not worth seeing,” they are not giving us irrefutable, indisputable facts, but rather they are sharing their sentiments, and that is all they are doing.

Critics, like everyone else, are completely entitled to their opinions. But that’s all they are –  opinions – and I never cease to be amazed how easily so many of us are influenced by the opinions of others.

As it so happens Gimalle and I did go see that movie and, surprise surprise, thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.

The same was true of that restaurant. The restaurant in question has been in business for 27 years (I asked the owner) so to me it seems implausible to heed the advice (opinion) of one person’s experience at one meal as a measure of whether or not we should go there.

The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions is a powerful tool to encourage us to form our own opinions, arrive at our own conclusions, and not allow our lives and actions to be overly influenced by the opinions of others.

Had I listened to my two friends I would not have seen a movie I enjoyed nor visited a restaurant that served us a delicious meal.

Had the opinions of my friends proven correct (meaning my opinion matched theirs) what would I have lost? I would’ve spent a couple of hours in a movie theatre not liking my experience and I would have had meal I did not enjoy.

Would either of these two events negatively impact the quality of my life? Of course not, and I am pleased that, in both cases, I chose to overlook the opinions of my friends.

The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions does not mean that we ignore, or completely disregard what others have to say, but it does instill in us the need to gather information for ourselves before reaching conclusions.

It is also a reminder that opinions are as different from facts as apples are from oranges. We will never accept a vendor trying to convince us that an apple is an orange and we must also learn to separate opinions from facts and make our decisions based on what we believe to be true, and not on what others tell us is true.

The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions encourages us to challenge assumptions and doing so is far healthier than blindly accepting as gospel the opinions of others.

And who doesn’t want to be healthier?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

169. Say yes to the tomorrow you want.

There’s an old saying in the weight-loss industry that today’s lunch is next month’s body.

It’s an interesting way of saying that everything counts and regardless of how well we justify our poor decisions we can never escape the consequences of those decisions.

And that’s exactly where The Habit of Saying No proved to be an enormous boon to my friend Christine.

Like so many of us, Christine struggled with her weight for much of her life. By her own admission she has tried program after program, read book after book, joined gyms, enrolled in aerobics, yoga and every other known weight-loss and fitness regimen, all, to no avail.

Christine’s challenge – and for many of us – was her seeming inability to say no when temptation presented itself, particularly if it followed a few days of discipline success.

By way of example, Christine explained to me that she would arrange to meet a friend for lunch and immediately seek out the salad portion of the menu.

Out of sheer habit she would then direct her attention to the rest of the menu and invariably land on something that was definitely not part of her nutrition program.

It is long been said that humans are rational beings. I disagree. In my opinion the more correct statement would be that humans are rationalizing beings and Christine has often proven to be no exception.

Once her attention was focused on the menu items that did not comply with her eating regimen her self-justification process would begin and she would easily convince himself that she was deserving of the burger and fries, that it really was no big deal and that she’d earned the right by virtue of dutifully following the program for the past few days.

Later that day the anger and remorse would kick in and she would berate herself for her “weakness” and lack of self-discipline. She would vow never to do that again.

Until the next time.

Tired and frustrated by her repeated behavior, Christine decided to adopt The Habit of Saying No.

And she added a new habit – The Habit of Saying Yes to The Future – to her practice.

What this meant is that Christine told herself to say no to those powerful temptations that would prevent her ideal weight from ever becoming a reality and focus instead on loudly saying yes to those days in the future when her scale, and the fit of her clothes both told her she was winning.

We’ve talked about The Habit of Saying No being a necessary one if you want to learn to say yes to ourselves and to overcome those feelings of guilt and anguish that go hand-in-glove with saying yes when we want to say no.

Christine simply applied The Habit of Saying No to her own short-term cravings and in so doing developed the habit of saying yes to the weight, health, body and vibrancy she has longed for most of her life.

The Habit of Saying No is nothing if not resourceful and its use has applications that can benefit us in ways we have probably never imagined.

If we can just remember that each time we say no to one thing we are saying yes to another and each time we say yes, we are also saying no to something else then good decision-making becomes a function of exploring those yes’s and no’s and deciding which one will give us a happier tomorrow.

And if it’s true that today’s lunch is next month body, then a happier tomorrow is what we all want.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.