The conditions around us are still untenable, exhausting and endless. We all know we are coping as best we can with the uncertainty.
But, what do we do when we contribute to our pain through our own actions?
I’m coaching a client through her first year on the executive team in a national retail organization. She's establishing herself as a thought leader in her industry, building out her team, creating a strong relationship with the CEO, and working on personal boundaries.
And every week, she has victories: she nails a presentation that enlists supporters around the organization, offers her expertise at the most strategic level, develops her team through courageous conversations.
And then… a tough week, underprepared for some questions during a meeting with the leadership team, over-scheduling herself, resorting to jumpy responses when she feels pressure, and falling back into old habits of overwork to numb her frustration.
Her voice was heavy: “I did this to myself. How could I backtrack after so much progress?”
When we’re on the path to more self-awareness, better habits, stronger relationships, career development, more equanimity in our work and life…
When we can measure progress and things are going in the direction we want, how do we deal with the times we disappoint ourselves by going backwards?
Who among us has not experienced the stumble?
You've done it...stayed up too late too many nights in a row, pushed that task (or that workout, or the networking call) out further and further, slipped back into a snarky habit you have worked to outgrow...
How can we regain the energy and focus to get up and move forward again?
Here are three thoughts and questions that help me, and that I offer my clients:
THIS THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE
It’s a messy and dynamic road. Some days we do amazing things. The next day we screw it up. Everyone you’ll ever meet is having some version of this experience.
I have a crystal-clear memory of sitting at my kitchen counter one morning, with my head in my hands, listing the multiple things to be done around the house and for work, and realizing I had procrastinated an errand that was on yesterday’s agenda, meaning it had now moved to today’s jam-packed schedule. I was overwhelmed, and I had made my own situation worse.
My husband, with his characteristic clarity, brought me a cup of coffee and sat next to me, and said: did you really think you would wake up today and there would be no problems to solve?
We win, we stumble, we decide how to get up and try again.
Reflect on anything you’ve done in your life that you’re even a little proud of. Parenting, partnerships, your job, your business, your home, finishing school, starting a new hobby, your personal pursuits…
There’s no doubt there was forward AND backwards movement. And you had a hand in both.
WHAT AM I ALLOWING THIS TO MEAN?
This is an essential question in my life.
Inevitably, asking myself this helps me reset.
How often you do take an experience, event or conversation and allow it to mean something definitive and generally unkind about you?
Does a day when you fall down mean you’re doomed? That you’ll never learn? That you’re better off quitting?
Hell, no. You know that.
Yet, notice that most of us will fall into that trap, attributing declarative meaning to a moment that has come and gone.
I like to ask: What else could this mean?
Or, what if it doesn’t mean that much at all… and that a little sleep, a chat with a friend, or a few hours off would give you the boost you need to get back up?
💕This is a chance to treat yourself like you would your best friend.
You’d say: Okay, so today wasn’t your best. I love you. What do you want tomorrow to be like?
WHAT’S THE BIRD’S EYE VIEW?
When we’re ‘in it’– in the midst of the new project, great effort or change, we’re often too close to the details, including the small aggravations and the petty grievances, to pay attention to the big picture.
Sometimes we have to stop.
We must breathe and put ourselves in the mental position to look at our situation from the highest perspective, and ask ourselves:
Has there been overall progress forward? How far off course is the setback from today really taking me?
What’s the full picture of what I’m doing across the domains of my life, especially these days: parenting, working, caring for myself and others, maintaining the home… how is the pull of one domain impacting my effort in another? Am I seeing the system at work?
Honestly, am I doing too much? What can wait? Where can I ask for help?
Pause, reflect and ask: After all, does something in this plan need to change?
If you need a reminder of how to get back on the path when you’re steering yourself off, or it is time to change the plan, let’s talk…