This article originally appeared in Forbes.
Co-authored with Agata Antonow
According to studies, the average adult makes about 35,000 decisions of which they are at least somewhat conscious each day. That number doesn’t take into consideration the decisions we make that we’re not aware of. Feeling tired already?
While choices can seem like an endless obstacle course we’re running each day — "Do I choose this candidate for the position or that one? Should I work on the project or go to the gym?" — what doesn’t get much attention is the connection between decisions and power. Every moment where we select between two or more options is an opportunity to tap into our power. While many men are trying to reduce the number of choices they make — Silicon Valley billionaires are famous for having one set of clothes they can wear each day — women can grab hold of choice moments to leverage their strength.
Consider these three common points of decision-making and the ripple effects each can have:
Decision Point No. 1: Try to be perfect or move forward with integrity?
Are you paralyzed when it’s time to hit send on a project, or do you freeze when it’s time to speak up in a meeting? Do you think you need to edit or do more research to make sure every box is checked off?
Many of us have a need to be right or a desire to be liked, and we think perfectionism will get us a sense of admiration or belonging. In fact, perfectionism can be isolating and can rob us of opportunities. While we’re reviewing the already edited press release one more time, there are important relationships being forged and new opportunities emerging. We don’t feel heard when we allow a need to be perfect take hold and we get caught in an internal story about what it means to be “enough.”
Instead, when we choose to act from a space where we are in alignment with our personal value and working towards the best possible outcome, we allow ourselves to be enough right now. Once we’ve put in the work, we don’t have to second-guess. By sending our work out in the world, we change how we show up and we change our mindset. When we set down the burden of perfectionism, we are telling ourselves we deserve to be heard and we create a ripple effect. We get immediate feedback we can use to make the work stronger, and we’re moving forward, building momentum. Once we hit send, we free ourselves to branch out to the next project, the next decision and the next goal we have.
Decision Point No. 2: Promote myself or stay quiet?
Masculinity is often tied to confidence, and many men in our culture are rewarded for being outspoken and self-assured from an early age. Women, on the other hand, tend to get mixed messages. Of course, being confident is seen as desirable for the professional woman, but many women are also taught to be polite and modest, which can mean not talking over others and not bragging.
The good news is that it’s not a zero-sum game. When we shift to seeing self-promotion as a way to authentically connect our talents with other people’s skills, it feels less like “bragging,” and so we take less of the baggage of that word along. Instead, we get a chance to celebrate our own successes and those of others. We also contribute when we self-promote since we move towards the positions that are the best fit and will best benefit the company. We’re not just endorsing ourselves, we’re also moving toward a better future for the entire team.
Decision point No. 3: Strongly advocate for consideration of my ideas or let someone else dismiss me or talk over me?
No one has to be too deferential or too heavy-handed in a meeting to succeed, but it can feel like a fine line when someone ignores your idea, interrupts you or talks over you. Now what?
You may want to rush right in and become a rescuer on steroids, especially if you are the voice for your team. The first step is to pause and acknowledge the interruption. Consider what you can and cannot control. You can control your own actions, emotional responses and words, but you cannot force someone else to react in the way you expect or want.
Every moment where we select between two or more options is an opportunity to tap into our power.
One option is to place yourself in a space of vision and possibility. If you are being spoken over, step into a future where you are a C-suite executive or someone who has the power to get others to listen. What does it feel like in that space? How do you speak, walk, carry yourself, and decide in this space? What is your internal monologue? Often, that future vision has solutions you can implement right now, and by stepping as viscerally as possible into the possibility of the future, you can break down the barriers between what you are telling yourself you can or should do now and the future self. In other words, you may imagine your current self to be trapped because of your internal dialogue (“I shouldn’t interrupt”), but the potential of a future self does not have these dialogues, so you are free to adopt new internal wording (“I can speak up for myself”), which can change the game.
The body is in fact often a good barometer for determining your choices. When you fully feel the moment of a decision in your body, you can use your kinesthetic sense. Instead of intellectualizing and imagining all the things that can happen if you make the “wrong” choice, you can use physical sensation to steer you. Does making that joke or engaging in gossip feel one way in your body? Does the possibility of speaking up for your idea create a different sensation? Paying attention can help you make the most out of those 35,000 instants where you have the opportunity to craft a better reality for yourself.