“This could have been better.” – I should have been better.
“It didn’t turnout the way I expected.” – I didn’t do a good enough job.
“I am disappointed in the results.” – I failed.
During a conversation with a friend I noticed a pattern. Whenever they talked about something they achieved, it was immediately followed by reasons why it didn’t either go as planned, or why it could have been better.
This pattern applied to all achievements, big or small.
Released something big and creative into the world? It was not the right time and it could have been better, and it wasn’t perfect, and it had “wrong notes.”
Connected with and helped someone else? It really didn’t go as planned and didn’t really provide any value, it perhaps even wasted their time.
It was as if every time they tried to build a small reminder of their achievement, something would come right behind them and start tearing it down.
They couldn’t take a moment to savor achieving anything, without experiencing a loss. As I spoke it out (despite sounding rhyming and goofy) it rang true.
“You don’t seem to be able to experience any achieving without experiencing a loss, almost like you are grieving at the same time of what could have been, or should have been.
Achieving and Grieving.
Patterns are so easy to recognize…in others.
As a reflected, I experience the same pattern. Trying to celebrate, only to be frustrated and sad when things do not turn out “good enough.”
Some of the grieving of what could have been is easy to shake off, other times it seems to linger in my mind. One particular example has stayed with me longer than I thought.
A little more than a year ago, I got to run a race with one of my kids. I trained hard and was ready. We started off and everything felt good. We joked and chatted. Shortly after the halfway mark, I stared to slow my pace. Something was wrong. During the last few miles I couldn’t keep going and had to walk.
They were totally patient with me and we did a run/walk combination to finally finish. We got our medals and went to the celebration party afterwards.
As I look back, the grieving completely took over any chance of being able to celebrate the achieving. This grieving would find its way into my mind during other runs, and I found myself walking again. The grieving from a prior event kept invading the present.
Unfortunately, the Achieving and Grieving pattern is not exclusive to running.
That presentation that didn’t seem to connect with everyone.
That proposal that was only partially accepted.
The [insert your achievement here] that [insert your grieving here].
Realizing my own Achieving and Grieving pattern was a great first step. Often I failed to celebrate the achievements along this journey because they are viewed through this cloudy lens of grief.
It is time to clean this lens.
It won’t be easy but I am practicing a new pattern.
I am working to separate the Achieving from the Grieving.
When I achieve something, no matter how small, I pause to recognize it.
And since my mind seems to want a second step, I am replacing the Grieving with Appreciating.
Appreciating the work involved in the project.
Appreciating the creativity in that new idea.
Appreciating writing (this blog) again.
Appreciating these 50 year old legs that will still carry me for miles.
Let’s experiment together.
For the next 30 days, let’s try this new pattern: Achieving and Appreciating.
He was the second tow truck driver that day. (We learned about turnpike authority, State Police and tow truck jurisdiction that day, but that is another story.)
We talked and asked him a few questions. Questions about the job, what he likes, what he doesn’t like.
We learned that most people are so upset when their cars break down, that they are mean and rude to the tow truck driver (the very person there to come to the rescue). We learned that the work is long (12 hour shifts) and is a little boring. We learned which cars get towed a lot, and which ones never get towed – except for accidents.
But then things shifted.
Chris began to ask us questions.
Where were we going? What did we do? What type of program were we presenting? Will we still be able to make it there in time?
Chris, and his questions continued.
How did we get into this line of work? What was it like getting started? Did it take a lot of money, effort, or time? How did we create content?
His questions showed he was listening. He would reflect on our responses, wait for each of us to speak, then follow up with additional questions. Sometimes going back to one of our original answers and asking a follow up or asking how it connected to the new idea or response.
He asked about our clients, how we find them (or how they find us) and how we market ourselves, and our competition.
He was more interested and attentive than many people in our own circles. As consultants and coaches, we are used to asking the questions, we are used to teaching people how to coach and listen and ask questions. We are not used to this type of attentive behavior.
It was amazing.
Being listened to and heard is something that feels special when it happens. There are so many ways to be distracted today, especially during a conversation. We half listen while doing other things, and often we “keep it light” and never really talk to people about the deeper things.
Ironically we were on our way to teach about Coaching and how to listen and ask questions as a coach.
Thanks to Chris, we now have a new standard as coaches on how to listen and ask questions.
We want to strive to be Tow Truck Driver Attentive.
Tow Truck Driver Attentive: to become the kind of coaches (and people) who listen well, ask questions and display genuine curiosity and interest in those around you.
For the next week, try to be Tow Truck Driver Attentive to those around you. In your various circles, listen and ask questions. Follow up and be curious. You may find or learn something new and make those around feel important and special.
Thanks for the example Chris.
You showed us a little magic on an otherwise stressful and tough day.