I swatted unsuccessfully at a fly in my house. Two days later, the fly was still following me around like a pet. In a few more days he would be dead on the windowsill, so I tried to lead him to the door, which, of course, did not work.
The fly reminded me of me as a corporate employee:
- I got swatted a couple of times for stupid stuff.
- Afterwards, I pretended to be a friend of management (while bad-mouthing them behind their backs).
- Unable to forget the swats, I resisted their efforts to help me (which were legitimate).
- Eventually, I would end up in the “corporate graveyard.”
We so often resist those who offer us insight: bosses, exes, family, friends, authority figures, teachers, co-workers, etc., while flitting around with frantic, clueless self-preservation efforts.
Today, I inaugurate myself
As the commander in chief of my own future
I celebrate my promotion
To the role of the productive leader
Of my life, full of promise and hope
Out off yesterday’s role of
Chicken little, hopeless victim, or discouraged martyr
Today I will usher myself
With a flourish and a solemn promise
Into my new position of power
Supported by the noble and the brave
Who have gone before, and will come after
Those who chose, and will choose
Action over words
Mercy over malice
And resolve over fear
Elevator door opens. I step in without even thinking that someone might be trying to step out first. My perceived rudeness can usually be fixed with an apology, even in cases of minor collisions.
Today I realized that this tendency of mine was also a metaphor regarding my conversation etiquette. I am a little overanxious to get on with it, forgetting that other agendas, beside my own, deserve equal consideration. I step in before the other party has a chance to completely step out.
This conversational oversight is not so easily forgiven, and can send the relationship hurling down to the ground floor.
Elevating cooperation starts with me.
- Shhhhhhing myself
- Treating the words of others as valuable
- Asking questions and considering before responding
Awakening is much easier said than done.
It is so much easier to look around everywhere else, comparing, criticizing, and condemning others while conveniently imagining that we are better than we really are.
I have actually felt very comfortable in this place, never realizing how precarious my position…until…my life came crashing down into a pathetic heap.
Many times this happened when things didn’t go my way, but other times, by simply catching a un-welcome glimpse of myself from someone else’s point of view.
Being mercilessly knocked right off my pedestal is not a nice experience, yet, fortunately, the resulting painful disorientation has led to undeniable (and extremely useful) self-knowledge.
Most of our friends won’t tell us the complete truth about ourselves because they don’t want to get the enemy treatment. They might have scars from trying to speak truth and they don’t want to go through it again. Even if we are lucky enough to have a friend who will take the risk, our resistance or pain may put a strain on things. (By the way, this is the strongest argument for acquiring a neutral life-coach, mentor, or therapist.)
A proactive approach with our friends (for those who can tame the ego) would be to:
- Ask for a brutally honest assessment from those who love us
- Brace ourselves for pain and shock
- Commit to learning through the muck
Or, we can justify our stubbornness…and remain mediocre.
Someone showed me a “duh” trick on my phone the other day. I felt like an idiot for not knowing it earlier. You’ve probably experienced this too.
But, the really sad truth is that there are plenty more things all of us could be doing right now, at this moment, that would make life easier. Instead, we often plod along on our well-worn path, hoping that progress doesn’t overtake us somewhere along the road.
How to make sure this isn’t you?
- Instead of playing Solitaire or Candy Crush, Google your questions or watch a TEDTalk
- Explore technology tips on your phone or laptop
- Take classes
- Get a mentor
- Ask smart people questions
- Turn off your ego and admit you don’t know
- Quit making yourself irrelevant by talking about the way things “used to be”
I used to think this type of affirmation was all fairy tale thinking, self-deception, brain-washing, and light-weight BS. But my world has drastically improved just by making the following substitutions in my self-talk:
- I AM human vs. stupid
- I AM valuable vs. worthless
- I AM unique vs. mediocre
- I AM learning vs. a screw-up
- I AM confident being myself vs. trying to impress
- I AM strong vs. overwhelmed
I recently analyzed the elements of a (mostly subconscious) process that I use to measure my own maturity and that of others:
- In conversation, are others given the benefit of a doubt before they are condemned?
- Is the best being assumed about another’s motives?
- Are communications productive vs. full of anger, worry, or fear?
- Are the statements made about others constructive vs. destructive?
- Is responsibility taken for circumstances vs. playing the victim?
- Is kindness shown toward people from whom there is nothing to gain?
- Is sincere interest demonstrated in others vs. indifference or positioning?
- Is there a willingness to listen to, rather than refute, the opinions of others?
- Is there passion to improve even though it may involve vulnerability or pain?