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Posts Tagged ‘choice

Breaking Down Our Mental Barriers

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Le penseur de Rodin

Le Penseur – Rodin

Few months ago, I was diagnosed with a serious health problem. When the doctor told me that I should consult a specialist, it was a bit a shock for me, as I never had any health troubles during my whole life. The information collected on Internet about that problem was not to reassure me, as the statistics of that disease were not very good. Only 15% of people survive within the 5 years. The chance I had is that a member of my family talked with me about his brother who was diagnosed with the same disease more than 3 years ago, and who has a normal life. These comforting words made me think that it was senseless to panic before to have more information and a detailed diagnostic from the specialist about the situation.  After consulting the specialist and further medical investigations, the doctor announced me that the diagnostic was done just in time, and that I could hope to a complete healing.  Of course, it will be only the result of a medical treatment and a surgery, but at that time, I was thinking that I had to create the condition to succeed in that process. I was surprised by myself, about my resilience capacity. I was thinking the only thing I could do was to face the situation  and to reach the goal. Because I have no choice.

That experience, and I prefer to talk about experience than hardship that sounds negatively, make me thing about a metaphor I use when I doubt to start a project or to take a decision. I imagine I am at the edge of a swimming pool and I hesitate to dive in the swimming pool because I am not sure there is enough water in it. Probably that most of us are hesitating every day to take a decision because there are constraints and we are wondering how to deal with or if we want to assume these constraints. But here, in my present situation, I was thinking again about that metaphor. I was no more at the edge of the swimming pool but already falling in the swimming pool. In this case, the question was not to make a choice between an option or another, because you have only one option, but to take a decision. The decision to do all what is possible to succeed in my healing. And at this stage, I am still facing the situation, my moral is always on the top. I discover my capacity of resilience, and by this way empowering my self-confidence. But I also notice another important thing: I crossed a mental barrier.

In certain cases, our mental barriers are totally irrational. For instance, when an airplane crashes, some people hesitate to take one, or say that airplanes are dangerous. In the meantime, how many people die on a daily basis in car accidents? Much more but the difference is that most of the time, the information is not related in the media, and the number of victims in a car accident is lower than in an airplane crash, so less spectacular.  Statistically, you have more chance to die in a car accident than in an airplane crash. And who can predict that tomorrow, you will receive a roof tile on your head when leaving home? Nobody knows.  In fact, life without risks doesn’t exist and some risks levels are so low that taking a decision to change something in your life will not put you in bad shape.

Other mental barriers are more rational. For instance, people hesitate to change of job or to launch their own business, because they have loans to reimburse, they have to pay school fees for their children, etc. If they could have more certainties about the potential success they want to reach, they will probably make a faster choice. Does it mean that having to deal with constrains, transforming dream into reality is impossible? Certainly not. Having to deal with constraints is probably an opportunity to review your priorities in life. The desire to change can be intense, but change needs time, it doesn’t come overnight.
You probably think, for instance that entrepreneurs like more risks than other people and are taking decisions more easily. This affirmation is not necessarily true. Entrepreneurs are people who are more inclined to take risks, but they often first try to measure and evaluate risk, they are considering also what they are ready to lose.  What you should do to foster your decision is to consider all the constraints you have to deal with, and that are a part of your mental barriers, are essential in your life. Do you really need to have a big car? Do you need to have the last version of smartphone? All these things that weigh in your budget, that make you no more happy, and that are reducing your room of action. If you have a smaller car, a smaller home, but you the job you really want to do and not the one that pay a better salary to pay debts, you will be more happy, spending more time with your children, doing activities and hobbies that are opportunities to meet new people, to open new doors. In few words, reconsider your priorities in order to remove all these things creating mental barriers.

It is obvious that how bigger are our dreams, how impossible it seems to realize them. As already said, change doesn’t come overnight. Before considering ambitious challenges, consider first small challenges, like some habits you could change in your daily life. To use a metaphor, before to climb the Mount Everest, try to climb first a chair.  Each small challenge you will face, each small change you will do, will be an opportunity to learn, to discover new things, hide talents, or what else. Small changes will empower you step by step, and maybe guide you to more ambitious challenges. Considering big challenges first is sometimes the best way to do not start, or to hide the fact you are scared to start, by claiming that the task is not easy.

Our mental barriers are often the results of the environment we are living, where we try to secure everything. The only thing that is certain is the uncertainty. This uncertainty does not prevent us from doing things, taking decisions every day that make an enjoyable life. Time to time, we are facing failures, difficulties.  It is unavoidable, but it doesn’t mean that our entire life is a failure. A failure is an opportunity to learn and to progress, if we decide to face it on a positive way. Life is a journey, where each experience will drive you to the next one. It is the difference between living and only existing.


Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

October 30, 2018 at 08:53

When you have no choice

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To reach your goal

To reach your goal   – (Picture from NYtimes)

Few weeks ago, I had to face a difficult time within the non-profit association where I am member of the board of director. We were in trouble with an employee who did not give satisfaction. We tried several time to fix what was going wrong with him, by giving some feedback about his job and about what we were expecting from him, but unfortunately, no improvement followed. After more than 2 years, we took the difficult decision to fire him.

