Sometimes, we just don’t have a choice. We have to ‘buckle down’ and slog through the problems and obstacles of everyday life. Many of us, myself included, come from families where the hard times were very present. I remember my fiery, redheaded grandmother saying ‘We know how to get through the hard times.’ Getting through them, became a badge of honor.
But what about the moments when it’s not necessary? The opportunities when we really do have a choice? Too often, we decide that we are supposed to suffer, when we actually can choose not to.
Allow me to talk about this phenomenon in our business lives. I’ve had my share, actually more than my share of wacko bosses. One, in particular, was a screaming, blaming, conniving, pouting bully. I put up with it for too long. I resigned myself into thinking that was just how it was. That THIS mindset was part of what working meant. Finally, I made another choice. The choice was, to leave. What broke the ‘spell’ for me, came down to, working many long overtime (unpaid) hours on a project he complained; wasn’t done yet. That was it. Decision made! I stopped working overtime and started looking for another job!
As a coach, I have run into quite a few clients who got tangled and distracted in this idea that we are supposed to put up with the ugly, frustrating, and frankly rude behavior of others in order to ‘pay our dues’, or they would never succeed. I beg to differ. I think working, under those circumstances, wears us down and distracts us from the bigger picture.
On a larger and more important level, this mindset also reinforces the idea that things HAVE to be hard! They don’t.
Long ago, I had a new client who was a real estate agent. Her business cards touted that she was really good and handling difficult people. Wow! She was actually asking for difficult people! And she had been very successful at attracting them and all their aggressive, abusive behavior. She was exhausted and feeling very stuck. I’m glad to say she recognized that she had other talents to bring to her career and did very well without having to slog through the mud!
I have this phrase I use around this kind of tricky stuff. I call it ‘The Curse of the Competent’. Just because you are good at something, doesn’t mean you HAVE to do it! I spent years figuring that out. I was a very good Accountant. It seemed like the right career, and I did love parts of it…mostly, the people part. I couldn’t care less about crunching numbers. People always wanted to share the next great financial article or book with me. I finally figured out that just because I’m good at numbers and accounting doesn’t mean I have to do it!
Let’s look at one more example of this confusion of thinking that we ‘have to’ put up with really challenging circumstances and people. Another client of mine has a small, but successful tech business. He has a brilliant guy working for him that would make Sheldon Cooper look like a fun-filled, empathetic guy! This particular client recently had one of his customers call him on a Saturday with a problem that the client demanded be fixed over the weekend. When my client explained that he couldn’t, in good faith, promise that the fix would be completed before Monday morning, the phrase the customer used when it was explained to him that it might not be able to be fixed immediately was; ‘That is unacceptable!’ The fascinating thing about this mess is that my client told me that having to deal with ‘The Sheldon‘ working for him had made him more able to deal with the frustrated client in a calm manner. Yes, that is certainly a good thing. And wouldn’t it be even better if he didn’t have to deal with either one of them?
There were plenty of times in my life when I kept accepted these challenging people. When I started saying ‘NO’ to them they stopped happening! I think it’s an ironic law of the way the Universe works. You keep getting ‘temptation pieces’, meaning another example of the same mess until you stop accepting them. Oh, and by the way, you will receive louder, nastier, and scarier examples, just to get your attention, until you do stop engaging in those places!
Please pause and take some time to look at where you keep repeating the idea that you can somehow change a really awful dynamic by working harder at it. Then start letting go of those people and situations. When you are in a better place mentally, you are more effective, and more able to actually contribute to others. It’s well worth letting go of the old pattern and ideas.
Let me know if you need some help untangling it!
Shell Tain, The Untangler