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The Dynamics of Choice

This article on choice dynamics is another in the SiPCOM series. A couple of weeks ago we introduced the five commonalities that seven billion people on this planet have in common: diverse situations every day, surrounded by people, required to make choices consistently, consistently face obstacles or challenges, and life is all about movement (growth, improvement etc.)

In short we call this the SiPCOM Experience.

The subject of choice dynamics is suitable after experiencing Freedom Day a few days ago.

On occasion we hear the expression ‘I do not have a choice’. I personally cannot recall a situation in my life where I had no choice at all. It may well be argued that a person who has no mental capacity has no choice. That may be true, but for the vast majority, especially those who have the intelligence to read this article, we probably have far more choice than we can handle. The decision that we ‘do not have a choice’ is a choice in itself. Perhaps what most of us mean by this statement is that no viable or acceptable alternative is open to us? Such an attitude is a choice. Martyrs over the years made choices to be loyal to their causes right up to the moment of death. Just think of the choices a person makes during the game of rugby, willingly suffering physical abuse that we rugby players call ‘fun’. One man believes he can, the other believes he can’t – they are both right. It is all about choices. 

Theory of choice

Let’s look at the theory of choice. The universal Law of Opposites states that ‘each situation has unlimited conceptual opposites to choose from’.  This does not imply that we will always believe that our choices will work out or that we have power to always implement what we choose. The idea that conceptually we have unlimited opposites to choose from is a thrilling concept. In an ethical sense it means that we always have a choice between good values and bad values. In a leadership sense it also means that we always have a choice between the negative and positive opposites. We need to acknowledge that unlimited conceptual opposites are always available for us to choose from.

Believability and choice

Our ability to believe our choices, or that they are possible to achieve depends on our characters, values and preparatory backgrounds. ‘Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, he can achieve’ (Napoleon Hill – Think and Grow Rich). The title of that famous book can be deceptive. It refers to riches in the full sense of the word, not just material possessions.  

We are what we choose to be

Our choices determine what we really are! When the dust of life settles around us, we find that our characters and our choices are synonymous. This is a core lesson taught by the great spiritual giants of history.

The imperative of attitude

Many things happen to us that are not necessarily the result of our choices. Obstacles (resistance, threats and challenges) are a commonality that we all have to face every day of our lives. As leaders we may not be able to change certain occurrences in life, but we can choose our attitude towards such situations! We again quote William James, a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher; “The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives”.

Leaders who have a positive or seamless attitude towards pressure situations are special people who often make a tremendous difference to the attitudes and situations of others around them. 

Attitude is a choice

We find the words of Charles Swindoll—author, educator, and pastor—a long time ago to be especially relevant in our age: “Attitude, to me, is more important than … the past … than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. For maximum happiness, peace, and contentment, may we choose a positive attitude.”

I recall catching part of one of these popular physical exercise programs on early morning TV. I cannot remember the rest of the program, but what I can recall is that the physical trainer said: “A flat stomach is an attitude”. The principle makes good leadership sense. Everything we do as leaders is a reflection of our attitudinal choices.

Attitudinal modes. As Charles Swindoll and no doubt a multitude of great leaders will tell us, our choice of attitude is the most important choice we make on a daily basis. To help the reader discern between different attitudes, we draw from the CEO Leadership Handbook in discussing the principle of ‘attitudinal modes’. All our feelings and perceptions are reflections of our basic attitudes at the time. These attitudes may be classified into five categories, each with distinctive attitudinal features:

  1. A negative expectation (perception) mode.  We slip into this mode all the time. It is like putting on a specific set of spectacles and this means that we see the situation in a certain light or lack of light. We expect negative things to flow from the situation.
  2. A positive expectation (perception) mode. This means that we slip into a mode that expects positive or ‘good for us’ results.
  3. A negative aspiration mode. This happens when our negative expectations become hardened in our minds and hearts and we desire negative results. For example, when we get angry and act on it, we are manifesting a negative aspiration mode or attitude. It is not all that easy to change our negative aspirations once they are settled into habits.
  4. A positive aspiration mode. This happens when we choose to follow through in our positive values and expectations and we settle into positive desires or passions. It is a process of choice. One of the key attributes of such people is their courage in facing negative expectations (obstacles) and deliberately choosing to process such feelings into positive aspirations. Seamless leaders are passionate seekers after positive aspirations.  
  5. Flux (evaluate) mode. Flux mode is simply the in-born attribute possessed by us all to choose between negative and positive attitudes. Every time we go through a process of making wise choices, we enter flux mode first. We evaluate and then we do. The reader will probably be in flux mode now as he or she considers the principles mentioned in the article.

We face the five commonalities every day of our lives. We cannot always determine the kind of situations, people, obstacles and movements we are involved in, but we can choose our attitudes! Our choice of attitude in turn impacts irrevocably on the influence we have as leaders on the other commonalities in life.

This article was featured in the:

The Workplace

Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on adriaan@leadershipplatform.com for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adriaan Groenewald

Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022
Email: info@leadershipplatform.com

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.

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