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March 27, 2018

Make better decisions by checking your p.u.l.s.e.

During a workshop that I attended earlier this year, I witnessed the immediate impact of a shift in mindset on my physical well-being.[1] On the screen in front of me, I saw my pulse slowing down as I thought of moments, persons and things that I was feeling grateful for. When my mind is agitated though, for example when I am facing an uncomfortable decision, my pulse accelerates. 
As a matter of fact, our heart rate mirrors our well-being quite accurately and can also predict serious health issues.[2] What if there existed a tool that checked the “pulse” of opportunities we face? A tool that would help us make healthier decisions? 
Building on the work of five thought-leaders, I used the analogy of the pulse to develop the acronym p.u.l.s.e. It covers five areas that I consider central for personal growth and work-life balance: purpose (derived from Simon Sinek’s “why”), uniqueness (Ash Maurya’s “unfair advantage”), learning (Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset”), success (Teresa Amabile’s “progress principle”), and effect (Lewis Howe’s “build your legacy”).

Use the p.u.l.s.e. to remain in sync 

Strong feelings and physical activity entail an accelerated heart rate that we perceive differently strong depending on our physical and emotional condition and namely our resting pulse. Therefore, we need to first have a sound understanding of our baseline condition before being able to draw any further conclusions.

“It’s a good idea to take your pulse occasionally to get a sense of what’s normal for you and to identify unusual changes in rate or regularity that may warrant medical attention.”

Harvard Medical School

Check your p.u.l.s.e.

The p.u.l.s.e. concept helps you to evaluate whether an opportunity is worth your devotion. Therefore, it first explores the Purpose and checks whether it aligns with your personal “why”. For example, two years ago, a friend and I helped each other discovering our “why”. I wrote down mine as “uniting people so that new ways of doing and being can emerge” and today, I run a business helping individuals and teams to find solutions to their biggest challenges through the collective intelligence of the group. Although I was not aware of my “why” at the moment I registered my company, I now understand why working on it has felt so empowering to me ever since. 
Second, the opportunity shall leverage our Uniqueness to assure that we will thrive by using the abilities that set us apart. Our “unfair advantage” is the unique talent we have. We often overlook it because it seems irrelevant to us although others can clearly point it out. For that reason, I investigated on my “uniqueness” by asking former team members and supervisors what I was doing differently and for what problem they would call me. Their input became the foundation of my company’s first value proposition.
Third, new projects shall nurture our growth mindset [3] so that we can use Learning and failure as growth opportunity instead of restriction.

“The growth mindset embodies a passion for learning (rather than a hunger for approval).” 

Sarah Peck

And, learning not only helps us to grow personally and professionally, but it also makes us happy as our brains release dopamine (also known as the “reward hormone”) whenever we learn novel things. Therefore, the most impactful question a mentor has ever asked me was ”what are you going to learn?” when I was unsure whether to accept a job offer or not.
Fourth, the activities we chose must help us Succeed in our long-term endeavours since continuous progress towards a meaningful goal will keep us engaged and energised. For me, as for most of us, “the event having the most prominent positive effect on emotions, perceptions, and motivation is simply making progress in meaningful work.” (Teresa Amabile)
Finally, to assure a positive impact of our decisions on our well-being, we want to align the Effect of any project we undertake to what we envision as our “legacy”.

“Thinking about your legacy is also a great way to ensure that you are taking into account the long-term perspective of your organisation and resisting the temptation to make myopic decisions that are overly focused on short-term gain.”

Kimberly Wade-Benzoni

However, our legacy must not focus on professional goals only. If you envision to build a loving family, you shall be confident when declining an opportunity asking you to compromise on emotional or geographic proximity to your loved ones.

The nutshell to take home

As much as our heart rate indicates whether an activity keeps us in a healthy physical condition, the p.u.l.s.e. helps us evaluate the impact of an upcoming opportunity for our well-being. By investigating five key areas for personal growth, and namely purpose, uniqueness, learning, success and effect, we can determine whether the project’s p.u.l.s.e. is within a healthy range to our baseline. If it is, it is a go. If not, we collected sufficient evidence to feel confident in rejecting it. So, to make better decisions on how to invest your time and achieve your goals: check your project’s p.u.l.s.e.

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[1] Thanks to Ina Catrinescu and Tim Lewis for bringing together an inspiring group of individuals to such a meaningful event! 

[2] In his engaging TEDx talk, Alan Watkins explains how our brain syncs with our heart and demonstrates how we fail to process simple information once we get into stressful situations.

[3] According to Carol Dweck a growth mindset is reflected in the belief that our talents can develop over time, instead of being innate gifts that we cannot change.