There is something about Choice

If you find it hard to make decisions, or believe you have no choice about what you do with your life, there may be something in your choice strategy that you might want to think about adjusting.

Here are a few (all right, a lot) of questions you might consider. Not all of them will apply to you, but if they do, think about what a different strategy for choosing could do for you.

“To chose or not to chose, that is the question…”

If you chose to choose what would you choose?

  • When does choice require consciousness, how often do you choose without thinking about it?
  • What is the difference between choice and decision?
  • What stops you choosing?
  • When is not choosing a choice in itself?
  • What are the consequences?


What influences your choices? (chance, evidence, gut feeling, circumstance, other people, fate, what else?)

  • What gets between you and your choices?

How do you choose?

What rules do you give yourself for choice?

  • For example, you might allow yourself indulgences, or there could be an ought/must/should operating for your choice strategy.
  • Must every choice be either-or, neither-nor, yes or no?
  • Can it be a little of this, a dash of that, a handful of those, a sack full of these?

How quickly do you choose? Is it instinct, reaction, deliberation, reflection, procrastination….

How much does safety influence your choices?

If you need permission, whose permission is it? Are you sure?

 When is ‘can’t’ really ‘won’t’ or ‘don’t want to’?

 What is so impossible about impossibility?

 Do you know what the right choice is?

When faced by apparently equally bad options, what do you do?

  • How do your beliefs about the world, yourself, other people, shape your choices?
  • Is there a moral factor, a congruence? Does it feel right, or just less wrong?

What do you take into account when choosing?

 Perhaps you second guess the future, like a game of chess, thinking five moves ahead – this choice will lead to…If I do this, then I will … /want to be able to …

Having considered all these questions

  • What patterns do you recognise in the way you make ( or don’t make) choices?
  • What do you want to do differently?
  • How will that help you?

copyright Cherry Potts, Change from Choice 2009

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The wind of change

There is a curse attributed to the Chinese, which is translated two ways:

May you never be bored and May you live in interesting times.

 The implication is that change brings depths of distress you would only wish on your worst enemies; yet in business we regularly seek out, bring about, volunteer for, and initiate change.

 Moving a pebble can bring about an avalanche.

 If you have ever played the game Jenga, which involves removing blocks from the bottom of a tower in order to place them at the top, building ever higher, without undermining the structure to the point that the tower collapses, you will understand the principle of planning for enough change, and knowing when to stop.

 The rules of Jenga insist you keep going until disaster strikes. This is unnecessary and undesirable in the business world, but still people will keep moving the foundations in search of greater height.

And often, it is not height that is achieved. The wearying cycle of what goes around comes around; the endless centralise/decentralise; specialise/generalise game, leaves one thinking that the most radical change might be to stop changing, but, but, but!

 As Darwin observed,

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent but the one most responsive to change.

Do changes happen to you?

 Are you the grist in the mill, or are you the grain?

Are you the millstone, grinding without thought,

or the miller, gauging the setting of the stones, the strength and direction of the wind, ready to turn the sails to the most favourable direction, or apply the brake when the wind is too strong, or there has been enough grain ground; Can you keep a weather eye out, can you harness unpredictable forces, and turn them to positive, productive energy?

or are you the wind that drives that sail, literally the wind of change?

Be the change you want to see in the world. Gandhi

copyright Cherry Potts, Change from Choice 2008

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Choosing Happiness

Recognising happiness is an art; some people wouldn’t know happy if it got up and slapped them with a wet fish.

How do you know you are happy?

Happy relative to:

  • Other people
  • How I used to be
  • What I imagine happy to be
  • How happy is constructed for me by the media?

According to US Declaration of Independence, the ‘pursuit’ of happiness is an inalienable right … how do you do that, exactly?

The right is not to happiness itself, but to seek after, to strive for, to hunt down, some elusive might-be.

But is happiness elusive?  Or do we simply not notice?  Is it perhaps not the pursuit but the acceptance of happiness that is important?

