Do you stick with a situation with dogged determination. even a negative one? Do you hear yourself saying ‘I have started so I will finish.
You might be known as someone who “toughs it out or doesn’t give up”. Or is your experience more like “Not again, why does this always happen?”
I have coached someone since Christmastime who had been applying for promotion for over 12 months without success. After assessment of strengths and weaknesses, we identified that he was last to leave the building at night, was on first name terms with the office night cleaners. He rushed through application forms, rarely checking them over for errors and started lots of projects, tasks and blogs, but didn’t enjoy seeing them through to completion. I asked him why he wanted help from me, what differences would he like to achieve and he told me
‘I ALWAYS run out of time to get a good application in, so it’s rushed and when I get through to the final stages, I ALWAYS seem to blow it at the interview.’ Why does this keep happening to me? We talked and he seemed invested that the outcome was beyond his control and not his place to create change.
He went on “I do the work of a manager, I should have the title and the pay. I ALWAYS do my bosses work for her”. We talked further, he wasn’t asked to do this, he felt he should.
He then said “I’m the one who is ALWAYS the last to leave the office at night, guaranteed. ‘Why do I get landed with the useless manager in every job I take?’
There was a theme of repetition,Ma self fulfilling prophecy running in his head. So I told him the story of ALWAYS. It seemed to be his pattern. Do you know the Greek myth about Arachne? She was a weaver & shepherdess. It seems she got competitive and in the eyes of the Greek Gods, a tad above herself and annoyed the Goddess Athena. In a weaving/ embroidery type face off contest (it was well before Facebook days) with Athena. Arachne won, how dare she, who did she think she was? She had spun a beautiful tapestry, that showed the Gods in a poor light. They found her boastful and manipulative, so turned Arachne into a spider, condemned to weave her web for eternity, busy weaving away, but never getting anywhere.
People I think of as stuck in an ALWAYS pattern are Olympian Zola Budd – kept trying to find a country to represent in the olympics, with her eye on the prize or Princess Diana? She always looked beautiful, but sad.
Well for this modern day Arachne who wanted promotion, we put together a plan.
Review of current tasks, identify which to stop, start, delegate or renegotiate.
He then concentrated on completing to realistic timescales and leaving work at his contracted time.
He joined a gym and got fitter, making a new friend there too. He stuck to short periods on equipment only.
Before long, he was experiencing a sense of accomplishment, he was completing and felt good about himself.
There was a minor set back when he and his partner fell out, but again, there was a need to renegotiate who was doing what in their relationship. It’s still a matter for concern, but it seems he always did everything at home and realised he wanted his partner to take a bit more responsibility, they may not make it long term.
He didn’t apply for promotion for four months whilst he was getting on top of his choices to ALWAYS….
The breakthrough for this Arachne was slowing down on important detailed tasks, delegating and reserving the right to say no or let me think about it. He stopped saying “give it to me, I can do it quicker…I always do”, letting others share the load.
In his demeanour there was a shift from, overloaded and complaining, he stopped rolling his eyes and changed his vocabulary fro I ALWAYS to I can, I will, I choose not to, as appropriate.
It was hard for him, the eldest child of a large family, bereaved of his dad aged 12 years, with cultural expectations of being the one supporting mum and ALWAYS looking after the others. This had spiked over into his professional life as an adult. He had a reputation as a good deputy who was reliable and could support a new manager. Perhaps not valued enough to be promoted. As he became clear about expectations and boundaries, he commanded more respect. He rarely complained about being hard done by, more often leaving behind the drama triangle roles of victim, rescuer and persecutor in preference to conscious choices.
He has taken a sideways move into a project management team within the insurance company, working to targets and deadlines as part of a task focussed tape am and enjoys the clarity. He is still the one that makes coffee for those near his paid, he says that gives him some away from the desk time to rethink things. He earns more money in this role and isn’t propping up hopeless managers. His future is more tangible, he had an excellent appraisal in May and has been offered a place on an MBA starting the end of next month. He has turned his ALWAYS into PERHAPS.
This year Greg gave up chocolate for lent. Not something he has done before, but he wanted to try it this year. If you know greg, you know this is a huge challenge for him. I decided to take up something and change my ways.
