We continually strategize on the things we need to do to advance our careers, close the sale, be happier, have better relationships and get what we want. More often than not it is what we need to cease doing that gives us the most power.
I used to live life from a “but at least it’s not ______” perspective. I thought this was being positive because I could always think of something worse. This was an OK way of remaining optimistic in the face of adversity until it became habit for all of life and halted my ability to envision the openness of wonder.
It wasn’t until I was aware of this that I began to risk shifting to the vulnerable choice of exploring joy without expecting it to be short lived. To ushering in opportunity that I knew was meant for me without holding onto fear. To seeing all that was there with the curiosity of a child. This ability to stay in the moment without fast forwarding to an anticipated ending broke open the world for me. It put an end to all endings. It left me only with beginnings.
I stopped needing to be right. I started listening to understand. I stopped being guarded. I started feeling acceptance. I stopped setting small goals. I started living in a big space of “this is what freedom feels like.”
When I was struggling as a single working mother of four children under seven-years-old on public assistance, homeless and without an automobile I used to think there would eventually be an epiphany where life would finally become “fair” and get better. But it didn’t. And I grew more angry and defeated. Though I never stopped working harder and harder in corporate America toward my goal of being a good role model for my children.
I rose quickly to the CEO level mostly, I think, because I had four beautiful mouths hanging open in front of me like baby birds and I had no fear of risks. In my marriage I had already experienced the biggest rejection of my life so hearing “no” didn’t phase me. I’ve never been qualified for any of the roles I’ve applied for on paper but I could demonstrate measurable accomplishments that made this irrelevant. Still, I kept waiting for “fair” to happen. I kept my head down and everyday read and studied my fascination with human behavior.
My biggest achievement came slowly and without fanfare. I never saw it coming. It wasn’t my titles, my parenting or my home. It was the day I woke up and realized that life isn’t fair; it’s a world of connection. And the connection of most importance is the one we have with ourselves. When I accepted myself with all my flaws I drew others toward me instead of repelling them as I tried to be something I wasn’t.
Waiting for “fair” is like thinking the lion won’t eat you because you didn’t eat him. It isolates us and makes us prey to disappointment and perfectionism which kills careers. Fulfillment comes from swapping expectations and the need to be right for curiosity and wonder.
You may be moving slowly toward something today. Know that you’re moving in the right direction. Don’t quit. Just keep going because you’re almost there. Here is a free tool to help you navigate your career along the way: 31 Success Practices for Leaders in the High Stakes Corporate World.
P.S. Feel free to send this link to someone who could benefit from it. We are all walking down the same road in life.
Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an executive coach and 18-year corporate CEO who helps leaders have more effective careers, happier lives and better relationships. Get her FREE Career and Life Planning Tool to be more effective, the leader everyone wants to work for and have a better connection with the people who matter while it still matters. If you don't know where you will be at the end of 2018, you are already there.
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