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BossWoman eNews – October 2005
Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives

Welcome to the October 2005 edition of Susan Robison's free e-mail newsletter for women business owners, executives, and professionals.

Our goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life while making a difference. If you are on this list you have been a client, an advocate, or attended a workshop. Pass this newsletter on to others who might be interested. This e-mail list is not sold or exchanged. Details on subscribing (and unsubscribing) are at the end.

In this issue, you'll find:

  1. Logical Consequences
  2. BossWoman coaching
  3. Up and coming workshops
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1. Logical Consequences
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“If only I had known.” Some of the time when we lament the consequences of a decision or action, we could not have foreseen those consequences unless we had a crystal ball or an other way of predicting the future. There are times, however, when we could have known, should have known, even did know but did not have a decision making process to be able to use the information available. You will reduce stress and regret about your life if you begin to anticipate the logical consequences of predictable events and use your intuition to make decisions that you can feel good about.

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Anticipate Consequences
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In his landmark study of Harvard undergraduate men followed from their college days in the 1940’s until the present, George Vaillant found one of the best predictors of health, success, and happiness in adulthood to be a young man’s ability to anticipate consequences and act accordingly. Although I am not aware of any similar women’s study, it is my guess that this variable does not show up differently in men and women. Often in my work-life balance workshops participants ask for strategies to deal with some role conflict or other challenges resulting from the consequences of earlier decisions. Often they feel stupid for missing the clues that would have forecasted the outcomes they are now experiencing. They ask themselves, “What was I thinking?” I reassure them that they were thinking – just not thinking systematically enough to make the best possible decisions.

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An Ounce of Prevention
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Here is a sample of some of the most frequent work-life questions workshop participants ask about:

  • Feeling overwhelmed by chosen tasks.

    Gail was so eager to please her new husband so she did all of the housework when they were first married and now feels overwhelmed.
    Her question is, “How do you get husbands to help with the housework.”

    Answer: “The best way is to make an equitable division of labor at the start of the marriage and then renegotiate the balance as circumstances such as the arrival of children change your needs.”

    Gail shouldn’t be surprised that her husband says, “That’s your job,” every time she tries to bring up how exhausted she is and how he should help out more. After all, she defined her job in a way that led him to believe she intended to accept all responsibility for household chores.

  • Parental complaints.

    Pat asks about how to get her teenagers to pick up after themselves.

    Answer: “The best way is to start training children to pick up after themselves when they are toddlers.”

    Pat shouldn’t be surprised to find that she has spoiled entitled teenagers who expect that Mom will wait on them hand and foot. After all, she trained them to expect that she is their slave. What she needed to know is that helping children establishing good habits at an early stage is a parenting responsibility and prevents the problem of lazy teens.

  • Impossible role conflicts.

    Mary Ann holds a high profile corporate sales rep job involving weekly travel. She has three children under the age of 10 that are in bed when she gets home. She has no time alone with her husband because when she is home, she stays up until midnight writing reports related to her trips. She asks, “How can I feel less tired?”

    Answer: The best way would be to get a job with a sane schedule that doesn’t involve travel, maybe with flex time or three quarter time. Get eight hours of sleep.

    Somehow Mary Ann did not use information available to figure the number of hours the job would take. Maybe she thought she could bi-locate, being both on the road, meeting her job responsibilities and home enjoying the fruits of an active family life. She failed to clarify the priorities of her conflicting values.

None of the above situations was an accident or related to random weather conditions or stock market declines. These women had access to information that they failed to use at the time. They all could have benefited from having better decision making methods.

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What Prevents Good Decisions
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Just because you experience a negative outcome from a decision does not mean that you made a bad decision. There are many factors that affect the outcomes of your decision. Only some of them are under your control. You don’t control weather, economic conditions, or the behavior of those around you. It is unfair to judge yesterday’s decisions by today’s information. By contrast, a bad decision is one that has negative outcomes that could have been prevented if you had only taken time to gather information and think through the consequences.

Here are some patterns characteristic of lack of process in decision making.

