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Watch Your Step

Watch Your Step

Posted on 06. May, 2016 by gilly in Coach's Wisdom

If I had 10 euros for every time a client asked me: “but how do I know if I’m making the right decision?” I’d be rich. In any kind of coaching this is a perennial question.

In life too.

Last summer, early one morning, the stunning, perfectly fit men, sporting chic sunglasses, photogenic miniature dogs (typically crossbreeds between Yorkshires and Poodles, and other adorable “throw pillow” format cuties) and 2-seater vintage cars—Alfa spiders, MG’s, early 70’s Karmann Ghia’s—were out on 2-Mile Hollow beach (one of my favorite spots in the world). Most were lovingly toweling the sand off their Yorkoodles, or engaging in impromptu banter while balancing skim lattes. This New Yorker cartoon-worthy scene on one of my favorite beaches always makes me gleeful. I take it as an apt reminder to just play more in life and make time for more lightness.

Accustomed to being one of the rare women in this morning beach scene, I politely hello’d my way by, trotting towards the waterline for a modest beach run.

There is a specific band of wet sand at the water’s edge that’s ideal for running—not too mushy and just firm enough. My challenge is staying on this strip while avoiding the waves lapping at my shoes. It is a constant dance, away from the water towards the softer sand, which is at a slight incline and definitely too taxing to run on, and back again. When the waves unfurling on the coastline are erratic, I end up negotiating an elegant zigzag, requiring dozens of nimble, real-time, ad-hoc adjustments.

In such moments, no one can advise you. You alone must gauge where the edge of the wave will rise, how quickly to sprint sideways, or whether you can accelerate forward, in time enough to miss the fingers of the imminent wave’s reach.

It occurred to me that we all need to exercise this subtle (and private) combination of flash-prediction, intuition and dexterity in so many domains (and in real time!) of our life: office politics, relationships, investments, child-rearing challenges. What’s too much, what’s too little, too fast, too slow, too soon, or too late? It’s sometimes hard to gauge with any confidence, and yet, we do make rapid assessments all the time, and act accordingly.

There are times (like that day on the beach just before these thoughts formed) when glancing at a loud seagull halved my concentration and I was suddenly, jarringly, ankle deep in cold water. I let out an unexpected yelp, which hopefully only the seagull heard, and bounced onto higher, drier ground. There was water trapped in my socks, squishy and annoying but I carried on. Definitely not comfortable, sea water in shoes but, ultimately, manageable. I knew the water would evaporate as soon as I’d put the shoes in the sun, and that they’d be dry by tomorrow.

Life is full of split-second decisions.

Instances where you just need to think without thinking, as Malcolm Gladwell puts it.

Sometimes you make a decision that hits the nail on the head, sometimes you miss the mark. Welcome to the human race. In moments when you “take your eye off the ball,” there’s obviously a chance that something could happen, and yes, something you cannot control and… So what? Who said you can’t run with wet socks?

Only you can make your decisions, and no one will ever know better than you whether they are right or wrong, though plenty of people will chime in how or how bad your choice was, sometimes with the best of intentions. Yet at the end of the day, what matters is: you’ll know whether they are the right ones for you.

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