In most instances people and situations present themselves at face value. We however ignore the signs. We see what we choose to see. Painting the scene with our biases, expectations, experiences, hopes, dreams and yes fears. After all why not, we want what we want. Our wills are strong. Why let a little thing like reality cloud our persistence? Wouldn’t it be great if people and situations came with warning labels? Narcissistic however funny, introverted nonetheless brilliant, insecure practices sarcasm to cover?
This job will offer great growth opportunity: if you are able to leap small buildings in a single bound, navigate through layers of corporate culture, and be willing to relocate to Peru.
We read the warning labels, see the signs, squint through the fine print, yet we barrel through. Our thought process; this time will be different. I will make it different. I have the magic bullet. Even more tragic, if I hang in there long enough things will change.
News Flash, they won’t.
So what is one to do? How do you learn to read the signs and see the red flashing light from the runway? Learn to be on the alert, not put on the blinders, or look the other way. Here are my tips for reading between the lines to get to fine print:
Open your eyes. Let in the sunlight. Smell the coffee. Take a look around you. Ask yourself what is really going on here? Who are you surrounded by? How do you spend your days? Nights? Weekends? Does your current career make you want to jump out of bed in the morning? Does it make you want to hit the snooze alarm? Are you truly happy? Is this the life that G-D has intended for you?
Then ask yourself the following question:
What happens when you stop hitting your head against the wall?
Answer: It stops hurting
Red Flags/Warning Detonators
What gets your goat? Makes your hair stand up on end? Are like nails on a chalk board? Are you aware of whom or what pushes your buttons? Do you have insight into whom or what installed them? What kind of people and situations make you want to pitch your tent? Conversely, which makes you want to cut and run?
These insights can be so freeing! A roadmap to your psyche. The lyrics to your personal dance of intimacy. This knowledge can be your liberator or your jailer. Either dooming you to repeat your fate, or educating you to freedom and positive choice. Foot on the pedal or foot on the brake, inevitably the road will be long. Right road or wrong? Straight road or curved? I do predict some bumps, potholes, forks and ditches. That’s when the roadmap and insights become so invaluable. Your ladder back to safer ground.
What is real and what is perceived? Your reality? Their reality? The truth?
Limiting Beliefs, Fears & Inner Critics
I’m too old to go back to school. No one is ever going to love me. I am never going to make it to the C- suite. Fill in the Blank!
Today is the day to rise up and fight back. Set up an erase and destroy mission. Slash old tapes mascarading as fears. Talk back to your Self Criticism. Knock out the Inner Critics that haunt us all. I have been introduced to a myriad of Inner Critics in my coaching practice. A menacing and meddling bunch at that. I have personally exorcised, befriended and ultimately locked my own in the closet just to publish this and subsequent blogs. I GET IT!
Truth is you are not terminally unique. We all need to fight past fears to become our authentic selves, and dare to be vulnerable.
I love the song Come As You Are. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could cut to the chase, rip off the mask, wrestle our Inner Critics, mow down the Nay Sayers, and show up as our Authentic Self right from the start? Ultimately that’s who is going to stay for the long haul. Nonetheless, we brush on the war paint, suit ourselves up, strap on the armor and hide our true identity away from the world. We fear that if people truly get to know us that they might not feel the same way.
At work they call it the Imposter Syndrome. We claim our hard earned position and rightful seat at the table only to be riddled with fear. What if our colleagues find out that we are a fraud?
It helps to remember that even superheroes have their strengths and weaknesses. That is what makes them so intriguing.
Don’t Just Listen, Hear
When I do a communication workshop I start with this quote:
“The biggest communication problem is that we do not listen to understand, we listen to reply”, Unknown
Pretty powerful stuff! Further, I impart my favorite communication tip, “Listen More, Talk Less”. If I ended my workshop here my audience would have all they need to size up any situation, not to mention ascertain the essence of any individual. G-d gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason! Truth is we get enough intel and gut feelings to size up a person and situation in the first meeting. What we do with that intuition is in question here.
Preferences, Deal Breakers & Would Be Nice
You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes you get what you need.
What if we took the time to identify what we did and did not want in advance? Could we get closer? Imagine if we each created a list of the things we ultimately could not live without. Our must haves. Our core values. Our essence. What makes us tick? Bingo! This can work for relationships, jobs, homes, quite frankly anything.
What are your deal breakers? They are different for us all. What compromises will be too deep? What will cause you to break not bend? What is beyond your capacity to look the other way? Keep this list close to your heart because compromise here will bite you in the back later.
My personal favorites are the would be nices! These are the bargaining chips. The icing on the cake. Here you have enough of your wants in place. You are not compromising your deal breakers away. Hoorah, you get to add a few would be nices to sweeten the pot!
Pretty cool system. One must however keep in mind that life is an evolution. This is the ultimate balancing act. We are all a work in progress. As we grow our list and the lists around us will shift as well.
