Are Your Expectations Part of the Problem?


Practical Travel Wisdom

In this photo I'm standing in front an ancient Venetian fountain in Zadar, Croatia just a ferry ride across the Adriatic from Italy. It was a great trip, but very different from what I expected to experience when I planned it. So I had to make daily adjustments to differences that, although not terrible, differed significantly from my expectations and what I wanted to experience.

Normally, when I travel I keep my expectations much more open-ended. That way I step into the unknown with curiosity and a genuine sense of exploration and discovery. This time I returned to Croatia with more of an agenda. Even though my natural flexibility enabled me to "go with the flow" of changes I experienced, I was very conscious of the extra energy it took to manage my expectations along the way. Next time, when I return to Croatia, I'll make sure my expectations are set in their normal travel mode. That will free me to have an even better time there, and elsewhere.

Travel requires us to manage our expectations so they don't become part of the problem that confronts us. Clearly, we cannot control flight delays or cancellations, the availability of food and comfort at airports, or when hotel accommodations fall short of website descriptions. What we can control, however, is what we expect from these experiences and how we make adjustments when they don't measure up to our expectations. 

Travel invites us to explore and discover ways to navigate the unknown and deal effectively with unexpected change. When we adapt, we see ways to become part of the solution we seek.

A Useful 'Playful Practice'

For years, I have relied on a useful practice I call "shifting to neutral." Deciding to remain calm and not react to potentially irritating disruptions helps me navigate with relative ease a mirage of domestic and international security checkpoints, long lines at ticket counters and customs, unexpected flight delays, and unfamiliar airports.

This quiet practice of "shifting to neutral" also could help you regain a sense of inner balance—emotionally and mentally—in business, leadership and life. It starts with recognizing what you can and cannot control. Then, when a person or situation begins to upset you, you immediately disconnect from that irritating or disappointing energy by imagining yourself pulling the cable and plug (through which that negative energy is moving toward you) out of its power source. This drains off the energy—dissipating its effect on you. It frees you to remain calm, centered and clear. 

Practice "shifting to neutral" and notice whether it works for you. Like my clients, discover how this simple 'playful practice' helps you to maintain a sense of inner balance even when dealing with difficult people or situations. That way, navigating change becomes less of an energy drain and more manageable.

In these radically challenging times, I think you will agree these skills are invaluable—whether you are traveling or not.

Is Endless Information Turning You Into A Circular Thinker?

How You Think Determines How You Lead

Critical thinking is essential to making good decisions. It engages you in learning what works, what doesn't work, and what would work better.

Critical thinking tests your willingness to consider different points of view. It asks you to question assumptions and examine expectations - whether  obvious, subtle, unexpressed, understated, or 'undiscovered territory'. 

Knowing whether you're a linear, lateral, or circular thinker helps you navigate the uncertainty leaders experience when discerning the best possible decision to make.


Which of the following characteristics of linear, lateral, or circular thinkers best describes you? Be candid. Select one...

Linear Thinkers (left-brain dominant)

  • Prefer a logical, sequential structured (step-by-step) progression
  • Focus on details - organizing, planning, and doing things in precise order
  • Define meaningful categories, streamlines and systemizes options

Lateral Thinkers (right-brain dominant)

  • Prefer to look at the big picture and understand concepts
  • Focus on what is being overlooked - challenging assumptions
  • See novel cross-connections that form creative alternatives

Circular Thinkers (right & left-brain co-dominant)

  • Prefer to scan all information - big picture and details
  • Focus on all possibilities - everything being done and thought
  • Circle around different possibilities and indirectly land on solutions


Numerous techniques and tools have been designed to improve linear and lateral thinking. Yet there doesn't appear to be much of anything available to assist circular thinkers, even though circular thinking has the potential to access more of the human brain.

The Medicine Wheel in Native American Tradition spontaneously came to mind when a client described her natural, yet frustratingly unproductive, circular thinking process. Karen (name changed for client confidentiality) works with people in different cultures and traditions. She was very receptive to a modern day practice that would connect her way of reaching decisions with a centuries-old approach to whole brain thinking. 


In Native American culture the Medicine Wheel consists primarily of 4 directions - East, South, West and North - with a center point. The simplicity of it as a Circular Thinking Decision Model is a function of these 5 basic parameters.

Travel this circle from East to North as many times as it takes for you to address whatever is present in each direction. Let the challenges and opportunities engage you in new ways of seeing and thinking about what is possible. Allow what get revealed in the circle to lead you to the best possible decision. 


Take a blank piece of paper. Fill it with a large circle. On it write the 4 directions. Then begin your journey from East to North - jotting down your responses to the decision making points in each direction. The points listed below align with the energy resident in each direction of the Medicine Wheel.

Center (focal point) - Decision You Need to Make

  • Clarify the decision you need to make
    • Where are you now?
    • What needs to change or be better?
  • Describe desired future and intended results
    • What options exist?
    • What opportunities exist - seen and unseen?
  • Write down your ideal outcome
    • What would need to happen to reach that outcome?
    • What crucial factors influence or impact your decision?

East (right side of circle) - Resources Available to Make a Good Decision

  • Expertise
  • Experience
  • Information
  • People: Team / Staff / Partners / Collaborators
  • Finances

South (bottom of circle) - What Decision Maker Brings

  • Skills
  • Talents
  • Resources
  • Natural gifts

West (left side of circle) - What You Need to Make a Smart Decision

  • Question assumptions and expectations
  • Ask different types of questions
  • See possibilities that emerge

North (top of circle) - What Decision Wants to Be Made

  • New insights
  • Deeper understanding
  • Greater knowing and wisdom

Test this circular thinking decision making tool by moving through all 4 directions of the Medicine Wheel. Notice the clarity you experience. See how this traditional wisdom practice engages you in transformative critical thinking — empowering you to make smarter decisions.