I think my two girls are the best “mirror” I could have to my own behavior and the number one influence in my life to strengthen my mental resilience.
Early in my career, I had a terrible habit of fantasizing about the way I thought things should be to the point that I sometimes believed they would come true, i.e. a promotion or restructuring and where I thought I would land in a new organization.
“When I got to that point of heightened belief and expectation is when I experienced the most devastating blows in my career. It wasn’t because how things worked out were so bad…but because I had built up another “story” in my head on how things were going to be…. the missed expectation took on a life of its own. “
No one else knew that this was what I expected or what I had dreamed up. I didn’t check in on the expectations, I kept the vision to myself in a secret hope of the future and as a result I left the people around me reeling at my response.
My most memorable story is from about 10 years ago when I had been asked by the leadership team to transfer to another department. It was a lateral move and in my head I thought it should have resulted in a promotion to VP. I had gotten some signals that I was considered top talent and that good things were coming if I took the lateral move…I just needed to be patient.
A couple of things happened as I made the move…
- I dug in to aggressively understand the department and my new role. I hit the ground running with enthusiasm because I thought this was where my growth opportunity was. I just had to quickly prove myself.
- I immediately started to put some things together, which I did not voice to anyone else and no one voiced to me about where my growth opportunity was. So when change happened and a VP slot opened a couple of months into my new role, I was just waiting for the confirmation from someone… anyone… that it was me. When there was silence I started to get confused…but I could not for the life of me figure out how it could be anyone other than me!?
Well, you can already see where this is heading. Someone else was placed into the VP role and I was left in my Director spot as one of his direct reports. Lucky for me at the time, I had a mentor and sounding board who I could go to and “openly vent” on what was going on. All my frustration and disbelief came pouring out. He was able to give me the tough love I needed and basically said
“don’t focus on what you were not offered, focus on what you COULD be offered”
He went on to explain that I DID NOT have the full picture and that there was another VP slot opening up that I could apply for. IF I didn’t implode and IF played my hand correctly, I was a strong candidate for that VP spot…but I had to earn it.
SO… I licked my wounds… took his advice…slowed my roll…changed my attitude and focused on what was in front of me…not what I perceived that I had lost. In the end…it all worked out…about 8 months later I did get awarded the VP slot and it was a much better role for me than the one I had been passed over for months earlier. I not only focused on my role, but focused on making the new VP successful. He very quickly became a life-long friend, brother and colleague. He is someone I stay in contact with to this very day.
So when I became a Mom, one of my missions was to help my girls learn earlier how to be better at expectation setting knowing that they probably had a lot of my personality baked into them.
Now….this doesn’t mean that I EVER want them to set their sights low, or not strive to have everything they want out of life…it means that things may not always work out the way you envision it. It means that you will run into obstacles, changes and unexpected bumps in the road and you will have to course correct to get to your brighter future. My belief is that in order to do that you have to have mental resilience and the ability to grieve quickly for what you think you have lost and move swiftly to how this opens up new possibilities to get you where you need to go.
This resulted in the coaching to my girls consistently throughout their childhood of “focus on what I am offering you…NOT on what I am NOT offering you”. The message to them was, I may not be able to fulfill your every expectation but what I am offering you instead may be just as good or better…you just have to be open to it. Spend less time fighting and grieving for what you think you have lost, it may rob you of enjoying what is right in front of you.
I can honestly say that over the past 5 years my mind is finally quiet and the advice I was giving my kids and myself has finally taken hold. It took longer than I would have hoped to reach this point but experience is a wonderful teacher. To be honest – despite all the changes including ups and downs in my career…things have worked out very well for me. I feel confident and strong that I was set up for success. I feel that I am making a difference and that I am able to help out a lot of the people that matter to me because of the bandwidth and experience I now have. Along the way I had to focus and look at what I could gain…not take my toys…go home and sulk about what I had perceived I had lost.
As we adjust to the new normal of work from home and all that means to Corporate America, we all need to embrace change. We may not see at first how it immediately benefits us. I believe that as we move further and further through the pandemic folks will be struggling with what they are NOT being offered. I also believe this is a very natural and expected reaction to times of change. What we need to do as a team is help these folks navigate through their grief of what they feel they have lost and focus them back on what we are offering and how that leads us all to a bright future. We have very good, strong and supportive people in our midst and we cannot lose sight that their reactions are natural but they have to recover quickly. Not just for themselves but for the teams they are leading. It is harder than it sounds and always easier when it is someone else and not us. As I have been coached through my rough spots over the years, I am sure it was easy for others to see the way forward even though I couldn’t see it myself. That is what we do and I am grateful for the people that supported me over the years and helped me see all that I was gaining rather than what I perceived I was losing. I think my girls being my “mirror” over the years was the best medicine and cure for what life has thrown at me and will most likely throw at me again.
Leadership questions of the week for YOU:
- Can you think of a situation recently where you have focused on what you have lost instead of what you could gain?
- What affect has that had on you and those around you?
- Can you think of anyone who may be going through this right now that you could reach out to and help them navigate through it?
- What tools or advice do you give yourself when you go through these moments and are you able to get yourself through it quicker now than ever before?
- What advice have you given YOUR kids over the years that apply equally to YOU? Do YOU think that our kids can be a good “mirror” of habits or traits that we need to work on ourselves?
Thanks for reading and remember…YOU make a difference!
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