I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and do what everyone else is doing this week — priase Dad. The first thing you need to know about my dad is he taught me not to do what everyone else is doing. With one exception (today), I’ve been able to see the value and attempt to adhere to that lesson. What he wanted was for me to not make knee-jerk decisions, to move through the moment calmly and to think before I acted and especially before I spoke. He taught me this not with words but by his own actions. He can disagree with you but be calm about it. He can encourage you to change your mind without degrading you. He can go a different direction from you but still support you.
I recently met a CEO of a large institution. It took less than an hour with him to recognize his marvelous capacity for leadership. When I mentioned him to my dad, my dad explained that this CEO thirty years earlier was his state representative. My dad and the representative did not see eye to eye on a particular issue. Dad felt passionate about the issue and visited the representative often. The day before the congressional vote, Dad drove from Corpus Christi to Austin for one last effort to influence his public official. As he left the Capitol that day unsuccessful, he assured this young, green representative that they would remain friends. The representative looked at him in shock explaining that my dad’s counterparts did not make the same assurances.
Out of curiosity, I emailed the CEO’s assistant retelling this story to confirm to my new powerful leader friend that my dad never forgot him. This young, green politician now a thoughtful, influential, intentional leader remembered my dad clearly and said, “I still consider him my pastor.” After thirty years, he still remembered a man who respected and honored him in spite of his disagreement and felt well cared for by him.
The only time I really need this valuable lesson my dad taught me — don’t do what everyone else is doing, be calm and thoughtful, show honor and respect even when you disagree — is when I’m with people. The days I’ve lived on a deserted island, I don’t have to practice this at all.
One tip that might be helpful as we manage ourselves: breathe. Our brain demands a full 20 percent of our body’s oxygen supply. Next time you are in a stressful situation, focus on taking slow deep breaths. Another tip: sleep on it. Time brings clarity and perspective to the thousands of thoughts that go swimming through our head. One last tip: take control of what we’re telling ourselves. Turn “I always” or “I never” into “just this time” or “sometimes.” When we stop beating ourselves up, we’ll stop making our problems bigger than they really are. Replace judgmental statements like “I’m an idiot” with factual ones like “I made a mistake.” Thoughts that attach a permanent label to you leave no room for improvement.
What tips to you have for not making knee-jerk decisions?