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Leadership

Strategies, advice and opinions helping to define and develop the role of IT leaders and their staffs.

Feeling stuck? How to recognize choices and explore greater possibilities

Choices. We always have choices but sometimes they become impossible to see. Today, let’s discuss why choices are important, what stops us from seeing our choices and how to explore possibilities instead of feeling stuck, resentful or powerless.

What does choice mean?

Choice means power, freedom and responsibility. It’s making a decision and living with the consequences. We can’t always make the right choice and sometimes we’re in a situation where our choices are not optimal—but we’ve always got a choice. Recognizing this is essential to our well-being.

Even young children know this. If you tell a toddler to put her shirt on, you might find yourself in a power struggle. But it’s a whole different situation when you ask, “Which shirt do you want to wear, the blue one or the red one?” The child becomes empowered by her own choice and she somehow knows that choice is more valuable than limits (and the demands of a tired parent).

Yet, as we grow up, it’s common to no longer see the choices we have.

What gets in the way of seeing our choices?

When we’re unable to recognize our choices, it’s often related to emotions, stories we tell ourselves, the past and doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Fear is such a powerful emotion; it paralyzes us or makes us think we don’t have a choice. We always have a choice. Fear can make us believe we’re not enough or that there’s only one way to do something. When we limit our thinking like this, the obstacles we see show us it’s impossible to accomplish what we’re trying to do. Of course, this is false because there are multiple ways to do something, whether it’s making a career change or running your household more peacefully.

Other emotions such as resentment, frustration and anger can also blind us to our options. In my coaching practice, I often see women burden themselves with the expectation that they can do it all. Yet, they become frustrated, angry and even resentful when nobody (at home or at work) steps in to help out. They feel the pressure to continue to do it all and can’t see any other options. I’ve caught many clients by surprise by saying, “Do you really have to do it all?” If they say yes, then you must ask “where does that come from?”

Stories and our past experiences can also make it more difficult to see our choices. We get blocked by our parents who are often just trying to keep us safe. Parents say, “Oh, don’t do that, don’t do this, you’ll get hurt, etc.” After all this conditioning, we create stories that prevent us from living in so many ways and reaching our fullest potential.

We put these limits on ourselves and spend our adult years trying to overcome our inner critic who clouds our vision when it comes to seeing possibilities. (For more on inner critics, you might like my article, Managing your gremlin: Transforming your inner critic into your biggest cheerleader.)

Finally, rules and repetition can make us blind to other possibilities. My kids have a history of doing math problems a different way. They get the right answer, but when they don’t follow the exact steps the teacher gives them, they lose marks. Thinking critically or outside the box is disincentivized and when that happens often enough, it’s common to stop looking for other ways of doing things.

Why it’s so important to see your choices

When we can see our choices, we feel empowered. We make better decisions and reduce the resentment we feel about the things we “have to” do. We don’t “have to” do anything; we have choices and by recognizing those choices, we put ourselves back in the driver’s seat of our lives.

We can see this play out by studying super-successful and innovative people. I love the story of Elon Musk. Here’s this guy sitting in rush hour traffic in LA and says to himself, “I’m going to build a tunnel and a high-speed train so I don’t have to sit in traffic.” Plus, he sent two astronauts to the International Space Station in a SpaceX rocket ship. The man knows his choices are near limitless.

Four methods to help you see your choices more clearly

Even if you’re paralyzed by fear or past conditioning, you can move beyond this to reveal the choices you have right now.

To see your choices more clearly:

1. Get enough information to make a good decision – You won’t always make the right decision but doing your homework lets you make the best decision possible right now. This gives you confidence in your decision and confidence in your ability to make a new decision if things don’t work out.

2. Ask yourself “what if” questions – Lack of clarity is stressful, and you can reduce this stress by thinking things through. Start your questions from a positive, expansive place. If you’re making a bold career change, you might want to ask, “What if I take this job and it’s the most meaningful position I’ve ever had?” or “What if I take this job and I build a high-performing team?” After this, you can also consider the challenges. For example, “What if I take this job and move across the country and I hate it?” or “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Ask and answer the questions for the scenarios you think of and you’ll see that you can handle whatever comes up.

3. Make a pros and cons list – This is a timeless decision-making tool. When you’re considering a decision, write down all the pros and cons you can think of. Stretch yourself into that expansive place and come up with at least three pros for your decision. It’s often much easier to see the cons which might not give us a true picture of the situation, especially if we’re a little fearful.

4. Get a coach to help you – If you’re stuck and you don’t want to do these self-directed exercises (or they haven’t helped you), it’s time to get some assistance. A good coach doesn’t tell you what your choices are. She helps you navigate all the possibilities, so you gain more clarity around the choices you make. If you’re always in your comfort zone but not quite satisfied, you can benefit from talking to a coach and uncovering what’s stopping you from moving forward. Your coach will help you to turn the invisible into something visible so that you can see possibilities.

So many times, we just go through the motions and we don’t even think about it. Then we get so comfortable it’s hard to see that other possibilities exist. To live our best lives at home and at work, it’s essential that we keep an open mind that recognizes the choices we always have.

