Time For Tough Decisions

Ah, Spring. The grass turns green, flowers begin to bloom, birds chirp happily in the air. It’s time to renew, refresh, re-create.

It’s also the time to ask some really tough questions, make some really tough decisions, and take some really tough actions. Now is the time of year that we should be asking ourselves what are we going to do differently for the rest of the year? What do we need to stop doing? What do we need to start doing? What do we need to clean up? What CHANGES do we need to make to be the best we can be right now?

The process of re-creation isn’t all butterflies and rainbows, is it? In fact, it can be downright painful and a lot of extra work. But it’s worth it if you stick it out. And the more you stick it out, the stronger and more resilient you become.

I was reminded of this as I tried to clear some ivy from my flower beds over the weekend. Ivy is, well, evil. You can clear it out, but it never dies. It slowly creeps back and before you know it, you’ve got to clear it out again.

Now you might think I’m going to say something like “Ivy is like the stuff in our lives that keeps creeping back, and we have to stop once in awhile to clean it up or it will completely take us over.”

But I’m not, as clever as that analogy might be.

Actually, I had a much different observation as I was pulling, straining, cussing (just a little), and completely exhausting myself trying to rid my flowerbeds of this demonic plant. The reason ivy is so hard to get rid of is that it doesn’t have a single, central root. As the vines grow longer, every so often they sprout another root that reaches down and grabs the dirt with a surprisingly firm grip. And it takes an amazing amount of effort to destroy all the work the ivy has done. In fact, after much struggle, you usually only break off the vine and most of the roots stay in the dirt. That’s why it’s able to grow back. The roots are still there.

When we go through a re-creation process we have to make tough decisions. As painful as it may be, every time we work our way through one of these decisions and take action we lay down another root. Making tough decisions and taking difficult actions makes us grow. And it’s not always growth you can see right away. Periods of re-creation are often periods of “it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

This isn’t as much about change as it is about transition. We want the change, right? We can see how life will be better on the other side of our tough decisions and difficult actions. But, man, do we dread the period of transition. Why? Because it usually involves hard work and discomfort for us.

But if we’re ever going to grow up, we first have to grow down. In other words, we’ve got to lay down some more roots. The more we make tough decisions and take difficult actions, the more roots we put down and the more resilient we become.

In the worst of the recent recession, I had to make the tough decision to lay off six out of eight of my employees. That’s 75% of my work force. That’s about as drastic of a reduction as you can have without completely shutting your doors. That was a dark, dark time for me. It was also the strongest period of growth as a manager, leader, and business owner that I’ve ever experienced. None of that growth could really be seen. It was all internal, all in my heart and mind. And I grew some strong roots that continue to help me weather the tough times. I’m not saying it would be impossible to uproot me at this point, but the roots I’ve laid in the last 12 months would certainly put up quite a fight.

It’s much easier to not grow roots. It’s much easier to not make the tough decisions. There’s a very strong, primal part of our brain that tries incredibly hard to keep us from taking risks and getting hurt. In Seth Godin’s new book, Linchpin, he calls it “the resistance.” And he says the only way we ever create anything is to work our buns off against the resistance.

So I ask you now, what are you resisting?

What tough decisions do you need to make?
What do you need to do differently?
What do you need to start?
What do you need to stop? 
What do you need to CHANGE to be the best you can be right now?

What roots do you need to grow?

Make tough decisions, take difficult actions, and the roots will begin to take hold. It’s automatic. It ‘aint always pretty, but it’s necessary if you ever want to grow.


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