Some of us have trouble figuring out and committing to a path forward. The reasons are varied. We may not have all the facts we think we need. We may not be certain that we can get those whose support we want on board. We may feel uncomfortable with making decisions in general, or this decision in particular.
It is then that we all too often turn to someone else (a consultant, a coach, a therapist, a friend…) and say, “What would you do?” As a professional coach, I hear it all the time.
When I hear this question, I often think of a quote from Matsuo Basho: Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old, seek what they sought.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the question. It is a way of gaining different perspectives, especially if you are asking a diverse group of people who bring different backgrounds and experiences to the table. What does this look like through a financial lens, through a magnitude of change lens, through a market lens, through a feasibility lens? What does it look like through an interpersonal lens, through a spiritual lens, through a personal alignment lens?
Ask the question. Gather the insights. Weigh them.
It’s what all too often happens next that concerns me. Sometimes the decision is to not decide; there are too many divergent perspectives to commit to a path forward. Sometimes, it becomes a “hop scotch” of trying one thing for a bit, then jumping to the next, waiting to find something that seems to stick. And, sometimes we have someone else to blame if the chosen direction or actions don’t work out. “John got it wrong.” “Steve put us on the wrong path.” “How could Hannah have been so off?”
The truth is simple. If it is your change, you need to own your decisions. You need to own the correct ones. And, you need to own the incorrect ones. You ask John, Steve, and Hannah because they are bringing something to the assessment that you don’t have. None of them has everything you bring to the table either; none of them own the change in the way you do. You shouldn’t be asking them if you suspect they may give you bad advice, intentionally or otherwise. But what you are getting is advice, not instruction. If you choose to go forward with it, that is your choice, not their responsibility.
As Basho suggests, don’t follow in their footsteps, follow in their wisdom. If it will be helpful, go ahead and ask “What would Steve do?” Then have the courage and strength to make the decision, and to hold yourself accountable for the consequences.
How do you request–and respond to–counsel from others? Comment below.