  • Not enough options. Forcing a decision prematurely before you find out what options you could consider results in “decider’s regret” later. If none of the options you are considering feels right, keep looking.
  • Too many options. Do you sometimes suffer from paralysis by analysis? Do you second guess all of your options? Instead weigh your pros and cons in terms of your values. If you are considering a major purchase, ask how much it costs, what quality does each option offer, and how might you feel some time in the future looking back on the decision. You can also ask yourself about the implication of delaying the decision. You may lose more by waiting than by committing although sometimes deferring the decision until you generate more options is a good decision by itself.
  • Not enough information. You are not the only one who had ever had to make this kind of choice. Who do you know who has done what you want to do? Remember Mary Ann, the corporate sales rep who wanted less stress in her life? The information she needed was that a lifestyle combining a high profile job and raising small children would be fraught with stress and guilt. Had she interviewed people with her potential job description how they manage their home life, she might have taken a less demanding job until her children were older or limited her family size to pursue her career.
  • Not having a process. Your decisions are not isolated dramas; they are part of the fabric of human existence. Decision making is a basic human activity that goes on everyday all over the world. Brain researchers have studied and catalogued the natural process of decision making available to all of us.
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Steps of Good Decision Making
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Here are the steps you can use to make better decisions:
  1. Take the time to define the parameters of your decision.
    • What do you want from this decision?
    • How does this decision fit the rest of your life?
    For example, If Mary Ann had defined her decision as “I want a satisfying job that fits a family life that has plenty of time for my family,” she would have looked for something other than a job that had her traveling three days out of seven each week.
  2. Gather information.
    • What are some resources for this decision? People, books, websites?
    • Who has made a similar decision? How did they make it? What advantages and disadvantages have they experienced as a result of their choice(s)? What advice would they give?
    As an engaged couple, Gail and her husband could have attended a marriage seminar on balancing home and work. Even now as they recognize the need to renegotiate their contract, they could read books or talk to some older acquaintances to find out how they have divided their household responsibility. They could consult with a couples’ counselor or work/life balance coach to find out what professionals recommend based on the research on couples division of responsibilities.
  3. Define a good decision for yourself.
    • What usually happens when people pick this option?
    • What would be the worst case? What would be the best case?
    • What are the risks and which ones would be the worst for your situation?
    • How likely are the risks of bad consequences? (You might take a risk if something bad only happens 5% of the time but you would be foolish to do so if it were 95%.)
    • What are the long-term implications of this decision?
    • How might you minimize some of the risks?
    • How can you feel good about this choice five or ten years from now?
    • Which options get you more of what you want and less of what you don’t want? Can you creatively combine parts of several options to minimize the risks and maximize the chances of gains?
    • What are your values and what options meet them?
  4. Try out the options.
    • How can you experience a little of the option?
    • Can you volunteer in a part time way to try out the option?
    • Can you decide for a day or two, walk around pretending you have decided without taking action, and see how it feels to have picked that option?
    Pat might have helped out in her Church youth program to see how she wanted her children to be in their teen years. She can still set up some chores and link them to privileges such as use of the family car. She might schedule family meetings to teach her children to problem solve about how to get their needs met while respecting others in the family. Although her teens will balk at the changes in the short run, in the long run they will benefit from the increased family connection.
  5. Make the decision.
    • What does your gut tell you? Intuition can be a big help when you are not sure what you want. What does your head tell you? If your head and gut are fighting with each other, you need more information either about yourself or about the options.
    • Trust your educated intuition. It will get stronger with practice.
    • Minimize “decider’s regret” by preventing yourself from overanalyzing.
    • On the other hand, continue to be open to mid-course corrections by observing the short term effect of your decision.
  6. Evaluate the results.
    • What is a reasonable time frame to declare your decision process effective?
    • How can you use new information to shift your course slightly?
    • What have you learned from the process to guide other decisions?
    • What decision have you made that you feel were good decisions? What was your process? Which ones do you feel that you could have done a better job on? How?
Sometimes no matter how much we know and how well we use our process, things do not turn out the way we wished. Sometimes the culture or economics change. Sometimes people fail to act as we predicted they would. However, if you use a good decision making process, more of your choices will bring you rich rewards. The next time you ask yourself, “What was I thinking,?” you can say, “Well, at least I was thinking.”

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Conclusion
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Don’t reinvent the wheel; use decision making processes to make good decisions.

Susan Robison

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2. BossWoman coaching
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About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a professional coach, speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to coach women who want improvement in:

  • work-life balance,
  • career transitions,
  • building your business or practice,
  • time management,
  • increasing productivity.
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life, give Susan a call for a complementary half-hour coaching session.

She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations on the topics of:

  • leadership strategies for women,
  • relationships,
  • work-life balance,
  • change.
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session because she knows that workshops don’t work.

Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at 410-465-5892.

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3. Up and coming workshops
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I have booked a number of work/life balance workshops for the winter that are not open to the public.
Contact me if your group needs a speaker on any of the topics listed above.

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BossWoman e-Newsletter is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Coaching should not be construed as a form of, or substitute for, counseling, psychotherapy, legal, or financial services.

© Copyright 2005 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. However, you may not copy it to a web site without the publisher’s permission.

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