Life Hack — Getting in the Driver’s Seat
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6 Ways to Optimize Performance Through Openness & Accountability

By: Ethan Schutz

Anytime I find myself complaining, I stop. Complaining just means that I am blaming other people or my circumstances for my situation. While this might be fun (let’s be real), it solves nothing.

Sometimes the path ahead or solutions to my problems are difficult to find or seem impossible. For example, I was recently involved in a contract negotiation with a business partner. I spent a lot of time complaining about them: they didn’t hear me, they were only out for themselves, they were rigid, etc. I felt victimized and stuck.

I decided to apply Choice. This hack is a tool that helps me see how I am helping to create my own situation and more options for changing it. It works like this. I entertain an idea that can seem absolutely crazy on the surface: What if I am choosing the exact situation I am in that I say I do not like? I assume that I am choosing my thoughts, feelings, behaviors, reactions, spontaneity, and everything else.

I assume this not because I know it to be true (I don’t of course), but rather to expand my thinking so that I look for the ways in which I am creating my situation. When I go looking for the ways that I am making things happen, I discover unconscious actions that I am doing that I didn’t see before.

In my negotiation, I realized that I was coming from a mindset of expecting the other party to be out for themselves. That means that I heard and interpreted everything they said from that point of view. I wasn’t aware of that before I used Choice. I also realized that I was approaching them defensively, rather than looking for options to present them that they would want to say “yes” to.

My search for solutions then changed. Instead of pushing back on them, I asked myself, “how am I showing up in this negotiation?” My answer, I have to say, didn’t please me. I started to imagine how they must have been reacting to me and realized that I was showing up the same way I saw them—defensive and rigid and not asking any questions!

My next question was, “how do I want to show up in this negotiation?” A bit sheepishly, I decided that I wanted to remain calm, be collaborative, ask lots of questions so I could understand, and present options to them that not only satisfied my own interests, but theirs as well.

The hack of Choice helps me get out of my own way. Even better, it doesn’t require the other party to change one bit—ever try to change someone else? Doesn’t work very well, does it? Choice puts me in the driver’s seat of finding solutions that I can actually make happen. Though it doesn’t guarantee an ideal outcome, it makes a better one much more likely.

And all it takes is a willingness to entertain the idea that I am choosing more than I think I am.