I was talking to a client (I have permission to write this) and she wanted to lunge into complaining about a problem she was having. Although she is usually pretty proactive about dealing with her work problems, this day, she was in complaint mode as she wanted to talk about a relationship problem. I interrupted her by asking, “How do you deal with your problems?” And she paused and gave it a long thought. She said she had never thought about that. She had never thought about her pattern of dealing with problems.
When we broke it down, we realized the following:
- First, resist the problem.
- Second, complain about it. After all, it is unfair to have problems right?
- Then sigh heavily.
- Resist it some more and hope it will go away.
- Ignore it for a while.
- Give in to it with great resentment.
- Move on with life.
- It was not so bad after all.
So we realized that she had a pattern of being reactive. Reactive means she was reacting to the situation instead of responding based on her values and ideals.
Well, we concluded on certain things:
- Everyone has problems.
- The unexpected happens every day.
- Pressure builds up.
- Nobody can do anything about that pressure except me.
How does one begin to craft a lifestyle of being responsive over being reactive?
The key question to ask is “Who do I want to be in this situation?”
We carved out the following steps to come up with a plan:
First, take a deep breath. You are not alone. Everyone has problems. Someone has probably had a similar set of problems. The devil is not out to get you. You can come out of this without hurting your self. This is not a conspiracy against your life. You are not a victim. No need to react. Embrace response.
Carve some time out for yourself. Just you alone. If you must, enlist your spouse’s help. Get away for the weekend. Go on a spiritual retreat. Go down the street and spend the weekend in a hotel. Do something to get you away from everything. If you cannot do a weekend, try a Friday afternoon or something like that. Sometimes, we fill our lives up with such busyness that we do not have time for ourselves. Begin to enjoy some degree of solitude. Change of scenery is important when you want to create a new way of being. If you stay at home and sit in the same space as you do every time, you may fall into a rut. Therefore, if all you can do is change where you normally sit in your home, then do that.
Determine your artistic expression and exercise it: Creativity helps us feel alive. Creativity helps our brain solve problems in the background. It refreshes us and makes us feel more connected to our core. For me, it is writing. I love to write. Sometimes, I take a journal and go sit down on a bench somewhere in the park and write stories about my childhood. I come away from such an experience feeling as if I took an hour nap. It may be cooking, gardening, drawing, painting or even redecorating a room. Know this artistic expression and put it on your calendar. Make sure that each week, you are doing something creative at least two to three times a week. Commit to it and schedule it.
Discern the voices in your head: So if you believe you are not a good mom because you do not feed your kids organic food twelve times a day, question this belief. Whose voice is this? Begin to cultivate a more loving, kinder voice for yourself. Develop an awareness of the voices in your head. Don’t try to change it yet. Just become aware of it. Really listen and figure out whose voice it is. Who are you trying to please? I think you will find out that it is not you that you are trying to please.
Self Love: So we all know that we should love ourselves more. But how? Primarily by how we talk to ourselves and by how we treat ourselves. What do you say to yourself on a daily basis? Is it filled with possibilities? Here are some things you can say to yourself regularly: It may sound corny but it is not. Whether you are aware of it or not, you are telling yourself so many things about your own ability throughout the day. You might as well become more aware and more intentional about how you think about yourself. This is how you stop judging yourself against impossibly harsh standards. Engage in more kindness towards yourself.
- I love how I juggle all this stuff I have to do.
- I am an awesome businesswoman.
- Wow! I am in awe of me!
- I do not know how to do that….yet! I will figure it out or get help along the way.
- I am pretty darn successful! Look at me.
- Yes, I am a big deal!
Begin to explore your interior world: As you become aware of your thoughts, become aware of what is going on inside of you. How do you feel? What is the worst day of the week for you? Are your relationships nourishing? Do you feel heard in your marriage? What aspect of your job do you like? Do you not like? How much energy is consumed in soft addictions like Facebook and binge watching Netflix? Take copious notes and pay attention to yourself. Learn to explore your own life.
Move towards that which gives you life: So, in the previous paragraph, you explored yourself and discovered some things. Maybe you spend time with three people and one of them drains you a lot. Move towards spending time with the two that give you life. Pay attention to what drains you and what energizes you. Live in the space of what gives you life as much as you can. The aspects of your job that feel fulfilling – do them. Playing with your kids feels good – do it. Write this down and schedule it out. This is being proactive.
The more you take small steps like those above, the more you will be equipped for problem-solving to tackle the big things. We all must begin to enjoy life again on our terms. Running away from our problems by complaining does not solve the problem. But embracing your uniqueness does begin to solve the problem. You have amazing gifts to offer the world. However, we are often too busy, running around and saving the world to stop and breathe and appreciate your own incredible beauty and magnificence. I encourage you to “be” more and “do” less.
Leaders must learn how to manage their own interior worlds to be effective in holding and enabling the vision that they hold for their organizations. How are you managing your interior world?