Vicki Bradley is an executive coach who helps businesses attract, retain and develop talent to support bottom-line results in the retail, IT and finance sectors. Vicki works with presidents and CEOs to build strong executive teams and with women in or pursuing executive roles. www.wilempowered.com

Past Attendees


ADP - VP Architecture & Infrastructure

AESO - VP, Information Technology

Agnico Eagle Mines - VP, IT

Agrium - Global Mgr., IT Security

Agrium - Senior Director IT Shared Services

Aimia - SVP & Global CIO

Ainsworth Engineered - Director IT

Air Canada Vacations - Director IT

Alberta Energy Regulator - Director, Office of the CIO

Anthem Properties - VP IS

AON Risk Solutions Canada - Head of IT

Aviva Canada - VP, Architecture & Strategy

Bank of America Merrill Lynch - CTO

BC Ferry Services - VP & CIO

Bell Business Markets - Director, Strategy & Planning

Bell Canada - National Director, Digital Transformation

Bellatrix Exploration - Director, Information Technology

Bentall Kennedy - VP IT

Black Press - CTO

BlackBerry - VP Corporate IT

BMO Financial Group - Head of Services Delivery

Bombardier Aerospace - CISO

Bonavista Petroleum - Head of IT

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP - Global CIO

Bow Valley College - Director, IT Services

Bridgewater Bank - Head of IT

BuildDirect - VP IT

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Burnco - CIO

Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec - VP, IT Planning, Architecture, Governance, Operations

Calfrac Well Services - Head of IT

Canada Mortgage and Housing - VP, Information & Technology

Canadian Depository for Securities - CIO

Canadian Direct Insurance - CTO

Canadian Payments Association - VP & CIO

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CCS Corp. - VP IT

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Centerra Gold - Director IT & Comm

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CIBC - SVP & CIO, Retail and Business Banking Technology

CIBC Mellon - AVP, Enterprise Architecture

CIBC Mellon - SVP & CIO

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City of Brampton - Senior Manager, IT Architecture & Planning

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CN Rail Service - Chief Information Security Officer

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Dynamic Tire Corp - CIO

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eHealth - EVP, Technology

eHealth Ontario - VP, IT Systems & Services

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Enbridge Inc. - VP, Technology and Information Services

Enerflex - CIO

Enerplus - VP. IS

ENMAX - VP, IT & PMO

Equity Financial Trust - VP, IT

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Expedia Cruise Ship Centers - VP IS

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Finastra - SVP, Head Technology Managed Services

Fix Auto Canada - COO & SVP

Flightnetwork.com - CIO

Freedom Mobile - Head, Customer Applications, Experience, & Strategy

FT Services - CIO

FundServ - CIO

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Genworth Financial Inc. - VP IT

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Grant Thornton LLP - CIO

Greenwin Inc - VP, Information Technology

Groupe Dynamite - Director, IT

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GTAA - Acting CIO

H&R Block Canada - VP IT

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Hitachi Vantara - GVP & Global CTO

Home Trust Company - CIO

Home Trust Company - CTO

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Horizon North Logistics - CIO

IBM Canada - Associate Partner, Payments Industry

Indigo Books and Music - CIO

ivari - SVP & CIO

JP Morgan Chase Canada - Executive Director, Information Risk Management

Keyera Energy - Director, Information Technology

KnowledgeOne - CIO

LaFarge Canada - Director, IT

Landmark Cinemas Canada - VP, IT

LCBO - Director, Applications Systems

LCBO - SVP & CIO

Leisureworld Senior Care Corp - VP IS

Lightstream Resources - Head, Information Services

London Drugs - GM IT

Loto-Quebec - Corporate Director, InfoSec

Magna International Inc - VP & Global Leader, IT (CIO)

Manulife - Global Head of Private Markets & Real Estate Technology

March Networks - VP Professional Services & CIO

MaRS Discovery District - Managing Director, Fintech and Commerce

McCain Foods Limited - Manager InfoSec

McInnis Cement - Director of Information Technology

Medical Pharmacies Group - VP, Information Technology

MEG Energy - Manager, Information Technology Solutions & Services

MMM Group - CIO

Montreal Police Service - CIO

Morguard Investments - CIO

Moulding & Millwork - CIO

National Bank of Canada - Information Security Officer

National Capital Commission - Chief, IT infrastructure & Support Services

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OEC Group Canada - Vice President, Information Technology and Client solutions

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Olympia Financial Group - CIO

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Pacific Western Transportation - CIO

Packers Plus - Global IT Director

Pason Systems - Manager, Digital Communications & Corporate IT

Patient News - CTO

Peel District School Board - CIO

Pengrowth Corp - Director IS

Penn West Exploration - Snr. Manager, IT Operations

Peterson Investment Group - Head of IT

PFB Corp. - CIO

Pizza Pizza - CIO & VP, IT

Precision Drilling - VP, IT

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PSP Investments - Snr. Director, Internal Audit & Business Infosec

Public Works and Government Services Canada - Director, IT Security Directorate

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Queen's University - Director, Information Technology

RBC Royal Bank - Head of Application Security, Data Protection & Security Consulting

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Revera Inc. - CIO

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Ricoh Canada - VP,IT

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Roche - Head of IT Americas – Operations

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ROM - CIO

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Scotiabank - Global Head, GBM Compliance & Transformation

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SMART Technologies - Director, IS Corporate Services

Smartcentres - Director IS, IT

SmartOne Solutions - President & CIO

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Street Capital Financial - CIO

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Suncor Energy Inc. - Director, Application Portfolio Optimization, I&PM, Business Services

Symcor - CTO, VP Technology Services

Talisman Energy - SVP IT & Business Services

TD Bank - Enterprise Architect

Teknion - SVP, CIO

TELUS - Chief Security Architect

Tervita Corporation - VP, Information Technology

The Hudsons Bay Company - VP Technology

The Hudson's Bay Company - SVP & CIO

The Source - VP, Information Technology

TMX Group - CISO & Global Head of Infrastructure Services

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Tridel Corporation - CIO

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UFA Cooperative - VP & CIO

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Vancity - VP Technology & Solutions

Viterra - Director Enterprise Technology

Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company - Director of Innovation Outpost

World Health - Director IT

Wolseley Canada - CIO & COO

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York Region District School Board - CIO

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