Blog post by Ruby Celine, Country Director, Malaysia
I’d like to start with one of my favourite paraprosdokians:
“I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.”
Hold up, a parapros-what now? It was absolutely adorable when I mentioned it to my sister the other day and she responded: Is that a type of dinosaur?
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, a paraprosdokian (also one of my favourite words to say aloud. Go ahead – try it) is a figure of speech or phrase with an unexpected ending; essentially a sentence with a pun-like twist. Does it really matter? No. But it’s amusing!
Some other favourites while we’re at it (might come in handy for your next water-cooler banter!):
“If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.”
“Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good evening’, and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.”
“To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.”
I’m twitching to keep going! But I should probably get to the point of this article. NOW. Before I get started on idioms and oxymorons too.
Oh yes, indecision. We all get struck by it from time to time when change would come at us out of left field and stop us in our tracks. We have this brilliant plan and change isn’t part of it! *cue panic attack*
It’s like cruising down a scenic street one minute and pulling up to a sudden crossroads the next. And say we’re not alone on that journey. We’ve got a car full of people relying on us to make a choice. The pressure’s on and all of a sudden we’re feeling stuck and stifled.
It’s a psychological demon that even the greatest leaders have to battle with. And it isn’t easy to think and act decisively when you’re wrestling with doubt of the unknown and in a state of trepidation over endless possibilities.
What if I get it wrong? Am I really going to be able to pull this off? What if I stumble or hit a roadblock? What would the others think?
Familiar? When was the last time you felt stuck at work? Or lost amidst uncertainty? In the face of constant change and unpredictability, we’re tested on a daily basis to think on our feet and accept the consequences of our decisions, good or bad.
That’s what scares us; 1) the sense/fear of accountability; 2) lack of information and therefore confidence in our decision-making; and 3) the idea of perfection.
Caught in the moment, we have two immediate options; we could either sit there and brood over the unexpected or adapt, i.e. do something to resume the momentum and get back on that path of progress. Sometimes we just need to trust our gut, stop second-guessing our grit and take that leap.
What’s the worst that could happen? What if I took a chance and succeeded? How will it make me feel? You know what they say, fortune favours the bold!
It brings to mind a time when I was assigned to steer a PR project for a client. It was one of my first real proposals and I was terrified of failure before I had even started. There I was having to conceptualise something from scratch, be able to justify my ideas and bring them to life. I was frozen, hung up on everything that could possibly go wrong.
But I chalked the distress (and insecurities) up to a simple case of inexperience and began doing my research. I reached out to some people, pitched a few collaborations, evaluated and reevaluated and so, what started off as a staring contest with a blank slide of terror soon progressed into a comprehensive plan of action and before I knew it, my wheels were in motion towards execution.
Needless to say there were hiccups along the way but it was no where near as bad as I had initially thought. Instead, the outcome was tremendously rewarding, so much so on a personal level that it serves as a reminder each time I find myself on that proverbial fence.
Objection’s part and parcel of any career, expectations change all the time and uncertainty is as much a part of life as say taxes or reproduction? I realised that a lot of what holds us back is in the mind. So lessons learned?
- Embrace change and learn to deal with it.
- Caution undermines progress and uncertainty is a potentially crippling stress-inducer! But accept that it isn’t likely to go away because there are certain aspects of life that are simply out of our control.
- There are no perfect choices, just ridiculous ideals that should be banished. Perhaps satisficing could be an option?
- Fretting over potential problems only serves to feed our insecurities. Keep emotions out unless appropriate.
- It’s probably better to make a wrong decision than to feel stuck in indecision mode. There’s much to gain from making a mistake. Whereas indecision can be immobilising, and with a ripple effect.
If we had our druthers, we’d play it safe. We’d rather have all the puzzle pieces laid out in plain sight because ‘not knowing’ terrifies us. But we know too well that it doesn’t always work that way.
We’re dealing with real world problems. Even if we’re working our dream job, there will be off days and pain points that’ll force us out of our comfort zone every now and again. A curve ball could come right at us at any point and we may not be ready for it but who ever said we must have all the answers all the time?
So, while we may not be able to control the unpredictability of our surroundings, uncertainty is a state of mind – and so is personal responsibility. That’s something that we can work on to be more decisive in our roles.
Change what you can, accept what you can’t and recognise when you need help. You’re not alone and sometimes talking it out can help a great deal. Even if it doesn’t fix the problem right away, it can at least assuage some of that stress that’s shrouding your better judgment.