Creating Personal Policies
“I’m sorry, but that’s my policy”
What had I been thinking?
Here I was, on the third day of a trip to Chicago during the dog days of summer, and I was having a meltdown. An utterly predictable, preventable meltdown.
Actually, I do know what I had been thinking: I really wanted to visit my sister in her new home, in a new city. But I wasn’t taking into account how badly my body and spirit wilt in the hot weather.
We spent our first day at a food festival, the second at the botanical gardens, and the third in the Frank Lloyd Wright neighborhood. Here’s where I melted down, insisting like a tween that I wanted to make a very short trip to the next house in the car and then stomping away when my idea was rejected.
Later that evening, back at my sister’s air-conditioned home, I regained my reason. I realized that I had made my fatal mistake back when I booked my tickets. Summer is no time for me to travel.
So I decided then and there to institute a personal policy: As much as I want to see you, I’ll wait until the cooler weather to visit you.
And a weight lifted. It’s now a no-brainer for me: no summer visits. If someone suggests one, there’s no angst-ridden decision-making, no Sturm und Drang trying to explain myself. It’s just a fact, ma’am, a policy. No summertime visits.
Since that happy epiphany, I’ve been in a policy-making frenzy, and I invite you to join in the fun.
Consider what a policy is, and what it can do for you. Essentially, a policy is a pre-determined choice or way of doing something. It’s like an app, or a keyboard shortcut.
A policy relieves you of having to make repeated decisions on a “case-by-case” basis; instead, you make the decision efficiently, only once. A policy gives you a rationale to fall back on in difficult situations, when it’s hard to think things all the way through. And a policy allows you to keep things impersonal when there’s a danger of hurt feelings.
A policy also teaches others what you stand for, what your priorities are, and where your boundaries are. For example, you may design a policy about deadlines. “I’m sorry, I need at least [fill in the blank] of advance-notice to make changes to the schedule.” Or you may design a policy about criteria. “I’m sorry, I only contribute to organizations that [fill in the blank].”
A policy is a clarification tool, both for you (what is my best practice?) and for others (how do I communicate it?).
Now that you’re yearning for your own set of personal policies, I’ll walk you through the six-step process:
- First, take a week to inventory the situations that cause you stress when you have to take action or make a decision.
- Second, sort the situations into categories (for example, “last-minute changes” or “unreasonable requests”).
- Third, assess the best way for you to handle each category.
- Fourth, design a policy for each category.
- Fifth, rehearse the policy. Write it down, tell it to a mirror, own it.
- Sixth, regularly review and refine.
Your personal policies will help you stay on-balance and on-track. You won’t easily be pulled off center by the unexpected. You’ll steer your own life rather than letting it be buffeted about by the needs and demands of other people.
Personal policies are especially useful when you’re in the midst of a Do-Over! Being able to plainly, precisely communicate your new priorities and practices is absolutely crucial to creating real change in your life. When you get the inevitable pushback, you’ll be able to neutralize it with an even-tempered response. If you’re consistent, you will swiftly build the community and infrastructure you need to support your reinvention.
But most of all, personal policies are good because you really don’t want to see me have a meltdown.
Ann Daly PhD (www.anndaly.com) is a coach and consultant devoted to the success and advancement of women. She is the award-winning author of six books, including Clarity: How to Accomplish What Matters Most and Do-Over! How Women Are Reinventing Their Lives. Visit her blog, “Women, Clarity, & Power,” at www.anndaly.com.