good read, managing people

Pause and Decide!

via Prakash Iyer, executive coach and MD, Kimberly-Clark Lever

Swaroop Kishen was an unlikely hero.

He was an overweight, portly guy who looked like the jovial Hardy — from the Laurel and Hardy duo. His girth made him instantly recognisable. And quite lovable too.

As a cricket-crazy kid, I remember getting Swaroop Kishen’s autograph at a game.

While most fans were clamouring for the players’ autographs, I was keen to get the umpire to sign in my book. And he did — prefacing his signature with three words:

“Pause and decide!”

These words were not only an articulation of an umpire’s philosophy– they were also a masterclass in effective decision-making.

Every time I need to respond to something, or take a decision, the umpire’s words flash in my mind.

Many times, we take decisions in haste. And we end up with impulsive responses. Someone says something to us — and we immediately react. Either with words that come back to haunt us. Or with actions that we live to regret. If only we’d make it a habit to heed the late umpire’s advice to pause and decide!

Next time you are angry or hurt, or need to take a decision, good idea to take a deep breath — before saying a word. Next time something goes wrong and you feel like reacting — just hold it. After the moment passes, you will find the turmoil settling down. The mind gets clearer. And the decision that follows is usually a lot better than what you might have done in that instant.

Very often our decisions are more like a negative vote — rather than a positive choice. We change jobs — because of one tough appraisal feedback session, or a missed promotion.

We make career choices, break relationships, commit to investments — all in the heat of the moment. And in an era of increasing download speeds — we seem to be in a hurry to take decisions. In most cases, a cooler head — and the passage of time — would have made for far better, more reasoned decisions.

Whoever said “Decide in haste, repent at leisure” was right. He may have said it a long time ago, but we clearly haven’t learnt our lesson.

There’s an interesting story of a spiritual master who went on a pilgrimage with his disciples. The wise man felt thirsty and wanted some water.

A disciple quickly went across with a jar to a nearby stream to get some water. The water was crystal clear and he could see the sun’s rays dancing on the water. As he was about to fill the jar, a bullock cart crossed the stream.

As the wheels churned through the soil at the bottom of the stream, the water suddenly became muddy. It didn’t look good enough to drink and the disciple went back to the master, empty-handed, and explained what happened.

The master asked him to wait a while, to allow the mud to settle — and then fill up the jar. When the disciple went back a little later, he found that the water was crystal clear again.

As the master took a sip of the water — he exclaimed: “Our minds are like that stream too. An external event or stimulus — like that bullock cart – can cause our minds to look all muddled up. When that happens, all you need to do is relax. Just wait a while and allow the dust to settle. And the mind will be clear again.”

Next time you are feeling agitated or stressed and want to respond, just think of the bullock cart and the stream. And remember the good umpire’s advice. Pause and decide!

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