Over the next few weeks, we’ll be talking about some of the keys to our own self-management. Last week, I wrote about one of the central premises of stress awareness and self-management – that of our ability to control what we focus on. I also noted that self-management will always trump leadership – that before anyone can lead, they must first manage their own mindset and discipline their actions.
When we focus on the external world and other people, we view only things that we can’t control, leaving us feeling, well…out of control. When we choose to focus on our internal grounding first, the things that exist within us and those which we do control, we start to recentre ourselves. From there, we can look outward with renewed strength and resolution, measuring what happens around us with clearer perspective and assigning it the respect and priority it deserves. I will link to that article and a few more at the end of this one.
Suffice to say that when we spend all our time looking outward and taking in what others are doing and how they’re doing it, we’re eventually left feeling depleted and lacklustre. We feel unfocused on what it is we’re trying to achieve ourselves (funny that!), and generally lack any form of peace, feeling of achievement or purpose.
Acceptance & Adaptability
Have you ever come away from your day feeling like you fought your way through it? Or come away from a conversation or meeting with the distinct suspicion that you were not heard and achieved nothing? How about that nagging fear that someone knows more about things than you do and you’re about to be shown up, or that you’re just never going to catch up with the changing environment?
All of the above happens when we focus on things we feel we can’t control, and look at things and people as if they should be different, if we could just figure out how to make that happen. All of this is a smokescreen that has us chasing our tail and everyone else’s, trying to change things that cannot be changed from an ungrounded “less than” position.
Acceptance of ourselves, of others, of the environment and circumstances around us is a first step towards centring our focus in a grounded and effectual way. This is neither a stance of resignation, nor is it an easy thing to do. But accepting ourselves, others, the environment and circumstances around us is the first step towards becoming adaptable, agile, a change maker.
To the degree that we look outwards and expect others and the circumstances to change, we give up control of what we ourselves bring to the table. When we focus on what we think others should be doing differently, we forget the virtues we’ve been placed in our current position to embody.
There’s a reason there’s only one of you.
If you were the same as the person standing next to you, one of you wouldn’t be necessary.
You are a unique blend of qualifications, characteristics, values, beliefs, life experiences, strengths, and virtues – and NOBODY else thinks or sees the world quite like you do. When we don’t focus on acceptance of the incredible gift that this is, and instead focus on everyone else – all we see are people who see the world differently to the way we do. This can be frustrating, depreciating and even hurtful if we allow it to be.
I’d even go so far as to say it can be frustrating, depreciating, and hurtful if we NEED it to be.
It’s a funny, twisted thing we humans do – looking outward at others, noting how we are different (and somehow better) by taking offence at the way they choose to do life compared to the choices we’d make. We need to be right in the face of others’ perceived wrongness, without realising that focusing on what we bring to the table is perhaps the inspiration that other’s need to balance their own perspective. And when we deliver it in a grounded and gentle manner that is focused on adding value rather than proving someone else deficient, it is something that others can appreciate too. It’s a subtle difference in focus, but it’s a powerful one.
The problem with the less productive side of this outlook is that we stay hooked up to our outward view; fixated on the way others conduct themselves, rather than what it is we bring to the table. Our energy is expended on fighting our way through our day, rather than declaring how we’re going to own our space instead, and add that value we bring.
When we start each day (and each situation we walk into if we’re mindful enough to do so) by accepting ourselves for everything we bring to the table, accepting that every other person is a uniquely different blend of perspective on their own separate journey, and that the world around you today is a challenge you’re built to adapt to – THEN we can focus on our own powerful space and what to do with it. We can adapt ourselves in ways that we CAN control and choose, rather than adaptation feeling like something that is forced upon us.
Here are 2 considerations for regaining focus and becoming productively adaptable:
- Reassess your character virtues
You didn’t get where you are today the easy way. All of us have a degree (if not a wealth) of life experience. Some of it has been positive, and some not so much, but all of it has been “character building”. Think for a moment of three of the most positive life experiences you’ve had, and three of the hardest. Write down one virtue that you’ve incorporated into your arsenal from each of those life experiences. Kindness? Patience? Discernment? Diligence? Generosity? Discipline? What is it you hold dear?
If you’re not too sure how to tell, ask yourself what really irritates you in other people? The chances are good that you value the opposite because it’s been prioritised in one of your life experiences.
These character virtues form part of what you bring to the table. They are part of your unique signature. Do the same virtues show up in other people’s arsenals too? You bet. But you are a completely unique blend.
- Exercise an open mind
When we stop focusing on others and remind ourselves of the unique core we’re operating from; when we give up our need to compare ourselves with others and dwell on our need to be frustrated, hurt or offended by them, we venture towards acceptance that each individual out there is on their own separate journey. They, too, have a unique blend to offer the world, and to bring to your table. When we focus on pointing out how they’re doing things differently with the assumption that different equals bad, everyone ends up in a state of defence from which nothing new or powerful flows.
When we go outward with an open mind that assumes that each unique individual is bringing something of value to the table too, we leave space for them (and us) to explore that. None of us get everything perfectly lined up all the time. Often, it takes numerous attempts and some shifting around to find the right combination of strengths – but our differences mean that we can cover each other’s blind spots and weaknesses – when we view ourselves, others and the environment and circumstances with an open mind.
Often, it takes being open-minded enough to tweak our perspective just a little to suddenly see the light in where someone else is coming from. Not everyone is practising self-management in the same way you are. Not everyone is reconsidering their focus. You may have the advantage there – so use your power for good and help to draw out the value they bring with the patience that acceptance and open-mindedness brings you.
Practise acceptance (of self, of others, of your environment and circumstances) in a way that regrounds you in your own unique gifts and strengths. From that position of clarity, figure out how you can choose to adapt to what surrounds you in a way that means you add value to the table you’re at. See if that doesn’t leave you feeling a little more “in control” and self-managed, rather than depleted. Focus inward first. Self-manage before you lead. And if it helps, share that perspective with others.
Previous articles on Self-Management:
by Christen Killick
October 18th, 2021