After all, do you actively seek to be unhappy- do you pursue misery?  Do you have a right to be unhappy- It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to?

(Maybe some adolescents go through a phase of this actually, I think I did!)

Do you secretly think that being unhappy is somehow interesting, perhaps even glamorous, along with terminal illness, tragedy and plain bad luck?  Might happiness be, (whisper it) just a little bit, boring?

Is happiness something you can achieve on your own, with your own self, or does it require an ‘other’, be it a lover, friends, family, work, possessions, experiences…

So, Happiness then:

When did you last notice you were happy?

On a scale of 0 (miserable) to 10 (blissed out) how happy were you?

(If you picked an occasion with a very high score, when was the last time you were happy enough? And what score does that get?)

How long did that last?

What was it about that happiness that let you know you were happy?

For you –

phot of man in silly hat  star jumping

What does Happy feel like? copyright C Potts 2010

  • What is happiness?
  • What constituent parts does it have, if it has parts?
  • Where is happiness (if it has a position)– in time, in space; how near is it, is it internal or external?
  • What does happy look like (if you ‘see’ it)- what colour, shape, size; how bright, how distinct is it?
  • What does happy sound like (if you ‘hear’ it)– how loud, how distinct is it, what rhythm does it have?
  • What does happiness feel like?  (if you ‘feel’ it)  -what temperature, texture, size, pressure, does it have?

These are suggestions- you may experience happiness in some other way- notice what that way is.

If you re-create the position/sight/sound/feeling/… intentionally, what happens?

On that scale of 0-10, how happy are you most of the time?

How happy do you need to be?

How much happiness can you take?

How long can you be happy for?

What about content, cheer, gladness, joy, bliss?

You may have some idea now of what happy means to you.

So a closed question to close with.

Can you choose to be happy?

Copyright Cherry Potts, Change from Choice 2008

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Stick Around

Hi there.

Thanks for dropping by.

Maybe you are surfing aimlessly, or searching with purpose…

Do you mind if I ask you what brought you here?

What caught your eye that got you to stop long enough to read this far?

Maybe you are after answers or perhaps you enjoy the freedom of the question.

What are you looking for?

Answers are your privilege, not mine, but if you want to be asked some






Stick around.

I may have something for you.

What are you looking for?

Where did your search begin?

What can you imagine you might want for yourself?

Who are you?

What does happy mean for you?

Who are you?

What could change

Look like

Feel like

Sound like?

What do you want your choices to be?

What are you getting out of this brief engagement?

What would make it (even) better?

Get in touch

With the questions

With yourself

With me


Look for the right questions, or the wrong questions which throw the right question into contrast.

Listen to your answers.

Discover whatever there is to discover,

Knowing what you already know,

You know what else you need to know;

And perhaps you already know that


  • Copyright Cherry Potts, Change from Choice 2008
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Organisational Harmony

If the purpose of your organisation were to make music, what kind of music would you make?

Who would play which instruments?

Is the tune you are currently playing popular with your audience? If not, what needs to change?

Are your colleagues ‘singing from the same hymn sheet?’ If not, who has the right tune, and how can you learn from them?

Playing together

Musicians get together and play music, sometimes they rehearse together sometimes separately, but there is usually an expectation of performance to follow. In an orchestra they will have the score, which equate to a strategy, which gives them their own role in the great scheme. When playing a particular passage there is understanding of the start and finish and how what they are doing fits into the whole work, because they have the score. Individual players or groups of players take separate themes, which from time to time, come together, but the themes are in harmony with each other.

If you don’t have all the parts of the score, or no score at all, what an individual is playing doesn’t automatically make sense, the person playing the individual part understands it, the people close to them may, but beyond that possibly not.

In smaller groups playing less traditional music, improvisation may be encouraged or expected. When musicians interpret the music for themselves and innovate you get variations on a theme, grace notes and unexpected tangents which bring individuality to the role. These can spark off a further improvisation in someone/anyone else, but only if they are listening.

