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?

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.

Sincere Appreciation

Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay 

People do things well. We want them to know.

People do things well. They want to know.

We want to express appreciation. We want it to be sincere.

They want to be appreciated. They want it to be sincere.

We have barriers to showing appreciation. Fear, Ego, weird “great, great, great, great, great” patterns.

They have barriers to receiving appreciation. Fear, Ego, and that damn Narrator.

How do we show sincere appreciation? How do we satisfy the need?

Try these three simple steps.

  1. Tell them what they did.
  2. Explain the positive impact it had.
  3. Express appreciation.

What does this sound like?

“Mary, I wanted to let you know that the report you created for that customer was very helpful. They were confused, and you brought clarity. They went from hesitant to signing with us. Thank you for your hard work, your ability to simplify issues for the customers is very helpful, I am so glad you are here on the team.”

“Bill, I noticed last night that after the long day at work you spent time with the kids helping with their homework. Your patience and ability to explain the homework in more concrete terms helped them “get it.” Thank you for the sacrifice and for giving them the gift of your time, especially when you are tired.”

Jessica, thank you for taking out the trash as well as the recycling. Since your sister has been away at school, you have had to take on a few more responsibilities around the house. Your taking initiative to pick up these chores has helped us all with the new workload around the house. Thank you for pitching in and helping, it makes a real difference. Want to go get some ice cream?

Sincere appreciation helps them know they are seen.

Sincere appreciation helps them know their work makes a difference.

Three simple steps. Now we just need to act.

Try it out and let us all know how it goes.

And to help lead the way, I am going first.

Dear Readers of this work. You read, view, comment, share, and like this blog and have been doing so for years. Your participation has made me feel like I not only have a voice in this space, but can make a difference in the lives of others. Thank you so much for reading this, especially with all the choices you have out there. Your words of encouragement or even a “like” helps me break through my own narration that I shouldn’t keep doing this. Thank you for being here.

Want to go get some ice cream?

Thank you for believing in me.

18,181 days today.

18,181 days of breathing, moving, and living in this body.

I have an interesting relationship with this body. I ask a lot from it. I don’t always like it. It is not perfect. I make it run for long periods of time. I keep pushing it to give more, even when it is tired.

But lately we have been at odds with each other.

A few months ago, it let me down.

Yes, I know there are no bad runs, but recently there was a series of not great runs. A few times I had to stop, even during a race.

I began to doubt.

Words began to build up against my body.

Maybe you won’t be able to keep going.

Maybe this is what happens at “a certain age.”

Maybe I pushed you too far and we are winding down.

The words created distance between the two of us.

I could feel the distance, the disappointment, the disapproval.

Yesterday was a long run. I was nervous, and so was my body. We had a rough few weeks. We needed something to change.

So, I took the first step. I looked at the run history on my app and reminded my body of how many miles we ran. I reminded my body that we have run longer and in some of the most extreme weather. I reminded my body that it can do hard things. I reminded my body that I was not mad at it for the past few months.

Then something shifted. Everything felt lighter.

The run was not easy, but we kept going. Slow at first, building and finding our stride.

Then something happened about 2/3rd into the run. I actually heard my body speak. Softly at first, so soft that I almost dismissed it. But my body kept speaking until I could hear it.

“Thank you for believing in me.”

Even as I type these words a wave of emotion passes over me as it did while running.

I had replaced the frustration, the doubt, and the disappointment with belief. And my body responded. I was no longer fighting against it, but working with and encouraging it.

Since this moment I started to wonder how I can continue to show this belief internally, but also externally to those around me? Instead of frustration, doubt, and disappointment they may need belief from me as well.

So maybe, just maybe, it won’t just be my body who says, “Thank you for believing in me.”

Throw the Wrench

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

It was the opening line of the email that caught my attention.

I don’t want to throw a wrench in this, but…

The accepted definition of this phrase or idiom “Throwing a Wrench into the Works” means to damage or change (something) in a way that ruins it or prevents it from working properly.

But that is not what was happening here.

They were not trying to damage or ruin the project.

Their wrench was an idea to improve the situation.

But sometimes the project is already moving forward, and we are afraid of Wrenches causing delay or disruption.

Sometimes we have invested in a strategy or direction, and we are afraid of Wrenches causing us to move or admit we may have to accept a sunk cost.

Sometimes the world has changed from when we started the initiative, and we are afraid of Wrenches causing us to start over and change course.

How about a new definition of what it means to Throw the Wrench.

To Throw the Wrench is to speak up and offer an alternative.

To Throw the Wrench is to express your reservation or concerns.

To Throw the Wrench is to help an organization from making a mistake (or further mistakes).

Maybe more than ever, we need you to Throw the Wrench.

As organizations, we need to listen to, learn from, foster, and encourage the Wrench Throwers.

We need the Wrench Throwers to speak up, offer ideas and alternatives, and let us know before we make large mistakes.

One idea to foster the kind of organization that encourages people to Throw that Wrench is to create a contest for the best Wrench Throw. How about prizes and a celebration of speaking up and offering alternatives.

My closing advice to all of you: Throw the Wrench.