Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Choose principles over feelings

Self-differentiation is all about functioning. One manifestation of the extent to which one is functioning in a self-differentiated manner is how well one can separate feeling from thinking. I recently consulted with a normally steady and effective staff person who found herself stuck on a particular issue. In this case she knew the right thing to do, and was able to quote the company guidelines that needed to direct her action, yet, she was second guessing herself.

By the time she called me to think through the issue she’d triangled in two people in different offices in her organization (anxiety spawns triangles), reviewed the company guidelines several times, and called a person in a different company to double check legal regulations. Despite all that she still felt stuck. After working through the issue she gained enough insight to see how her emotions kept trumping her cognition . Additionally she became aware that someone else’s emotions and anxiety were feeding her own anxiety. Despite knowing what she needed to do, she was stuck in not being able to follow through.

These situations highlight how important it is to hold clearly articulated principles. A clearly articulated principle can be a stay against confusion in the moment when decisiveness and action is called for. In the midst of anxiety, when cogitation and cerebration becomes a challenge recalling the principles that guide action can keep one from getting stuck.

Here are examples that can be of help when one needs to decide on one’s feet (these are mine, you’ll need to come up with your own):
  • If you have to choose between feelings and principles, choose principles.
  • If you have to choose between convenience and doing the right thing, do the right thing.
  • If you have to choose between someone’s happiness and doing the ethical thing,, do the ethical thing.
  • If you have to choose between your values and a relationship, chose your values.
  • If you have to choose between what is expedient and what is right, do the right thing.
  • If you have to choose between what someone wants and what is best for the system, chose what is best for the system.
What principles guide your actions in times of challenge? 

Excerpted from Perspectives on Congregational Leadership. 

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