So we are where we are, and we are with who we are with, now what? Set boundaries. These are the rules of engagement. A game book of what you will and will not allow. Only you know what is truly off base. What will be the final straw? Remember, what sends one person packing is different from the next. What gets one person voted off the island would not even raise an eyebrow for the next. How do you set boundaries, you ask?
This used to be nearly impossible for me, but with practice it can be achieved. In the beginning it was like a scary game of tag, only the stakes were much higher. I would run in, say my piece, close my eyes, hold my breath, hope the world would not crumble around me, and then run out! I would say, “This is how it is. This is how it is going to be. This is how I am going to show up. This is what I am willing to accept. Either you are going to accept me and this, or not. No one is going to die. (I cannot take credit for the last line!)
In the beginning setting boundaries did feel like death; nevertheless, no one died. Some people accepted my boundaries, some people did not. Some people stayed some people went. EVERYONE respected me more.
One of my favorite songs as a teenager was Should I Stay Or Should I Go. It should have been, Time Is On Your Side. Now, I no longer look at life in absolutes. People and situations as good or bad. Right or wrong. Perfect or flawed. (I look at life from Both Sides Now.) I have given myself the gift of imperfection, and I allow others and situations the same courtesy.
My coach gave me the greatest gift, the concept of And. Sometimes we are just not ready to pull the trigger. We might not have all the facts. The bandwidth, strength and gumption. The means to make a truly educated decision. If that is the case you just may need to live in a grey area for a bit longer. All of the pieces will fall into place, eventually.
It is helpful to remember that choices do not always boil down to Either, Or, sometimes life offers you a third choice, the And. A middle ground, a time out, an experimental period, a compromise. It is important to consider what appears life shattering now, might not be all consuming six months down the line.
Compromise, not Cave
There is compromise and there is being taken advantage of. Some folks have a higher pain threshold than others. Many give more than they get. I know this first hand for I am one of them.
One of my core values is to be “of service”. I was taught by my father at a very early age to give of myself, be charitable and not really worry if it is reciprocated. You will get your gifts later.
He could not have been more correct. I have lived my life by this rule. Volunteering and mentoring. Leading my organization emphasizing service and personal growth. Supporting, nurturing and caring for my family and inner circle beyond measure. I now have my clients to add to the queue.
I love to give. I know I am appreciated. Anyone taking advantage, well, that’s on them. My gift is seeing people happy, growing and moving in a positive direction. That’s why I love what I do.
My New Year’s resolution was to make Conscious Connections.
I am a connector at heart and the consummate Networker. THIS IS GOOD THING! Yet here we are talking about connecting at a deeper level. Conscious Connections are the holy grail of connection. They are about trusting our gut instincts to find our Tribe.
Here we put on our mining hats and tunnel past the red flags. We dig deep, and dare to be vulnerable. We get naked, remove our armor, and peel back the layers of our soul. We will finally find the perfect home. Safely we can unpack our steamer trunks, yet they will dare to stay. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. I will pick you up when you fall. You will do the same. I will not care who you are, where you come from or what you do. Nor will you. Time will stand still when we speak and are together. Laughter will come in waves and tears can flow freely.
When you find this rare breed dear reader, rejoice. Nurture, fight for and handle with care. For as hard as they are to seek, is as easy as they are to squander.
Rocking Chair Test
My niece was taught in kindergarten, “You Get What You Get and You Don’t Get Upset”. I think that is utter nonsense and that teacher should be fired! We all have control of our destiny.
We have the free will to choose the people and situations that appear in our lives. Conversely, we have the power to leave the ones that no longer serve us. So what is the litmus test for sorting fact from fiction? Will from reality? Opportunity from Illusion? I use the Rocking Chair Test.
I imagine myself at the end of my days. None of the day to day nonsense created through work, relationships, and difficult choices will matter any longer. As I sit in my Rocking Chair all I will have are days stretched out in front of me. Time will be like a warm blanket safely covering me, so I can slowly and carefully contemplate my life’s choices. I will ask myself; do I want you next to me? Will we have brought each other happiness? Have we become better people having knowing each other? Will this situation have a positive impact on me? Did it add meaning to my life and the lives around me? How did it serve? Did it make the world a better place?
Your answers to these questions are The Truth in Advertising and The Fine Print all wrapped up in one.
Think hard my friend, consider carefully, and then carry on.
About the Author: Joan Axelrod Siegelwax is the Executive Vice President of Love & Quiches Gourmet, and the Founder and President of Powerful Possibilities Coaching. In her role at Love and Quiches Gourmet she leads the Human Resources Department with the primary goal of increasing employee engagement, accountability, retention and improved corporate culture. Through creation of Powerful Possibilities Coaching, she has made these skills available to a larger audience through Transformational Executive Coaching, specializing in personal growth, organizational development, career coaching, leadership development, managing transitions, executive presence, personal branding, personal empowerment, life balance, organization and productivity.