Why? Well since Christmas I’ve been researching my family history and enjoying digging around in archives and genealogy pages. I have built up quite a lot of data, logging it on a database and uploading old family photographs. It’s been quite mesmerising, I have lost count of the hours committed to this hobby, enjoying the discovery of new information, then saddened by tragedy and loss. I found out that my mum had lost 4 close members of her family by the age of 10, Including her father, heartbreaking.
I now know that I was born on the birthdate of my paternal grandma, who died before my birth. I’ve seen photographs and newspaper articles medals awarded to my brave grandfather, who also died before my birth, how proud am I?
I have given much time connecting intellectually with people long gone. I had no physical connection, nor never knew the feeling of being held or cherished by these past generations.
Just then it struck me, that I had dedicated more time to people who have died and never knew me, than with those I care about or love and have every opportunity to connect with everyday – either in person, by telephone or email… but I’ve been less dedicated to them.
So my thinking was to find new and satisfying ways to reconnect with friends and family, ask questions, listen and enjoy them. It grows love, rather than records.
I still dip into my family tree, it’s a legacy for the whole family, but not to the exclusion of the here and now love that’s freely available, if I choose to make the effort.
What are you investing your time in? What takes the place of getting closer and making loving connections? Is it time to review?
I wish you well in your next steps. Enjoy what you have!
What is it that you really want to do?
You want it, but you have ducked out, been avoiding or putting off doing something to make it tangible and real.
I have heard myself saying “Perhaps now isn’t the right time”. But as I look back, when has the right time shown up exactly?
It’s a thought that became a belief of “I can’t”. It soon became a habit and grew up to be a rut then a ritual.
I heard a colleague say to me “you can’t do that” and I realised I had convinced other people of my limiting belief. That jolted me, I wanted a get out of jail free card, a release from the trap of “can’t. The misery, disappointment, frustration. So I began to change the word CAN’T for WONT, it seemed more truthful, less apologetic and pitiful. Try it, see what a difference it makes.
The truth is, I COULD, but I didn’t. Nothing really was stopping me, just my thoughts, limited beliefs that this good thing could be mine/ me with the energy to create it.
Maybe like me in that situation, you worry about where you will find the time. Sometimes we have to make space for ‘the new’ by saying goodbye to the ‘unhelpful’ habits, beliefs, even people. Scary huh, but true.
Scare about change and making new paths was rooted in anxiety, this is sometimes passed on to us from those who care about our wellbeing – or theirs – “I might fail, just who do I think I am, I could be embarrassed, rejected or even criticised. What if I let other people down?” Sounds familiar? My guess is that if you are already taking that risk, the next step and making changes, you won’t be reading this post.
How about we safely, no risk here virtually take that initial step together, here and now, like a daydream, nothing concrete, no tightly bound contract, just a few moments to in my words “explore and be curious?”
If you are concerned with being important, putting you first or what this change will result in, well ust between you and me, no one will know, this is our mini escape, those “don’t” thoughts could be parked on the side just for now. You can collect them in a few minutes if you choose to, oreven leave them there for a while longer.
Let’s take a few minutes to escape from the clutches of ‘can’t’
So, sit nice and comfortable, ready? Read on.
With both feet on the floor
take in a slow, smooth breath that reaches right down to your belly button
This will last for a slow count of 4,
breathe out slowly until you belly button is back in its normal comfy position.
Repeat a few times, noticing calm circulating within you and a sense of expectancy intensifying with each breath.
Now gently stretch forward your foot and slide it slowly along the floor……..this is your virtual step into the future.
This is us observing you occupying a space in your future, its a year or so since you took the step to change something.
I’m happy to report that it went well, very well in fact…..so well that……….
consider, what very well means to you
When you are ready, look around,
your future self notices what the change has created for you,
what does life look like…seek 5 key words to describe it.
Enjoy this moment, see it in colour, black and white, 3D, as a video, photos…..through binoculars and soak it up,
You hear good things spoken about this change….
There’s a radio in the room, you are hearing someone speak encouragingly about your changes from the radio……are the words loud or quiet…… is there a tune in the background….what’s the rhythm of the words – fast , slow, laughing, praising….
