There are many historic moments in our lives, some that are historic for us. Others, are historic for the entire nation, or the world.
As I write this post the morning of Election Day, I’m struck by how powerful some of these moments are. I am fortunate to live in a country where every four years, we have the opportunity to voice our thoughts on the leader of this nation. Regardless of one’s background, as long as one meets a number of characteristics, he or she can vote. While it isn’t an entirely inclusive process (maybe one day it will be?), there is something incredibly validating about being able to put oneself behind someone else whose ideals match ours.
This day also made me reflect on the need for choice. Many times, both in our personal lives and our professional ones, we are left with only one pathway to go.
When we constrict options, and when we reduce the opportunity for others to chart their own course, we make two very big (and poor) assumptions. First, we assume that the direction that others should go is the same as our own. Since we are all different people, it stands to reason that our ways of learning and doing will also be different. Therefore the way that I learn should not be the way you have to. Second, we make the assumption (while likely more implicit than explicit), that the voices of those heading down a certain path are not entirely valuable. It’s kind of like taking people to a place they have never been before, and requesting them to not speak or show any emotion. Without the benefit of voice, we can’t adjust learning as we go, and we can’t provide learners with the keys necessary to drive their car where they like.
So, while I still have much work to do, I’m making an effort to embed choice both in my parenting and my professional work. Unless the situation requires it (and here is where I still need help in making that determination), I strive to make sure that there are always multiple ways to problem-solve, and that I’m comfortable with any of the agreed upon ways (influence is a powerful thing, and I don’t want to shift direction if I don’t have to).
The more opportunities for choice we have, the more likely we’ll develop into well-balanced leaders and learners. And the more balance we lead/learn with, the more likely we’ll make decisions that benefit the greatest number of people.