To get unstuck, I must let go of my “career” … and begin again as a novice. In truth, I am a novice in every new moment of the day, each of which presents possibilities unknown and untried. Why not embrace that fact and see what happens? As Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki said: “In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.”
It's been a tough year, and not just at work. My husband, friends and I were in a Viking river boat 30 miles from Paris when the horrific murders occurred. This quote from Parker Palmer helps me describe how I still feel:
I’ve been feeling stuck about many things, including how to respond to the world’s nonstop saga of suffering: the ongoing carnage in the Middle East, endless episodes of mass killings in the U.S. and around the world, the racism deep in the DNA of my native land, our collective blind eye to radical economic injustice and climate change, and the grotesque parade of political “leaders” who bloviate about God and prayer while doing squat about gun violence and other evils.
Challenges are always and will always be in our lives. The constant screaming from the media and sometimes even the people we love makes no sense and hurts us. It's easy to fall victim to the 'oulds': we should do this, he could have done that, who would do that… etc. The 'oulds' are a plague that drops us straight into the pit of victim-land, allowing us to defer any responsibility we have for the situation. It also paralyzes us and we slip farther and farther from who we want to be.
Tim Gallwey, who has graciously provided me much new thought and guidance this year, likes to explain our challenge with this equation:
Performance = Potential - Interference
Interference comes from others but as likely from our own beliefs. It reminds me of the painful but popular scripture reading in Matthew 18:9 (New American Standard): "If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell." We have a choice of who we listen to and what we consume. At work, we may not have the choice to leave the presence of people with negative energy but we do have a choice about how we will react to it. I have had some success re-framing these conversations by working on my empathy, thinking about the person's fear or anger instead of what they are saying that offends me. Tim has helped me see that I limit my own potential and my performance when I do not work to eliminate the interference that is keeping me from my best. Once I decide that someone's a total jerk, I only look for ways their jerk-ness shows up. I interfere with myself with this addiction, allowing this person to shut me down whenever I am in their presence. Any mental model that interferes with progress can play the same role of limiting your performance. The starting assessment statements are all examples of interference. Which one is your biggest Achilles Heel?
Technology can help us or completely suck up our time with nothing to show for it. In our Realistic Project Management workshop, we start with clarifying the difference between these three things below. Just organizing these in the right places gives you hope and energy back. Check out this table:
I am impressed by the top leaders doing incredibly chaotic and important work, who always have openings within 24 hours to speak or meet if it is getting them to their goal. I do not see this as much at the staff level. Working through this at the start of the year is like cleaning up after the holidays. Put everything away where it belongs and jump into 2016. Stop just doing the tasks that are easy to cross off. As Palmer says,
The tighter we cling to the norm of effectiveness the smaller the tasks we’ll take on, because they are the only ones that get short-term results…