Hear the words clearly as the sound increases, softens and the voices enthuse……
You are experiencing good feelings in this moment……
Give these feelings names they are rising and satisfying your yearning for change
Are they familiar or new……. temperature wise warm or hot ……. big, small, massive…. satisfying, encouraging, amazing?
If you could pick up and handle this experience, what would it feel like?
What does your closest friend feel, seeing you in this way?
Can you taste your success?
If it had a flavour or aroma, what would it be? Sweet or savoury, flavoursome, strong, mild?
It reminds you of something.
Now I magine taking a photo or video of this dip into your future.
Recording the sounds and words that emirate from now
Pack the experience into a beautiful strong box, gently wrap it, the flimsy paper rustles. Now carefully write a message to yourself on the card beside the box
attach it to the package and tie a silk ribbon around it, make a bow if you like.
Bottle the heady scent of this experience
Recall the way you hungered and thirst for this time.
Now place the experience in your creative mind space, in the section marked important in big bold print
I want you to consciously breathe in and out as you slowly retreat from this little time travel, sliding gently back to now.
…..consciously breathe in and out, smiling and grateful,
……consciously breathe in and out
thanking your future self for this glimpse of what if….
………final conscious breath in and out open, becoming aware of your surroundings and the present time….breathing normally.
how was that?
Time to reflect
What have you learned from your future journey?
Any time from this point forward, you can take the opportunity and, step outside your current comfort zone, and something you really want to do- give it a go!
Break it down into do-able bite sized chunks.
Let go of the outcomes for now and detach yourself from definitive results, just give the scared/bossy/avoidant you permission to explore and be curious You are creating options and playing with ideas, it’s not make or break time.
If you think you are not satisfied or feel like you are not fully enjoying what you are currently doing, then maybe you’re missing out on something good , settling and avoiding what you truly want to do.
You are the designer of your future, you have an endless pad of paper, in various sizes, pens, pencils, paints . Oodles of graphic software, computers, tablet, phone,scissors glue and blu tac. Your creativity knows now boundaries. You can erase or blank out any trial runs, let yourself be free to plan, plot, doodle, play, sing, bake, dictate or create masterpieces that become your next step.
How can we help you?
I have a friend who having received a colouring book and pencils for Christmas, told me she didn’t have time for such foolishness. As we talked,, it sounded as though she saw the gift as a horror. The card that came with it said ‘have a little time relaxing this week’. She was outraged, ‘do they not know how busy I am’ she fumed. The gift became an anti-gift in her mind, an annoyance;; and the sentiment of ‘take some time for you’ seemed a threat to her busy-ness. It got me thinking.
There are times when my way of seeing things lacks balance. How so? I can focus on the minutiae, like the speck of lint on someone’s shoulder, the spelling error on a page or the impending scarcity of time over the coming weekend. This all comes from an internal pressure to get things right, drive through difficulties, take on responsibility, too much responsibility….these are everyday occupancies in what feels like a fast paced life. A symptom of my own expectations and those I perceive from others. Yet I am in charge of me, my time, my health and wellbeing, as is my friend with the rejected colouring book. I am making unconscious choices to hurry, be busy, miss out, scrimp on me.
What if , instead of just clocking the speck of lint on someone’s shoulder, I lifted my gaze a few centimetres and made eye contact? Or offered a smile, a nod? The result, a connection instead of a flaw. Rather than being drawn into my need to correct the spelling error, I could enjoy the article I’m reading.
How, like my friend am I placing too much emphasis on the small things and missing simple joy and pleasures? What pressure am I putting on myself and others, to attain perfection, control the uncontrollable and in so doing, deny myself a carefree moment. Such moments could stretch to minutes and grow seeds of spontaneity. How would life feel if that was more often my daily experience, rather than the sensitivity to imperfections?
i thought about my friend and her uncoloured colouring book. How would I experience my time with her, had she spent a little of her time colouring one of those shapes? Taking a breath and slowing her pace or noticing the gift rather than the irritation.
SOne times we see life through the wrong end of the binoculars, missing the bigger, varied delights of everyday life, and drilling down on the tiny failings that will always be there.