The power of deciding in advance

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As we walked to the farewell party/bonfire, my new friend Jenn and I remarked on what a terrific weekend it had been.

The conference was intentionally small, but mighty. 150 entrepreneurs gathered from all over the globe to spend 3 days in the beautiful mountains of Oregon. We were there to learn, connect and make plans to improve our businesses.

Learn. Connect. Improve.

With those 3 clear goals, and a certain decision (the kind of decision that has proven life-changing for me), I knew that I would leave happy. I knew it a year ago when I first registered. I knew it a month ago when I booked my air to Portland. I knew it when I held the conference logo mug, which read “Something big is happening” (clever for a small conference, right?)

How did I know? What was the decision?

The decision was simply… to decide

I decided that no matter what, I would learn. From every keynote, from every workshop, from every person I met. I would make it my mission to find the gems. And not to confine gems to the “Oooh, yes, I want to do this in my work!” moments. Sometimes, they’re found in the “Oh no no no, that’s completely not for me. How do I make sure that I don’t inadvertently do that?” realizations. Both kinds of gems can serve as powerful learning opportunities, and fortunately I had plenty of both. Learning – done.

I decided that no matter what, I would connect. Now this one’s a toughie for me. Unless I’m up on stage, leading a meeting, hosting a dinner, or in some other way serving/helping people, I don’t do well in groups. I’m not naturally outgoing, extroverted, etc. But I decided that I would take every possible moment I could to do the thing that I am naturally good at – having one-on-one conversations. So.. that walk with sweet and soulful Jenn. That ride to the mountain with adventurous Amy. That impromptu pre-breakfast coaching session with fireball Charlie. The hour that flew by in the gym, because I had the lovely Sarah to talk with. That lunch with the beautiful and brilliantChristina who touched my heart with a simple, “here – take this oatmeal packet that I just got from Whole Foods” (when we discovered that we were both struggling with the lack of gluten-free choices at breakfast). That quick yet super helpful chat with Chris about different speakers and workshops. The “forced” buddying up (I love forced buddying up – especially when it’s brief and well-constructed) with amazing Sheila. And even a few post-conference conversations/emails like the one with American Ninja Warrior (sometimes masquerading as a lawyer) Kyle to talk about marketing and business building. Connection – done.

I decided that no matter what, I would improve my business. Not in 10 different ways (as I tend to want to do). Not in 5. But in 1. One concrete actionable idea that I could take to improve what I do, how I do it and the impact that my work has. I was struggling with this one. There were so many good ideas. I could do this. Or I could do that. No wait, maybe this direction is the way to go, or this new opportunity is the one to pursue. But since I had decided to leave with one, I wasn’t going to settle for just any ok idea or any ok improvement. I wanted one that I could really believe in, get excited about, and start working on immediately. It came on day 3 (whew!), but it came. Done.

As I sat in the airport, waiting for my flight back home, I jotted a note of thanks to the organizers of this special event. It was everything I had hoped it would be. Partly because they did such a good job of planning and managing it, and partly because I decided that it would be really good. 

That decision saw me through moments of disappointment (some speakers were better than others, and some activities were better than others), moments of shyness (reminding myself that it’s ok to just connect with one person and not mingle with groups) and moments of frustration (am I really going to leave here with 10 pages of notes, and not implement anything, as I’ve done so many times in the past?). 

Yes, I had those moments, but I refused to let them dictate my experience. My experience would be what I decided. To learn, connect and improve. And to leave feeling grateful, satisfied and inspired to act.

This one concept – the concept of deciding in advance – has been nothing short of transformative for me. In business situations. In personal situations. I try to decide in advance.

And I can’t help but notice other “deciders” out in the world.

Deciders like…

  • The client who responded to, “What needs to happen in the next 60 minutes for this to be the most valuable hour of your week?” with “It already happened. In preparing for our session and filling out the form you gave me, I got really clear on some issues. All we need to do now is just talk through them. Let’s go!” 
  • The friend who decided that, while marriage has its challenges, she was going to do what was in her power to do. She decided to plan things – from fun dates to therapy sessions. She decided to turn away from feeling hopeless and turn toward things that created hope, connection and fun.
  • The Mastermind group participant who said, “You know, I used to be the kind of group member who’d think, ‘I’ll give it a few months and see how it goes,’ and now I think, ‘I’m going to give of myself in intentional and significant ways, to see how much I can give and get from this.’ “
  • The retreat participant who came up to me before the day got started and said, “If you need anything, I’m your girl. I know today’s going to be great, but it’ll be even better for me if I can be helpful in some way, so please don’t hesitate to use me for anything you need.”
  • The friend/mentor whose words I recall often when thinking about people, impressions, judgment and relationships: “When did you first decide that Ben and Allie were going to be precious, smart, fun, beautiful, kind-hearted, gifts to the world?”… The answer: Before they were even born.

And so it is with business. And with life. We get to decide. We get to decide before, not just after, an event happens. And that that changes everything.

Do you agree?

If so, take this for a spin…

What’s coming up for you soon? Or happening right now? Where have you not yet decided that it’s going to be good?

Maybe it’s time… Maybe it’s time to decide.

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