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Better decision-making can come from patience 

A few months ago I wrote a post discussing the challenges that fear brings. We all know a bit of fear can be good, as it heightens our senses and tends to keep us safe. We also know that an overabundance of fear prevents us from truly recognizing our own capabilities. 

This has certainly been a year and a half where fear has shaped us and our work. We have had to let it guide us more than we normally might want to. In the post earlier this year, I wrote of welcoming normalcy and focusing on the importance of doing our best to balance fear and free-spiritedness.

I still stand by that post and believe that my thinking was sound. That said, I believe, as in the words of an '80s glam metal band, that we just need a little patience. Yeah.
The challenge is that, just like a pendulum, we can very easily swing from actions on one side of the spectrum to actions on the other. This isn’t always a bad thing; it is just human nature. Often, we need to utilize patience to help us slow down and think through the directions we are going. 

For instance, using a school and pandemic example, relaxing mask restrictions is great, and the science supports it. However, protesting masking, regardless of vaccination status, can be problematic and can send mixed signals to young children and hurt community and culture. Thus, taking the time to understand what people are thinking, why they are thinking it and how to bridge gaps is the key to making everyone feel supported, which must be a goal of every school system. 

To do that, everyone just needs a little patience.

With that in mind, I recommend three strategies to encourage patience before decision-making or action-taking. Pandemic recovery or not, sometimes all it takes is a little patience. (Sorry -- I was a big Guns N’ Roses fan in the '80s).

 

1. Zoom out 

What you see (or sense) is truly what you get. If we only ever see the tree by itself, we don’t recognize its place in the forest. A larger view of a situation or problem isn’t always easy, but it’s always helpful in recognizing that very few parts of our lives are uncomplicated and that decisions never happen in isolation. Like a good Choose Your Own Adventure book (those were the greatest), everything we do informs what comes next. 
Unlike those books though, we can’t go back to the start and replay decisions. While it is harder, and requires more time, it is better to envision many options and implications prior to committing to one, rather than going into a series of decisions with only an eye to what is right in front of us.

 

2. Employ the “sleep on it” rule

I have spoken of this rule in the past, and I do seriously live by it. Some decisions require immediate attention, but most of us in the education space can afford at least an evening of consideration. It is amazing how short periods of separation from an idea or situation can either help us move forward or provide us with necessary perspective. 
Sleeping on a challenge should never be construed as avoiding it. The patient leader recognizes that anyone can make a split-second decision, but not every split-second decision has benefits in the long-term. If we want lasting change and want to support success for all learners, then it only makes sense that a quick decision might be missing a piece or two.

 

3. Switch modes 

Sometimes I think and communicate better when working face-to-face with other people; other times, I need to journal or write by myself to fully progress through a situation. Learn when each mode is best for you, and also recognize the need for a switch if you are feeling trapped or pressured during the decision process.

To help others understand a need to take more time on a decision, consider sharing this statement via writing: “This is all helpful information. I would like to request some time to process and think through these ideas and then set up a time to meet together.” 
If a face-to-face structure isn’t working, try saying: “In the current context, if we make a decision, I believe we will be missing some key pieces. I would like to end our meeting with a promise that I will draft some thoughts to send to the group to consider.” 

Both of these are ways to promote patience in ourselves (and others) and emphasize that the best decisions will not come in the current structure.
Patience is a virtue. It is also hard to come by, particularly in times of recovery. Yet, without relying on it, we can very easily move too fast, ignore too many signs and find ourselves in a difficult situation. By being measured and patient, we can better understand the challenges in front of us and recognize the impact of our actions or inactions. Only then can we truly support all those we serve. 

So, have a little patience. Yeah.

 

Fred Ende is the director of curriculum and instructional Services for Putnam/Northern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. Fred currently blogs for SmartBrief Education, and his two books, Professional Development That Sticks and Forces of Influence, are available from ASCD. Connect with Fred on his website or on Twitter.

 

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