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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

From life: Who's in charge?

The calendar shows May 2007. We tell our three children – then 10, 10, and 7 years old – that we are likely moving back to Minnesota for dad’s work. It’s the country where our twin girls were born but of which they have very few memories. Our children have grown up knowing that we might move again for dad’s work. They have often asked us questions like: “Will I wake up in this house and in this room when I turn 6?” So the shock is not as big as might have been the case in some other households. 

We always strive to practice transparency with our children, discussing topics generally thought of as too difficult for kids like addictions, divorce, integrity and the like. This shows in their responses to our announcement of the future move. In their initial reactions we are told that the rabbits will move with us and we are asked whether 1 and 1 is also two in the U.S. Many more questions and concerns flood their wonderful brains and hearts and reach us that same evening. We celebrate the news and everything to come with a dinner at one of their favorite restaurants: a Japanese Hibachi grill. The amount of energy and excitement running through our children’s bodies beats most descriptions. With high pitched questions, excited fantasies, and wonderful ideas about life in Minnesota in abundance, we watch our resilient and positive children with a mixture of pride and amazement. We also realize that they cannot anywhere near realistically comprehend the impact of this move yet. Maybe better so.

The best question of the day is saved for last. Our eldest daughter - by three minutes - solemnly calls me and announces a very important question: “Mom, we were just wondering. Is this a decision that we can say “no” to if we wanted to?” That hits home. Our children are accustomed  to having a vote whenever possible. This is not one of those situations, of course. My reply to JoAnn is: “Honey, this is a great question, and you know how I love questions. I feel a little sad to have to say that this time you guys do not have a vote in the decision”. I want to elaborate on my response but JoAnn and her siblings seem satisfied with my answer: They just need to know if and where they could possibly influence and control the situation. So JoAnn counters with “Okay, I already thought so, but we were just wondering”.

And don’t we all (or at least shouldn’t we all) wonder where and how we can influence our own lives, the lives of others, the quality of life on this planet, the quality of the workplace, and of our relationships. Of course it’s not always this easy or innocent (and it wasn’t, from our children’s perspective).

Influence and control can be either good or bad, depending on how and where it is exerted. But the need for it, the need for clarity, for decision-making power, and the need for impact lies within all of us. With you, your friends, your colleagues, your employees.

So how about you?
1.    Are you the stage-manager of your own life or does it ‘drive by and just happen to you’?
2.    Do you know what values and purpose guide your choices as a leader, as a person?
3.    Are you aware of the beliefs that guide your thinking and your actions?
4.    Do you control your impulses or do your impulses control you?
5.    Do you provide others with the trust and the means to take decisions and to exert control, i.e. be influential?

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