This association is helping people in precarious situations, through different social and educative programs. I am acting as volunteer accountant and member of the board. Such commitment is very rewarding, as it makes more sense on what you are doing, by helping people. This is a real opportunity to face challenges and opportunities, and to discover new interest, to discover yourself. Nevertheless, there is not only nice things when you contract such responsibilities. There are even ungrateful things you have to face.

One of these ungrateful things is when we have to stop the work collaboration with an employee. We already had such cases in the past, but it was the president of the association and the managing director who were in charge of this difficult task. This time, as our president was unavailable for an undetermined period and as I was in charge to replace him during his absence, the weight of such responsibilities was on my shoulders. The day came where the managing director and me, we invited the employee to a meeting in order to inform him about the end of his contract and the reason of such decision.

Such meeting is never pleasant, and it was the first time I had to fire somebody, as I never had people under my responsibility during my professional career. Nevertheless, I was surprised by the fact that I stayed calm, keeping eye contact with the employee and the director. And at the end of the meeting, I thought “You did it!”. Yes, I did something I thought I would never be able to do. I did it because I had no choice, but I did it. And I began to wonder why I stayed so calm during this meeting, doing something I am normally scared to do. What was the tips making that I “succeed” in this task and having a different feeling than the one I would think I had ?

A first element is that this decision was the result of a long reflection process. During few boards of directors, the managing director talked about the problems he faced with the employee. We invited the employee to a meeting with only the administrators, to talk to us about his job, about the satisfaction he had or the problem he faced. He expressed some expectations we communicated to the managing director. Based on that, the managing director gave him some opportunities matching with his expectations, but the results were not successful. After many reframing of his tasks and an ongoing monitoring, we concluded that the job was not for him. We communicated our conclusions to him, but expressed also that he would be maybe more happy in another kind of job. The first element was a good argumentation making think us that we took the right decision.

Another element to take such conclusion, was the lack of productivity of this worker, and the consequences it had on the activity. This person was supposed to manage a team of 6 people in a social and professional integration program. He had not the skills and talents to manage such team, with negative consequences on the work improvements of the team and on the reputation of the association. This situation produced conflicts within the team, caused an additional workload for the director, and had a negative impact on the productivity of the team. The risk of seeing the activity decline and to get a bad reputation, were not an option.

The challenge here is to succeed by doing something we are scared by. By thinking about this experience I mentioned, I see two keys contributing to succeed.

  • What is the goal? To define the goal is an important step, because the goal will be the key of your motivation, the element that feel feed your energy to succeed. In the case I mentioned, the goal was not to fire the employee, but the goal was to solve the problem of organization and productivity caused by the lack of competence of this person. It could have huge and damaging consequences on the durability and the reputation of the association.
    It is interesting to think that what you define as a goal on a first time is probably not the final goal that will motivate you to take action. I remember a video of a guy who wanted to put out weight. Each day, he was going to work by running, and had always some food with him. The first days were not easy to find the motivation, and the desire to eat was still there.
    On his way, he was meeting homeless people, and one day, he decided to give them a part of his food. By doing this, he made a step to get more motivation, by defining another goal. His goal was not only to put out weight but also to help poor people by sharing food with them.
  • The other key is your motivations and the reasons why you want to achieve that goal. There are many reasons why you want to achieve a new goal, but the most important is probably the need of change. You want to change something, because the present situation is not an option anymore. By starting such change process, you will think about strategies and have a different perception of things. You will learn new things, and maybe discover new hide talents or passions. Learning something is the best way to empower your self-confidence and to give you the possibility to face new challenges and opportunities, to have bigger ambitions. I would say that the desire to learn is probably more important than the desire to succeed. And that desire will make that you will not be scared to try something new and eventually to fail. The other important element if you want not to be scared is to have an alternative plan in case of failure. Louis Pasteur said that chance smiles to prepared mind (La chance sourit aux esprits préparés).

The experience I mentioned above make me realize that sometimes, we are not enough ambitious, but also that we missed sometimes interesting opportunities. When you have no alternative and you have to face a challenge, a situation, you will concentrate all your power and energy to succeed and in some cases, you will note that you were able to win this challenge. You won because you have no choice. What is maybe more important than to define a goal, is to find the reason why you have no choice and why you have to go, to realize a dream or to face a new challenge.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

March 21, 2018 at 22:39

When passion comes to you

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Steve Jobs - 2

Steve Jobs, an entrepreneur moved by passion

Time to time, I am used to attend small entrepreneur sessions organized by a partner in her nice small business center, in a nice village in the south of my country. During the last months of the year, some students of a communication school are participating to a training organized by one of their professor. These students are part of small groups spending a whole week to follow the news during 24 hours a day, and building also a personal project. These students are living a unique experience, and few days ago, I saw a comment from one of them on Twitter. She was saying that the useful thing during this week was to discover a real passion. I found these words wonderful, because we don’t read or hear this very often, few people are talking like that.

