Building character is hard work.
In my first HR gig, the VP of HR asked me to hold a new hire orientation meeting. “What?” I thought, “I was still trying to understand co-insurance!” She saw the look of panic in my eyes and said, “You can do this and you’re going to be fine. Trying new things builds character!” Over the next 8 years, she gave me that line about building character over and over again. Soon enough, I was using it at work and at home. I believed it then and I still do now.
Whenever I did something new and uncomfortable, regardless of the outcome, it certainly molded my character. When my children were in high school, I was constantly telling them, “Take a risk, step out of your comfort zone – it builds character!” It was my mantra and I was confident saying that because I had been stepping out of my comfort zone throughout my entire career.
The last 12 months have been filled with change. In fact, I scored 268 points on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. A score of 300 or higher would put my stress level at a high risk for physical illness. You can easily pooh-pooh this type of thinking but the power of the mind shouldn’t be taken lightly. I have a new job in a new city. My kids finished their freshman year of college, are living at the beach for the summer, and I see them only on weekends. I’ve been spending a lot of time managing the change with my kids and my empathy level is at an all time high.
What I didn’t realize was that while I was managing these changes, I wasn’t embracing my own personal changes. This realization stopped me in my tracks and I’ve been pondering why this was happening. I’m the proponent of change. My favorite saying is from the lyrics of a Melissa Etheridge song, “The only thing that stays the same is change.” So, what’s wrong?
Embracing change is different for everyone. For me, not embracing it meant that after I moved to a new city, I went to my apartment every night after work, exercised, ate dinner and went to bed. Night after night. I didn’t explore my new town. There were two social events held at my community and although I was kidding myself by putting the flyer on the fridge, I knew I wasn’t going to attend. All I can hear shouting back at me are the words I’ve repeated, “Take a risk and get out of your comfort zone!”
Driving 650 miles a week gave me plenty of time to think and I realized that I was building my character and stepping out of my comfort zone – by day, at work. My new position is the most challenging one I’ve ever held. One of my responsibilities is implementing change in the organizational structure and creating an objective performance management program. Each day brings a brand new set of challenges, many that I haven’t encountered in a prior position.
I’ve come to the conclusion that we have varying degrees and speeds of character building based on our life experiences and events. I have plenty of growing and developing to do and it won’t happen overnight. Sometimes I can be my own worst enemy by placing high expectations on myself. My character will evolve, on an ongoing basis and at its own pace. I’m okay with that.
I would love to know what expectations you set for yourself to build character — will you share them with me?