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My Way or the Highway

Being open to different approaches is a powerful way to live. It comes from the recognition that there is not merely one way to accomplish anything.  The ability to be open starts when you detach from how things have to be in your life for you to be happy, successful, respected.  Only then can you start entertaining what else could be.

When people get so stuck in needing things to be a certain way, they push and apply force to make things fall out exactly as they had planned it. In all that pushing, they miss other options to achieve their goal in a more simplistic and less stressful fashion.  As an inexperienced project manager I lived this phenomenon. I’d developed my project plan, I’d laid out the tasks on a timeline, and my project team had been assembled. And then, one project task would fall behind schedule. Instantly, my well-laid plans were off track and I got frustrated and annoyed with my team. I’d demand an explanation. I’d push them harder to deliver. And, the project would spiral out of control. Panic and anxiety ensued.  This was my life as a project manager in the early days.  I’d push and push. People saw me as overbearing.  And projects seemed to keep coming off the rails.  Ugghh.

Then I learned to relax and go with the flow when there was a challenge.  I’d ask myself, “What is the upside here?” Often the delay helped us not waste time on a requirement that, unknown to us, was about ready to be changed significantly. When I learned to go with the flow and see the glass as half full, projects recovered more quickly and the work was more enjoyable for me, and everyone else involved.

Here is simple technique for uncovering alternative approaches to accomplishing your goal.

  1. Breathe deeply several times.
  2. Ask yourself, “What am I failing to notice here?” and “How else might I be able to accomplish my goal?”
  3. Allow yourself time to think through these questions, writing down your answers.

In the end you will have a list of several alternative approaches.  Some might be more plausible than others and you can choose from among them.

Letting go of this “my way or the highway thinking”, where everything has to line up just right, has created flow not only on projects I manage, but in my life in general.  My life seems easier and more enjoyable now that I’m not stuck in rigid patterns of thinking.  Try this approach on for size and comment below on what you experience.

Photo Credit: Aidan Meyer




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