Passion is something essential in our life. It is an intense feeling we have when we do something, or when we see something. By mentioning that, we notice we don’t hear often people expressing passion. We could wonder what makes that you are passionate by something. Is passion something you have or is it something you have to discover? I remember Steve jobs saying that it was senseless to ask people what they want, when you want to concept a new product, because they have no idea about what they want. I would say that it is a bit the same with passion. You don’t know what you are passionate by, if you don’t look for passion.

How can you find passion? Education plays an important role in the look for passion. Education contributes to open minds, to acquire capacities and knowledge you will use during your life. The more you can learn, the more you will have chance to get opportunities, you will conquer your freedom. But education doesn’t consist only to acquire knowledge and capacities, but also to develop a critical mind, making that you will be able to develop your own system of values, to make your own choices, to take your own decisions. Such process implies that you will be questioning yourself about what you are facing everyday, what you want to do. By looking closely, your life is a range of decision and actions, and by questioning yourself about what you want to do in your life, you will make the choice to take decisions.

The decision process is moved by the whish to do something, but also because an opportunity comes to you, making the right time to try a new experience, to discover something new. This decision is moved by curiosity, and curiosity is essential to expand the fields of your possibilities, of your interests. This is important to see opportunities, to wonder each time what you can to with this. When the decision to act is taken, you start a new experience, bringing you satisfaction or disappointment, but also opportunities to learn, to discover new things you ignore until now. This experience put also a new light about ideas you had about things, and can break your wrong believes. For instance, you participate to a computer training program, and you notice that you have good capacities and intuitions to use the computer and perform tasks with it. The discovery of your capacities brings you a motivation to move your limits forward. Each further step you are doing brings you more and more satisfactions. Satisfaction increases your motivation, and your motivation becomes a real passion.

Passion is not something coming to you but the opportunities leading to a potential passion that can come to you. The facto to will see these opportunities and to take them is just a question of mind. See the fact to try something new, not as a risk but as a chance, the chance to go to new opportunities, and to meet passion. Passion creates a virtuous circle, when passion convinces yourself and convinces the others. You convince the others because you succeed to communicate your passion, you showed the best of yourself, and they see you as an opportunity. Opportunities call opportunities, and can lead you to discover new passions. So, try to discover passion, passion will come to you.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

December 10, 2012 at 21:57

When and where do the change begin?

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I was reading recently, this quote from Jack Welch, “Change before you have to”. But most of the time, we notice that people are reluctant to change, and on the other hand, people are claiming when nothing change. How to explain such paradox?

Change is first a question of perception. How can we perceive some changes, some trends coming slowly? If you have a look to a tree in your garden every day, you will probably not see that this tree is growing, but if you are looking to it three months later, you will notice that he grew. The tree grew, but you noticed it suddenly. The perception of change is a shock, it happen suddenly.

Is it because the change is not perceived that people don’t want to change, or because they are scared about change? People only allow to change if they perceive the need to change or perceive the change as an opportunity. If they have no choice or other alternative to a situation, they will be motivated to change. For instance, the development of information technologies has a huge impact in our professional and personal life. Some people are more reluctant than others to use them, because they found this difficult. But at a certain time, they will be obliged to use them, and will probably find this marvelous. Just think how we can communicate over the world via Internet and e-mail, when before you have to send postal mail without to be sure that your correspondent will receive your letter.

Change implies also education. By education, we can understand more things, and perceive the needs of change. By understanding the needs of changes and the consequences of changes, we avoid fear. But by education, people can be concerned by changes and take appropriate actions to face changes. Let us take for example the problem of environment. Scientific studies show that if all the people around the world have to live following the same standards than people in the western countries, we would need three time the natural resources the heart is producing. Each people should contribute to reduce the consumption of resources by changing some habits. Could we obliged people to change their way of live without attempting to their freedom? It is difficult of course, but the people who does not change their habits cannot obliged other people to change their way of life.

Change implies that we have first to admit that we are the actors of our own life, and the actors of the world where we are living. We can not always expect the change from other people. We have to admit too that we have to share the environment where we are living with other people, and that we have to make choices, respectable for the community. It implies that we have to take decisions and responsibilities.

Change implies to break our habits, to break the routine. This change of habits requests some effort. But people are scared to make these efforts, because they are not self confident, things seem to hem impossible to realize. How can we take such conclusions, if we do not try something else, to do things on another way? As for many things, we have first to start with the beginning, to do simple things. Before to climb the Everest, try first to climb on a chair ! Before to have some bias about changes, let’s try first some small changes. Somebody who have a Phd in mathematics had first to study basics of arithmetics. He had to learn and to understand ranges of theorems, of mathematical demonstrations. Step by step, he acquired and expanded his knowledge in mathematics. Like a house you are building by putting stones one after the other.

Can we adapt ourselves to change? Yes, we can do it gradually. As I mentioned before, you can used to accept changes step by step. It requires always an effort to adopt changes, because we have to change our habits. Change is like every exercise; when you are used to it, when you have integrated it, then it is more easy to change, and small changes make place to bigger changes. By changing things in your life, you become more self confident, we are more flexible and adaptable, and we expand our chance to face new challenges and opportunities.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

March 2, 2011 at 21:07