Achieving and Grieving

“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.

Keep us posted on your progress.

Chocolate Chips, Isolation, and Reflection

Image by Richard John from Pixabay

“What do you mean they are all gone?”

“I just bought them.”

“I didn’t get any.”

Me – looking for the chocolate chips

Those words left my mouth with force. A force disproportional to the meager chips.

After apologizing and making amends the interaction kept playing in my head.

Why did I react that way? What was that all about, they are just chocolate chips?

The easy path is to blame this isolation, to excuse way these reactions as a “normal” reaction to being together so often.

The difficult path is honest reflection.

Asking yourself hard questions.

Trying to determine the source of the reaction in the first place.

Scarcity.

A collage of images and feelings from younger days streamed through my mind. Struggles, fears, lack of control, and sadness all observed and filtered through an earlier version of myself.

This was no longer about chocolate chips.

As we work hard to comfort others during this time, we may need to extend that comfort to ourselves (and even our former selves) as we struggle with the emotions that bubble to the surface.

Reflect on those emotions. What are they trying to tell you?

Where are your chocolate chips?

Finding Your Voice

Finding your voice
Image by Christine Sponchia from Pixabay 

The past.

The past interactions.

The past emotional triggers.

These three silenced their voice.

I had the privilege of talking this out with them.

They explained the barriers. The things that prevent them from speaking up.

They explained the stress of finding not only the right words, but any words in the moment.

They explained about the constant overthinking and assigning motive.

They explained the constant reminders of the past.

“What is a way forward? What does finding your voice mean here? Where can you start?”

We talked about value, worth, and standing up and speaking up.

They agreed to try again. To set aside those events and triggers, and find their voice.

It wasn’t going to be easy, but the way forward would begin with looking for the next opportunity, pausing in the moment, and finding their voice despite the barriers. They were practicing, even in our conversation as the words poured out.

A few days later I got a message. The opportunity arrived. They found their voice and spoke up.

Despite the fear, and the anxiety, and all of the stuff that could get in the way, they took the leap and expressed their need.

They found their voice – AND – the organization responded!

The perceived barriers were not really our there in the organization, but created an internal barrier. These barriers were an historical lens that was not clearing seeing the present or the opportunities of today and future days.

How has the past, the prior interactions, and the triggers created internal barriers that silenced your voice?

How does finding your voice look moving forward?

How can you remember you worth and value to the organization and express what you need?

We are rooting for you, and look forward to hearing about how the organization, the person, the group, or the universe responds when you speak up!

Tow Truck Driver Attentive

Image by Greg Reese from Pixabay

His name was Chris.

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.

Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Not Great

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

They pulled me aside during the break. We were just talking about giving feedback and showing appreciation to others. They stayed at their table while everyone else got up for the break and snacks.

“Can I share something with you?”

I came in a little closer, my mind racing to replay the last few minutes to see if I said anything weird.

“You talked about providing sincere feedback and appreciation. Making sure that it is not a superficial ‘drive-by’. I just realized that I was taught to do this in college, and have been providing this my whole career.”

They studied physical education. They were taught a method of feedback. It was intended to help young children with basic early skills.

In order to pass this class, they were timed and had to provide 5 quick positive feedbacks, before they could provide 1 redirecting ones. They were filmed and each positive had to be different but quick.

Great job.

Nice job.

Awesome job.

Way to go.

Yay.

You could do this better.

They didn’t realize it but had been following this method for more than 20 years.

They saw that their feedback was systematic not sincere.

They realized that this scattering of seemingly shallow praise was not hitting the target.

They were well intentioned, but needed to change.

They didn’t even realize the pattern they formed.

What feedback patterns are you caught in?

How has systematic replaced sincerity?

Over the next few posts we will tackle a few ways to provide feedback and appreciation.

Until then, start to notice your own pattern.

The Non-Discounted List

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

It was a simple call. Connecting with a former colleague and young talented professional. Catching up on life, and moves, and kids, and the next. It was good to hear their voice.

As we discussed the next (the next chapter, the next adventure, the next role, the next possible career choice) the tone changed. What was normally enthusiasm and optimism took a sharp turn toward self doubt.

“I’m not really an expert or very good at any one thing. I am to sure what I have to offer.”

We talked a little more and came up with a plan, with homework of course.

The homework was to make a list of all the things they can do, or have done.

But not just any list. The non-discounted list. Brainstorming and writing down without limits or assuming that those experiences have no value.

The non-discounted list is NOT letting our mind, or our narrator discredit or take away from the things we have and can do.

The non-discounted list reminds us of all the experiences, training, and skills we have picked up along life’s journey.

The non-discounted list gives us hope for the future and the next.

We will connect again to review the non-discounted list. But in the interim, I’ve decided to make my list as well. A reminder of all the things that may add value, help others, and make a difference.

Sometimes we forget about all the skills we pick up along the way.

So today, maybe you should make a list. But not any old list. The non-discounted list of all that you can bring into the world. When you do make your list, I would love to read it.