You’ve got a problem and you find yourself looking back and realizing that this is not the first time this problem has appeared in your life. Then you have a sinking feeling that you’re about to make the same mistake again by solving it the same way that you always do.
Have you ever found yourself in this predicament? Since it’s easier to see in others, here are some examples:
Your sister, Ellen, always dates the same kind of man that ends up cheating on her. Each time she meets someone new, she assures you, “This one is different,” but you know that she will probably end up heartbroken again.
Your friend, Anne, moves from job to job, each time ending up with the same type of boss- one that undervalues her talent and undermines her progress.
Door Number fOne
It’s like going down the hallway of “Life’s Lessons” again and again and always walking through the same door each time. Let’s call that choice door number one. Making the same choice means having the same outcome. Ellen would have a lifetime of cheating boyfriends and never get to experience the joy of a fulfilling relationship. Anne would have a string of crappy jobs and miss out on a rewarding career.
When you say to yourself, “There’s a pattern here and I’d like to do better this time,” it’s tempting to try to avoid door number one by taking door number two. Door number two represents doing the opposite of what you’ve always done in the past. There are problems with reactively doing the opposite.
Door Number Two
Going back to our examples, Ellen may choose to never date again and Anne may choose to stay in her job this time and “suck it up” with her boss. Both women, by opening door number two, may end up making unintended sacrifices. Ellen could end up alone and lonely. Anne could end up with an ulcer from stuffing down her frustration.
Another problem with choosing door number two is that it could compromise your integrity. Suppose Ellen chooses to cheat on her boyfriend instead of being cheated on. Anne decides to talk behind her boss’s back in an attempt to gain allies. In both cases, each woman is acting out of alignment with whom they want to be.
Door Number Three
You have the capability to create a unique solution to your problem that doesn’t keep you stuck or compromise your values. A choice that allows you to grow as a person and a professional. That choice is door number three. It’s not “the same” and it’s not “opposite” therefore you don’t always see it as a choice right away.
Door number three is a scary choice because it means doing something you’ve never done and therefore you cannot possibly know the outcome. Humans are naturally afraid of the unknown and are just as naturally creative. Allow yourself ito magine another choice. Take your time with it. Write it out or speak it out or even draw it out if you want to.
Going back to Ellen, instead of taking a vow of celibacy, she could decide to introduce her most trusted friend to anyone she starts dating and listen to their honest feedback about the guy. As for Anne, instead of sucking it up and complaining or quitting her job, she could instead decide to have a discussion with her boss about her status in the company and ask her boss what she can do to get ahead.
The next time you find yourself in the hallway of “Life’s Lessons”, instead of instinctively opening door number one or avoiding by opening door number two, allow yourself the time and space to imagine a different choice and boldly open door number three. This takes courage and imagination which are two muscles you’re going to have to build if you want to grow as a person and professional.