The Easiest Lessons Are Often the Hardest Ones to Learn

April 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

Reading glasses

Reading glasses (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love it when my brain is able to process things for me and still let me get a good night’s sleep. Like it did on Saturday. I woke up well rested, but also with a big “A-ha!” on my mind. In this particular moment of clarity, I saw an obvious obstacle. It must’ve been in a blind spot. I’m glad I’m learning to change and evaluate different perspectives, because now it’s staring me directly in the face.

What I’ve always known on some level, is that the way to success in any endeavor is to come at it from a space where we’re 100% genuine, authentic and ourselves. In terms of work and my career, I’ve never had any problems doing this. Thus, I’ve never really had any problems in the workplace. Most of the time, I get what I want, although it’s not always when I want it. And if I’m not getting it, I’ve got the ovaries to say something about it or stick my neck out and seek it elsewhere.

Where I run into the most difficulty is in primary relationships. I get stuck on what I think a “girlfriend” or a “wife” type is supposed to be. I put on my happy face and play the polite, nice girl from a small town that everyone’s parents would find delightful. And though those are certainly elements of my personality, I don’t allow the rest to shine on through with them. And yet, over and over, in each given situation, I would start off being myself, but the more I’d get into the relationship, the more I would play the role, and the quicker things deteriorated.

Somewhere in my logical mind, I’ve of course always known this one. I would have had to in order to have that kind of approach in my work life. It surprises me that I wasn’t able to make the connection before between my behaviour in either situation and the results I was seeing (or perhaps it was more that I hadn’t attributed this point as the direct cause of my success or lack thereof before). But alas, it’s always those things that are right in front of us that we often have the most trouble acknowledging.

A conversation I had with my friend Dave later on in the weekend regarding relationships spurred the topic of censorship. How much of ourselves do we censor in order to be the kind of person we think our other half wants to be involved with versus just being ourselves? Each of us had numerous examples of couples in our lives that we considered to be censoring dreams, attitudes, beliefs – any number of things really – for the greater good of the relationship. We also each had a much more limited quantity of examples of couples we felt had attracted their ideal mate and just worked because both parties were coming from a space of complete authenticity.

My biggest challenge now is changing the behaviour. I’ve been playing the role for so long, it’s going to take me awhile to reprogram things, undue the habits I formed long ago. But they aren’t providing the results I desire, so why continue to repeat them?

As I think about all of the steps involved, it seems like I have a relatively large task at hand. Yet, I’m reminded of an example I once read in the book by Chip and Dan Heath, Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard.

My loose rendition of the example is as follows… Essentially, there was this doctor researcher type who was supposed to head over to a developing nation and attempt to solve some of the hunger problems. He was to have a couple of years to complete the research. Unfortunately, a change in government showed up on the horizon and his contacts warned him that his time frame had just shortened to about six months. They couldn’t guarantee that they’d still be around if and when a new government took power. Six months were not enough time to understand all of the factors at play, yet him and his team decided to go in anyway. Instead of trying to identify all of the complexities of the problem, they would look for what the book calls the “bright spots.” In this particular example, the bright spots were any children in the villages that were above average health in their communities. Outliers, if you will. They surveyed families from a variety of nearby villages and found that most families fed their children rice, but the families that also mixed in a local plant had healthier children. The plant was viewed by most as something only lower class families would use, but was providing much-needed nutrients to the children that were consuming it. The researchers then encouraged all mothers to mix in the plant. A decade or so later, the average height and weight of children in the same area had risen considerably. The lesson here? Identifying all of the factors in a problem can waste valuable time. Looking for consistent examples of a preferred situation and discovering what’s being done differently in those examples can bring a simple solution to a large problem.

So, transferring over the mindset of work Wendy versus relationship Wendy is as simple as speaking my mind and going after everything I want in any given situation. If I give no regard to any “considerations” I might come up with to delay progress, I shouldn’t actually experience any delays in progress.

Wish me luck! Let’s see how this goes.


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