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.

Balancing Wants And Needs

January 16, 2012 § 1 Comment

Kids these days!

That phrase that every generation uses came to mind when my friend Rita remarked on Facebook that, “Nine-year-olds have a Blackberry, an iPad, a laptop, and a Facebook account. When I was nine, I felt cool with my new markers.”

In fact, I have heard people in their 20s utter the opening remark I did in reference to their teenager counterparts. We have a tendency to compare ourselves to previous cohorts.

My friend’s statement was amusing on one hand but also provided pause for thought.

It sounded a lot like the age-old adage from my parents’ generation. You know the one. “We had to walk 10 miles to school uphill both ways in bare feet at 40 below.”

On the other, it’s very true we have increasingly changed kids’ expectations as to what they have, what they want and what they need – and at what age. Many children now think it’s a must they will have all the above-mentioned gadgetry and more.

I certainly can see the merits of nine-year-olds having a simple cell phone for safety sake and a computer relevant to their capacity to use one. As for the rest of the “stuff” most kids have now, the more we heap on them, the more they expect.

There’s a general tendency to feel entitled and, therefore, largely ungrateful.

One of the other commenters on my friend’s post mentioned that when she was age nine she “went outside and did stuff.”

Another remarked that she amused herself doing wheelies with her roller blades.

Rita chimed back in with this ditty: I used to tape my favourite songs from the top 30 countdown each week by putting my tape recorder right up to my radio speaker and shushing everyone around me to shut up and not make any noise cuz they would ruin my recording of “Hurts so Good” by John Cougar!!! Good times, people! Let’s hold onto those memories no matter how digital our world gets!!

Times were simpler when I grew up, too, and we certainly learned how to entertain ourselves, often outside. In my own case, it was at a time when there was only one television channel and only a handful of radio stations from which to choose.

The first cassette and record players I used belonged to my parents. At age nine, I was collecting hockey cards as a hobby. I have a stamp collection somewhere in storage. In this age of electronic age, there are likely kids who have no idea what the postal system does.

The once-popular Etch-a-Sketch would be considered an antique. It’s the latest version of Xbox that’s a must.

As my son, Peter, was growing up, we tried to find a balance. Every year, he received the latest NHL game for our desktop computer, a far departure from the tabletop game we had as kids, though we also bought one of these “old fashioned” devices for he and I to use.

We learned early on that after Christmas, a lot of the things he’d received became clutter as he concentrated on the few favourite gifts. We also determined that there would be no point of buying the fanciest compact disc player because he had a penchant for dropping them on the swimming pool deck during swim meets.

We still have his dinosaur collection, his Harry Potter books and plastic tubs of Lego.

I don’t want to come across as a curmudgeon. In today’s workplace, mastering technology is a must so young people need to arrive confident and adept with the latest electronic bells and whistles.

However, it’s incumbent on parents to recognize there’s a balance to be reached at Christmas and other gift-giving occasions.

While the job site will expect you can handle the technological side of the work, your employer will also expect you will be able to work collaboratively with others, to communicate effectively verbally and in written form, to deal with people from a variety of backgrounds, and to be able to work independently and as part of a team.

This means the most adaptable people are still those who can think for themselves, the ones who know how to deal with people face-to-face and individuals who can appreciate the simpler things in life, even if that’s enjoying a book on the latest electronic reading device.

I would encourage parents to consider just how much their kids need and whether what they’re purchasing is age appropriate. Consider taking them to live theatre at an early age so they gain an appreciation of entertainment that doesn’t require multi-million dollar budgets and computer-generated imagery.

Look for opportunities for them to learn without them realize they are doing so.

As always, it’s about seeking balance between wants, needs and what is desirable.

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