Change is full of decisions and uncertainty.  At times it feels like stumbling upon a fork in the road on a foggy day when you don’t have a map, and you can’t see where the paths lead.  You know that you have to choose a way, but your not certain which way to go.

When presented with a change in which we need to make a decision, our response can be categorized as one of three responses; YES, NO, and NOT YET.  (Note:  Not deciding is a decision.  It’s an implied decision.)

Although this might seem obvious, even the most simple decision contains all of them.  Most of the time, we don’t see all three unless we look hard. 

Let’s start with YES.  We say YES are the things we actively choose to do.  Most of the time, we say YES is what we believe we want. (Unless we are choosing between the best of two bad situations, but we will cover that another time).  But with every YES, we are saying NO to a laundry list of possibilities, many of them unknown. 

For example, let’s say you get a dream job offer in another city.  It is what you have always hoped for at a salary beyond what you’re making currently.  With little hesitation, you jump at the opportunity.  Taking the job might seem like a simple YES

Let’s say that you had a second job offer at the same time.  It is obvious that you would have to say NO to that offer.   This is a known NO.  But what about the possible job that might come available a month later?  If you move to another city, you are also saying No to this and many other opportunities that might come up.  This one Yes can lead to a series of unknown NOs.

No can be just as complicated.  Some NOs are hard and fast NOs while others are unknown NOT YETs.  Many times, what we think is a NO is just a NOT YET

Over time, a NO can morph into a YES.

I’ve experienced this over the last few weeks.  I’ve been in the market for a used car and thought I had everything figured out.  I began the process with the idea I would only buy a car with one specific interior color (beige).  I was saying NO to all the other interiors (black).  As I continued to look at vehicles, the other colors started to grow on me until the point I bought a car with a black interior.   My first NO was an unknown NOT YET.  It then became a YES!

So why does this matter?  Is this just a philosophical muse?  I don’t think so.

As organizations, teams, and people go through changes, they need to make a multitude of choices.  Each one can contain a series of YESes, NOs and NOT YETs.  Many of these are hidden and unknown. 

As time goes on and more information becomes available, understanding will change.  Decisions will change. 

Ideas that a manager was dead set against six months ago might become the next thing to try.  A corporate policy that promised to solve everyone’s problems might be viewed as a failure in a year.

Knowledge has a way of turning YES to NO and NO to YES.  YES and NO are not black and white.  They each have a shade a gray.

When you say YES, try to understand the possible NOs that comes along with it.  When you say NO, look for what opens up. 

Most of all, show grace to everyone, including yourself, when you realize you chose the wrong option.  We all make mistakes.  We all change our mind as we get more information.   It’s part of being human. 

Can you think of a situation where a NO became a YES?  How have you changed because of that?

Photo by Alex Rodríguez Santibáñez on Unsplash