You have your role, and it can be done to perfection but if you aren’t listening to what’s happening elsewhere you can be half a beat out, or in the wrong key and it’s a disaster. This makes life difficult for your colleagues because they have to speed up or down, or tune up or down to keep in step with you

Working together can be jamming and harmonising. Everyone can take a turn at leading or starring, and is allowed to have their moment, even in some classical music scores.

What’s your style?

What is the place of the organisation in the world?

Smaller go-getting companies are like jazz bands; large corporations are more like orchestras.

Musicians choose and train to play a particular instrument, and chooses the kind of music they have a preference for playing – even in orchestra music Baroque is different from Romance is different from 21st century classical, all played by orchestras, but the style is very different; chamber orchestras are much smaller than symphony orchestras, jazz, rock and folk groups tend to be even smaller (although not necessarily!) and there are always the singer song writers who could be equated to the sole traders. There is a niche for all styles of music; some of those niches are incredibly small.

What part do you play?

Who is the leader in a musical environment?


In an orchestra someone needs to be conducting- but that is co-ordination, not necessarily leading. Traditionally the leader of an orchestra is first violin, and the orchestra hire a conductor. In jazz and rock this role can be taken by anyone, although musically you could argue that the rhythm section and especially the drummer is the coordinator.


The soloist or singer can be a leader of a kind at least temporarily, and often producing something completely different to the rest of the musicians, but always complementing what they do.


Is your organisation led by the response of the audience? Are the audience your customers, shareholders, or your board?


And what about in a 4-piece band? The leader might be the singer, the guitarist, or the lyricist… You may choose to share leadership, or you may need to be very clear who is in charge.

What kind of instrument are you?

Wind instruments and singers (flute, trumpet, etc) equate to the head- and tend to be thinkers, talkers, and planners.

Within this what are you…Tuba, or piccolo?

String instruments (violin, guitar, etc) equate to the heart and nerves and tend to be caring, emotional, helpers.

Within this what are you…Double bass, or ukulele?

Percussion instruments (drums, piano etc) equate to the guts and tend to be steady, bottom line organisers.

Within this what are you… Kettledrum, or triangle?

Can you be lots of different instruments?

Do you want to be a different instrument than you are now?

How would it be if you were?

Which part of your organisation is which part of the orchestra?

Who is it you can’t hear?

Which team or individual is the drum beat?

Which team or individual is the tinkling bell – you do notice when its there, just not very often.

Where you have too many people with same skill set or where is there something missing- you may not have a drum, or not have any woodwind- but that might be ok if you are a string quartet.

What if in the middle of an orchestra you have a jazz saxophonist (Think of the credits for The Simpsons!!)

What’s the score?

A conducting score shows the part every individual has to play, it covers the depth of complexity that the conductor executive should actually look at; the conductor executive has to pay attention to what everyone has to do.

Only the conductor has the full score, individual scores might be pages of nothing but rests, followed by lots of activity, and then further rest.

How often does your conductor executive show your organisation the whole score?

The tune your organisation plays

Your tune might have major (happy) and minor (sad) keys and themes. It might be loud or soft, fast or slow, it might change from one to the other over time, it might rise to a crescendo at busy times of year, or towards the end of a project.

Do you believe you know how to play the tune? ‘That’s how we’ve always done it’. How do you do it? What does it sound like from outside your team or organisation?

Do you or your team play the main melody or the harmony, or the rhythm, or just the occasional emphasis? If your contribution weren’t there would the tune still work?

And at the end, the audience applaud.

Companies rarely remember to celebrate their successes and give credit to their colleagues.

Without exception, musicians acknowledge each other’s contribution while accepting applause. They understand that you hear what you have done, know what people’s contribution is and you know you did it together.

copyright Cherry Potts, Change from Choice 2007

With thanks to Miha Pogacnik whose talk at St. Luke’s for the LBF got me thinking about this.

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