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Why distance helps with tough decisions

Trust yourself and your instincts.

“Compass” Pixabay

Have you ever heard of the term “mobbing” when used in the context of a corporate workplace? Turns out it is another term for “bullying”.

Bullying is a sociological term that describes consistent harassment.

Bullying in any context is not on, not in the playground, not in the workplace, not in life.

In the workplace, bullying is often psychological harassment and is usually carried out by one person in particular. I am certain many people have experienced some level of bullying, but when it is experienced at work, a place where you are required to participate for the majority of your week, it can be deflating and devastating.

. . .

I loved my project management work and I always took roles I felt I could learn from, grow in, and in the end succeed in. I took a role a few years back that I was really excited about and ready to tackle head-on. After several interviews with many management team members, completing a four-day analysis to illustrate knowledge and expertise, and how to contextualize the relevant information, I was ready to jump into the role.

I was about to be deeply disappointed.

On my first day on the job, I already had the sinking feeling that I was not there to do exciting strategic work as had been described to me, such as bringing stakeholders on board from across the organization. Nope. Instead, it seemed I was there to fill a checkbox, that of hiring the diversity quotient for the team.

My first day on the job brought about comments that ranged from “about time they hired a pretty girl in strategy” to “oh you’re the first [diverse] person on our team”. Yes, these were actual greetings from other leaders on my first day of work, a day of being paraded around by my direct manager that had a distinctly “look what I hired” vibe!

Psychological warfare

Consistent criticism is like being in the firing line from morning to evening. From the beginning, I was made to feel like I didn’t fit in, pointed out in meetings as an example of a particular trait, but it got progressively worse over the months to come. While I was hired for my ability to create networks, relationships, and to gain buy-in for projects, I was never utilized for that role. Instead, I was thrown into projects I was not hired for and realized this was another bullying tactic to set me up for failure. The whole thing was exhausting and frustrating.

The stress was taking a mental and physical toll, I dreaded going to work, I was feeling stressed and had no idea how to make a choice about what to do next. I was at a loss of how what my response should be. When it reached the point that I began to question my own abilities, my own intelligence, I knew it had to be dealt with.

Having already booked five days away with a friend, I decided to take that vacation and then revisit the decision when I returned.

Psychological wellbeing

Funny how sometimes you don’t get what you want but you get what you need.

I spent five days reading a book a day, so I could stop thinking about the situation. I ate good food, drank good wine.

I didn’t discuss the role, the situation, or the decision I needed to make.

After five days, at the final dinner, it hit me — an epiphany — “It’s time to quit the corporate 9–5”. That was it.

The distance from the problem inevitably revealed the decision.

A-ha! So this is why so many leaders meditate and take distance from problems through silence and stillness because when you take time away from the problem, the solution presents itself.

Once I had that thought, the weight on my shoulders lifted, and everything seemed lighter. My problem shifted from one of loss of control and overwhelm, to feeling in control of my work and my life again. More crucially it began to energize me to think of new ideas and new paths to take.

I realize that quitting outright is not always an option but if I didn’t have the freedom to quit without financial pressure, I would still have started the process of looking for alternate work internally or externally. It just so happened that for me if gave me the freedom to pursue the entrepreneurship route.

Distance yourself from the decision

Call it instinct, call it a gut feeling, call it intuition, but when you have a challenge or an important decision to make, distance from the problem helps you make tough decisions. Counterintuitive, but it works.

Even now when I take a day to read on the balcony instead of sitting at my desk and tackling my long list of to-do’s, I find myself coming up with more ideas and more creative solutions to problems than I ever would have found sitting at the desk.

Three steps to create “distance” effectively day-to-day

  1. Meditate. It’s like a reset, it creates distance from your problems in the comfort of your own space. If you don’t know how you’ll find a few articles here with tips, it is simpler than you think and is the fastest route to peace of mind, patience, and problem-solving.

  2. Morning pages. From Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, writing morning pages is a method to unleash creativity. Since solutions must be creative it’s a great daily method to get the little stuff or nonsense out of your mind to clear space for the big stuff, the new ideas, and decisions.

  3. Read. As much as you can, when you can. This is why I love traveling by train without access to WiFi, the opportunity to read. Fiction or non-fiction doesn’t matter, just shifting your mindset by seeing things through someone else’s eyes, or dipping into someone else’s world can create a portal for new ideas and creative problem-solving.

. . .

In the end, when I came back from vacation, I walked into that office, and I quit. I spent the following year exploring entrepreneurship, discovering what drove me, what excited me and I have never looked back.

If you are in the midst of indecision or having a particularly tough challenge, try to put it from your mind and take a bit of distance from the challenge or decision.

Then be brave and listen when your gut instinct says, “Here’s the answer”.

You already know the answer. You’ve got this.

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