When used as a response, the term “Absolutely!” has a wonderfully positive ring to it, doesn’t it? But letting absolutism run your life can zap the joy, creativity, and possibility right out of your existence. So why do so many people cling to taking a clear-cut approach in everything that they do?
To be sure, living in a world of “It is what it is” has its benefits… shut doors can just remain shut, conserving energy. Facts and data can drive decisions without the need to explore gray areas. Decisions to give up, move on and shut down can happen more quickly based on clearly stated criteria, limitations, and preferences (either yours or others’).
I’ve seen absolutism take many forms, and some of them are quite stealthy (but still limiting). For example:
- Presentations, resumes, bios and corporate positioning propositions that are completely fact-based and lacking creativity (a ticket to commoditization).
- Acceptance or rejection of offers, projects, people or ideas based on predetermined (and often arbitrary) criteria.
- Discomfort with free-form conversations and ideations.
- Rigid, sometimes life-long adherence to an identity, including likes, dislikes and what can or cannot be achieved.
- Yielding to others’ absolutist metrics, limits and criteria without question.
- Giving up at the first push-back or point of resistance.
Ultimately, adhering to absolutes can seem the easy route, but in my experience, it is a far less rewarding way to go through life.
Throughout my career, I have been firmly told all kinds of things. My salary (absolutely) tops out at a certain point (it never did); certain companies (absolutely) never give sign-on bonuses (they did); particular companies (absolutely) hate consultants (they didn’t) or don’t have any budgets for them (they did); and many others. I’ve personally grown to love changing my mind about myself and others and pushing through strictures that just don’t hold water. In my consulting and speaking practice, I relish articulating how seemingly unrelated ideas are connected and taking my clients beyond their long-held ideas of what’s possible.
GIRL TO GREAT MANDATES
Try inserting the word “absolutely” into any daunting situation. Then challenge yourself to go beyond face value and press through those assumed restrictions. Examples:
- We (absolutely) have no budget. (Let’s evaluate priorities.)
- There is (absolutely) no chance of advancement there. (Promotions have happened before. What drove them?)
- They (absolutely) don’t hire anyone over thirty. (Most candidates over thirty might be too intimidated to apply?)
- I (absolutely) can’t afford to…
- I’m (absolutely) incapable of…
- Most job candidates, salespeople and creators will back off at the first sign of resistance (otherwise known as others’ absolutes). You will immediately stand out and increase your chances of success by simply taking one more step. Ask the next question, probe another possibility, make another call, and don't buy the bluster.
Get creative and intentional about plotting your escape from absolutism. It’s a ticket to opportunity and differentiation across every area of your life.
Isn’t that great?
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I launched the GirlToGreat series at the urging of the many women I've mentored and informally encouraged over the years. In this series, I share tools and tactics born from my experience, not theory, that will help you get out of your own way, make better use of where you are right now, and ditch the insecurity that is at the root of cringe-worthy compromises and playing small. Learn more about GirlToGreat
I am the founder of retail strategy and training agency, Spieckerman Retail. I blog on retail at spieckermanretail.com, and am a professional speaker, author and retail positioning trainer. I conduct retail positioning workshops around the world that arm companies with powerful tools for pursuing high-volume programs and strategic partnerships.
To learn more about my women's leadership support and retail-focused presentations, training and advisement, ping me at carol@spieckermanretail.