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Make Effective Choices!

Your Choices have Consequences

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His eyes said it all. Their triumphant glitter had a surprising message: Screw you!

I didn't realize it immediately, their meaning only became clear when I took the first bite. It was cold. The chef had served me my fresh jumbo shrimps cold - uncooked!

It was the elegant dining room of an upmarket hotel in Southern England. I'd just completed yet another successful performance management course for IBM, my largest client, and was flying back to North America the next day. So I was celebrating.

The dining room manager had told me what was extra special on the menu and I was delighted to learn that jumbo shrimps, fresh not frozen, were available. Great, I'll have them I replied, and ordered a mouthwatering appetizer.

As I finished the hors d'oeuvres, the waitress looked upset, "Sorry, but we're out of the jumbo shrimps, what else would you like to order?" she asked.

I was having none of it. The manager had told me that jumbo shrimps were available, and I'd ordered them immediately. Why was she now trying to tell me there were none? It was not as if the restaurant was particularly busy...

She went back into the kitchen to check and then reported that there were some at the back of the fridge, and I could have them after all. I relaxed and took another sip from the delicious and expensive bottle of wine.

chef preparing food
The chef appeared soon after. Bringing the shrimps to my table he cooked them in a pan right in front of my eyes and then served them on my plate. It didn't take long and they looked delicious.

But they tasted awful! It was immediately obvious what had happened. His eyes said he had wanted the jumbo shrimps for himself, so had told the waitress to pretend there were none left. When I'd insisted, he'd decided that if he couldn't enjoy them, then I wasn't going to enjoy them either.

But I had nothing planned but to enjoy the evening. And it wasn't that much effort to instead lay a formal complaint against the chef for ruining my meal. So I did!

When he realized I was documenting the circumstances at the Hotel Manager's request so they could formally investigate my complaint, he became distraught. He might lose his job, at the very least it would be a black mark on his record, affecting his promotion prospects.

As an apology, the Hotel Manager did not charge me for the meal. But what a waste of an evening. Instead of relaxing over a lovely meal, I spent an hour or so ensuring that the chef never spoilt a meal for a paying guest like that again. I didn't enjoy doing it, but he'd made his choice. Now it was time for the consequences!

What should you do?

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Many if not most people think that this is the first question to ask, but is it? How well did asking himself "What shall I do?" serve the hotel chef? He put a blot his career by ignoring the crucial question that needs to come first: What do I want to achieve?

He didn't first ask himself what he was trying to achieve, so how could his actions support him in getting to his real goal? You need to know what's important to you. As they say, if you don't know where you're going, then any road will do!

What's important to you?

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When you know what you want to achieve, then you can make a plan to get there. But what if you don't know what's important to you?

Many people will try and tell you what they think you should achieve, but you're the one who will live with the consequences. Other people's advice may be biased towards their desires, so you need to decide for yourself.

If someone is not objective, they'll recommend their best interests rather than yours. Even if they are objective, their context will still color their suggestions. Then there's the sizeable segment of society who thrive on manipulation. Most everybody has their own agenda, and any correlation with your best interests is likely to be coincidental!
man looking at scales and choosing
So how do you choose? Simple! While looking at things rationally, just make it up. The chef might have considered his career to have higher priority than "revenge" on a paying client who was taking his food.

Consider the pro's and the con's of each possibility, and allow the feeling of what's right to arise in you. Then choose that.

Do not let superficial wants talk you out of it. Your mind only knows the past, so its decisions will tend to give you more of the same. Yet isn't the same old stuff boring? Rather have a fresh, exciting, stimulating life instead.

Which do you do first?

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Even when you know what you want, then the next question among all the choices is: what to do first? It's important to realize you can't work 100% of the time, all work and no play makes Jill a dull girl! And the same applies to Jack!

The problem in choosing can be that you haven't decided what is important to you, and what isn't. Too often you spend your time doing what's urgent. Urgent is not necessarily important. What's important and urgent to you may not be so for another. Yet the choices you make define your future.

Which would be the more profitable use of your time? The urgent, which may not necessarily be important? Or the important which is not urgent. How often do you spend your time, and your money, on what is neither? Does its urgency say anything about how important it is? And how do you tell what is important anyway?

Here's a very simple definition: "If it will or could make a significant difference to your life in five years time, then it's important - and if it won't, it's not important." Notice this says nothing about whether it's urgent or not.

Is your life developing in the way you really want? Have the past five years seen the big improvement you really would have liked in your wildest dreams? If not, perhaps it's because you haven't yet decided exactly what is important for you. Many spend their lives doing the urgent, because they haven't put in the time and effort to decide what's important. It's not too late, but if you do not decide what’s important for you, how likely is it to happen?

The Four Quadrants

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The Four Quadrants, as taught in the "What Matters Most™" course by the Franklin Covey organization, are very valuable here. They are:

Determine what's urgent and what's important to reduce stress

Will it Make a Real Difference?

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For example. Will it make a real difference in five years time if you have a meal out rather than at home, or you even miss a meal? Almost certainly not. Or if you only get six instead of seven hours sleep tonight? Again probably not.

But will it or could it make a significant difference in five years time if you ignore that warning sound from the car when it's overdue for a service? Maybe. Could it make a difference if you make the effort to meet up with a usually unavailable friend or study Retire Young, Retire Rich by Robert Kiyosaki - the billionaire author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad? Yes, of course it could. You need to invest your time and money in the important - in what will or could make a significant difference in five years time.

Where do the high performers spend their time?

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On the "What Matters Most™" course, our presenter Gerrit Cloete expanded on the regular material with the results of a survey asking companies what proportion of their time they spent in the four quadrants. The survey split the answers between the high-performance companies and average ones. Where each type of company spend their time makes fascinating reading;

Do what's important first to be successful and reduce stress


Notice that Quadrant 2 and Quadrant 3 are more or less reversed in these two tables. Looking at the time they spend in the different Quadrants, we see that average companies first ask, "Is it urgent", and then do what's important among the urgent. In contrast, high performance companies first ask, "Is it important?", and then do what's urgent among the important.

Do what high-performers do

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So if you want high performance rather than average results, then model your company - and your life - on the high performers. First ask, "Is it important?" and then among what's important, do:
1 the urgent first, then

2 the not so urgent
These two will take the vast majority of your time. Once these have been done, then do:
3 the urgent but not important, and

4 forget about what’s neither important nor urgent

Wanna Reduce your Stress?

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Choose your next step right now:

Food for Thought

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“You are free to do whatever you like, but you will
face the consequences."

quoted by Sheldon Kopp in
"If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!"


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