Three Seconds: The Power of Thinking Twice

“Let the first impulse pass, wait for the second.” – Balthasar Gracian

As project managers we are tempted every day to react to issues on our projects that seem to come out of nowhere. While some of our decisions can be immediate, many of them could benefit from a little more reflection, or even just 3 more seconds of thought.

That’s what Les Parrott writes about in his book: 3 Seconds: The Power of Thinking Twice. In a very slim volume (193 pages), he goes through 5 different instances where giving the first impulse a second thought could make a significant difference. I won’t go through them all, boring you and spoiling the book, but I will give the highlights of one.

The first impulse that we tend to yield to is the impulse to “Give up before trying….because we feel helpless.”
Rather than giving up, he recommends that we build up our mental muscle of self-efficacy, or “the power to produce desired results.” He gives us three tips on strengthening our self-efficacy:

  1. Say What You Know, Instead of What You Don’t
    When you’re least confident, he writes, you tend to focus on what you don’t know. So by saying what you know, you’ll free your mind to search for solutions.
  2. Cultivate Care – and Really Mean It
    Caring about what happens to others is when you “engage and transfer self-efficacy,” he writes. As so many others have written, you help yourself when you help others.
  3. Brandish Optimism Like a Weapon
    Instead of explaining events in a negative way, choose to tell yourself a story that brings life: that you need to change your approach or that the person with the chip on their shoulder was just in a bad mood. Being optimistic, he writes,“is like a sharp sword, cutting through barriers to empowerment.”

Because of its length, the quotes and stories in the book, I added the book to my collection for rereading. I need to keep its advice close at hand during the challenges I’m currently facing. I recommend it for your collection.

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