But I Should…
Imagine how different life would be if every time we chose our next action we based it on what we should do instead of what we want to do. Why are we surprised when our followers choose a less important task over the most important one when our own wants often win out over the shoulds?
We always spend our time, money, and other resources on the things we most want to spend them on. If we “don’t have time”, we’re really saying we don’t want to do this as much as we want to do something else.
You might argue you need to do some things you don’t want to do, but a need is another way to say I want to avoid the consequences of not doing it. I don’t want to exercise, but I do want to avoid the consequences of not exercising. I don’t want to make the house payment, but I want to avoid living out of my car.
Wants aren’t always bad. Some are better, more noble, or more important than others. Letting the wants win is only a problem when a strong want is not aligned with our shoulds.
Performance problems – whether ours or someone else’s – can often be traced to undisciplined desires. How do we get our wants and shoulds to align? Here are a few considerations:
- Choices get easier when our own values are strong and clear. If you have to dig for that old paper to look up the values you wrote down a few years ago then your values are not clear nor strong. You’re probably actually operating on other values that are stronger than the ones you wrote down. Continuously leaning into and reaffirming our values makes them a solid platform for our decision making. Likewise, strong and clear organizational values become the platform for good choices throughout an organization.
- When we look at the tasks in front of us, our brains run a cost/benefit analysis on each option and tell us to choose the one with the highest net benefit. But we tend to weight clear, immediate benefits (the pleasure of a second dessert) higher than foggier long-term benefits (health and losing weight). Bring that sub-conscious cost/benefit analysis to the surface and talk it through out loud. Increasing your awareness of the benefits and recognizing the true costs should help you make a good choice. Better yet, do it with an objective friend.
- Emotions strongly influence even the most stoic among us. Some just don’t show it as much as others. Denying emotions doesn’t take away their power. We can’t manage – or leverage – our emotions if we’re not aware of how they’re influencing us. Learn to recognize and acknowledge the emotions driving your choice. Then picture how you will feel later when you experience the consequences of that choice. Factor those feelings into the cost/benefit analysis mentioned above.