Inspiration comes to me while walking the trails, watching birds, talking with friends, brushing my dog or this morning, while reading the book Synchronicity, The Inner Path of Leadership. The author, Joseph Jaworski tells about a conversation he had with someone from the Royal Dutch Shell group of companies, who said instead of making forecasts for the company, they used something called decision scenarios. In 1988, the Shell Group was regarded as one of the best-managed companies in the world.
As I read on I realized that ‘decision scenarios’ are similar to a method I created for myself 20 years ago, when I was faced with a very difficult decision; I called this method ‘My Rocking Chair Approach to Life’: my crystal ball for decision making.
As Joseph Jaworski explains, the Decision Scenario’s came from meetings of the Shell groups top managers. “Every three years or so, they synthesize this information into two or more scenarios – stories into how the business might evolve over the coming years and decades.”
Decision scenario’s look forward into the future, with the rocking chair approach you look back into your past. Both offer a method of seeing things differently—looking into the crystal ball from all angles. It’s an opportunity to play with ideas (scenarios) and see outcomes that may have been missed.
Here’s how it works.
In 2001, I was newly divorced and just beginning to find my way as a single mom. I was working as an independent contractor planning events for organizations, fundraising for a non-profit and flying around the country training rep groups and attending trade conferences for a local manufacturer. I really loved the variety the local manufacturer contract offered, but it was very difficult leaving my son at home. Several months into this gig, I was offered a full-time position as Director of Marketing.
I wanted this position so bad. It offered everything I love – travel, creativity, interaction, planning, moving parts, collaboration. I talked at length with the owner about my concerns with leaving my son every single month. He tried, he really did. We looked at ways to lessen the travel, but the nature of the job (this was before internet) required travel.
One day, while deep into conflict over this decision, I closed my eyes and the image of me in my late nineties, sitting in a rocking chair appeared.From this point of reference, I rocked in my imaginary chair thinking about my life; the decisions I had made and the consequences of my decision. I remember the pain I felt as I ‘dreamed’ into the scenario of accepting the position. My young son was having his own struggles and in 2001, my son’s father had yet to find his path to sobriety. I was the rock in my son’s life.
I played around with how life would feel and look if I accepted this position.I found myself smiling at the thought of the scope of work this position offered. I found myself crying at the angst every departure would hold.
From this vantage point of having lived a full life, rocking in my chair and thinking about what I would have done differently, I knew in my heart and soul that what was most important to me was enjoying every moment I could raising my son.
Without this ‘decision scenario’ I may have jumped, because isn’t that what successful, forward thinking women do? I would have let a culturally accepted way of living be the force behind my decision. I would have seen only the perceived glamour of the position, and I wouldn’t have felt the sadness of not being there for my son.
At that point in my life, I did not have a support. There were no friends or relatives close by. One of the images I played around with was being on the other side of the country and receiving a call from my son’s school saying he was sick. I felt panic envelope me. Who would I call? I was lucky that his daycare was right next door; but she couldn’t leave to pick him up and she certainly couldn’t bring a sick child into her home with other children present.
The next day I called the president of the company and declined the offer.Eighteen years later and I have never wavered in my decision to be with my son. And that choice I made has not once felt like a sacrifice that I had to make.
An in all honesty, often when thinking about this position I declined the encompassing feeling is “oh thank God I didn’t do that.” I now know that travelling for business once to twice a month is not glamourous. Especially when the airport is a 2-3 hour drive a way.
Saying “no”, opened up the channels of possibility: shortly after declining my so-called dream job, I accepted another position as Director of Advertising for a company five minutes from my home, with no travel required.
Like a crystal ball, the Rocking Chair method illuminates the path to ‘see things differently.’ So the next time you are struggling with a decision, or perhaps planning for the future of your business or life, why not pull up a chair and rock for a while?!