One of my favorite work-life strategies is, “If I do nothing, it will hopefully go away.” It’s effective when the stakes are low like obnoxious music coming from a neighbor’s house or an email chain to support somebody’s agenda that I shouldn’t have been on in the first place. When the stakes are low, avoidance helps us not sweat the small stuff. It works.
Yet, like every work-life balance strategy if avoidance is overused we miss out on the opportunity to make something better. When we don’t speak up because we have an opposing point of view, or we tolerate repeated insensitive behaviors because we fear a conflict, we are indeed part of the problem. If we do nothing, it will not go away.
Engaging in difficult discussions is the first step toward progress. It stimulates creative thinking and helps others to gain a deeper understanding of their actions and our interpretations. It’s an opportunity to step in and gain greater understanding. So I leave you today with one simple sentence to get the ball rolling. “I need your help with something…” It’s a great way to collaborate with the person or people that we deem to be the source of our conflict and solicit their assistance to help us resolve it. Things do get better, but most of the time it requires some effort.
I am absolutely positive I know what I’m talking about. After all, I have been around the block a few times, have collected a few facts, listened to a few opinions and I am now certain that I have the RIGHT answer that will completely justified the reaction I’m about to launch.
The above can happen in our brain in less than a few seconds and convince us that our assumptions are facts. That what we perceive is ultimate reality. That a small pool of limited data much of what is derived from past experience (not the current one) is somehow correct. Our “right” decision leads to actions and starts a small or large chain of events. But wait. What if we’re wrong? Oops!
Challenging our assumptions is like quality control. If we want to remain credible it’s worth adding the step to our internal process. Before launching the reaction it’s best to ask what we really know for sure. What information might exist that we don’t have and what questions can we ask to challenge our conclusions? It might take a bit more time on the front end but think about what it can save you in the long run.
We get what we tolerate. Isn’t that a scary thought? There are people in our lives who will test us to see how much we will do for them, how much complaining we will listen to, or disrespectful behavior we will tolerate. Co-workers, family members, and friends will test us too. All in an attempt to discover our boundaries.
Asserting ourselves trains people how to treat us. It means we speak up instead of avoid situations and embrace difficult conversations to establish rules of engagement or clear expectations. It can begin with a request to create a better relationship between two people, or it can be as simple as not engaging or colluding with behavior that is not kind or productive.
We have far more power than we imagine or often utilize. It’s best to think twice about tolerating something that isn’t supporting a healthy exchange.
That’s right, I not writing this blog today. If you are reading this, I’m somewhere in Southeast Asia walking with elephants, or meditating in an ancient temple that smells of musk and envelopes me in silence. I have left behind the pings from my computer, the full schedule of meetings, and the ever pressing need to be productive. Instead, I’m living life (at least for the next few weeks) in a very present state.
What I hope to gain is a new perspective. That perhaps walking with elephants will slow my pace, humble my existence and ground my gait. That the new faces will show me another side of our humanity and the culture will enrich me with foods and traditions as foreign to me as the land I will be in. I hope in my travels to be filled with gratitude and touched deeply by the sorrows of history. I want to feel my way through these countries. Anybody can walk the land.
This blog is to encourage you to schedule your next vacation. To travel is to learn. With each voyage we bring back a deeper sense of ourselves and how we can best participant in our lives in a more meaningful way. So the question you might want to ask yourself today is this: How many paid vacation days do I have waiting for me to take–and how do I want to spend them?
Nobody says as they’re dying, “I’m so happy I lived a self-protected life.”
Instead they say things like, I wish I would have let myself be happier, expressed my feelings more, and lived true to myself instead of what others expected.
Early programing teaches us what not to accept about ourselves. Strengths, desires, feelings and passions that are not seen or nurtured we quickly deem as unwanted. We shove them into a closet, throw on the padlock, and create a strategy that will gain us the love and acceptance we need. We then grow up and take that strategy with us. Our colleagues, friends and even families see what we want them to see, or we keep them at a distance so they won’t see much of us at all.
At some point we start to hear a knock at the door. The stuff we shoved in the closet wants out and it tends to use our body to get our attention. We might feel a yearning, an increasing anxiety, or the kind of fatigue that comes from not doing something we really want to do. The symptoms tell us it’s time to go inward and ask ourselves the ever pressing question. Who would I be, or what would I be doing, if I wasn’t living a self-protected life?
Last week’s blog prompted a question from a reader. She asked to clarify the difference between being busy versus engaged.
Being busy can be due to circumstances or it can be self-inflicted. Self-inflicted busy means we are doing the normal stuff to care for our families, work responsibilities and personal care along one or more of the following. Staying active to avoid something we don’t want to do, or don’t want to feel. Over-achieving so we can finally feel good about ourselves. Doing more than what is reasonable to please others. Doing anything obsessively to alter our appearance due to lack of acceptance. Packing our work or social calendars because we don’t want to spend time alone, with a partner, or with ourselves. Now that makes a person BUSY!
To be engaged means we are active with the life force that runs through us. We tend to our fears and emotions to move beyond them and actively pursue careers that express our strengths and passions. We strive for self-mastery at home and work knowing we are inherently a person of value. When we are engaged we are focused in the present, actively listening to those around us and seeking opportunities in our day-to-day life to bring our unique contribution to the world. In essence, our actions are rooted in our soul, not in our fears.
The reality is that sometimes we are busy and sometimes we are engaged. The goal is to do less of the former and as much as possible of the latter. That’s my goal anyway!
I learned two things this week. The first was that doing anything new stimulates endorphins for the brain. The second was if I don’t stimulate my brain, I’m going to diminish my ability to produce endorphins. The double whammy became quite the motivator.
Doing something new changes the biochemistry in our brain. It can even loosen thoughts and beliefs that keep us stuck in old patterns and bring a sense of fresh air to our minds. The new experience or activity promotes growth and generates new connections. Our brain wants to be awakened with new sounds, sights and smells and it thanks us for the nutrients by bringing a better mood and often a clearer state of mind.
A habit on the other hand is something repeated until it becomes an unconscious behavior. Many habits are good, yet some are downright stifling. Worn patterns can suck the life right out of us and leave us feeling dull and deadened. A clear sign that it’s time to change it up.
Disrupt your own thinking this week with a new experience. Your brain cells will love you for it!