I know a kindergartner named Ariana who commits to everything she says. Her declarations convey absolute certainty – clean, clear and frequent. And, she wastes no time on doubling back or rethinking. Just a straight shot from the middle of her little being and out through a wide open mouth and her huge blue eyes.
Monday, for example, when I came into the cafeteria, she ran toward me screaming “Carmelita won’t ever be my friend. Not forever!” And, when she made her statement, she stomped her left food, then her right, and stood her ground.
Ten minutes later, with the past long gone, she declared how much she loved her best friend – Carmelita – and wanted to stay friends forever. No flinching and no need for consistency. She spoke her truth, went forward, and gave off no hint of doubt.
Commitment and confidence go hand and hand in this way. These two states of mind couple best in young children. At some later date, experience and time deliver that blunt-force smack in the snout – setbacks, blind spots, the unexpected -and one learns to slow a bit – to think twice.
We cling to things that comfort us. A leader who looks out with steely eyes over the field and makes decisions without pause can amass followers, even if (s)he lies or is blind to another way. I yearn for the courage to act coupled with cool calm – a pairing that escapes me at times. Even as a boy, I pulled punches, paused, weighed choices, and second-guessed decisions. My mother tells me I never sat on any chair without looking at it first. The ability to act has had to worked its way up from a kind of gray area where, much of the time, I feel doubts as well.
Pausing before acting brought advantages, too. Biting my tongue and resisting the first impulse bought me time. I withheld decisions and disregarded the cost of resisting action – even ones I believed in. I became skilled and inhabiting a middle ground where I could dodge and duck the strong wills and conflicting passions. And, I know that I paid for that purposeful pause.
All of these thoughts bring me to the present moment, at a time where talk about what it takes to be a great leader is in, and where I get to look out on a crowded field of tin soldiers who claim to have answers and present themselves with the unflinching confidence. How do they appear to push aside doubt and beckon people to follow them? What happens when you listen past the talking points to a more truthful, but less assuring place?
No easy outs remain. This fact plays out in my life and on a global stage. Scott Balderson, a well regarded counselor in the Bay Area refers to our circumstance as “living in the question.” In response to this question, we look to find balance between doubt and confidence that can lead to grounded commitment. Ariana, my little kindergartner, brings it home for me. She reminds me that commitment happens in the body, not the head.
Let it come from the gut. And, know that truth, time, and an open heart make the adjustments to the end result.