When does life feel like the same old thing and when do you know it’s changing? An obvious answer might be a new job, whether at a different company or current company with a new position. Other examples might be getting married or having your first child.
It’s natural, at least to me, to reflect on where I’m at and where I want to be. I do it regularly and especially as it gets closer to my birthday. My age is a mark on the wall. I can see the actual changes, just like if you ever marked changes in height growing up. This particular year is a decade birthday. Even though every birthday is important, it’s kind of a big deal to me because I haven’t had decade birthday celebrations as an adult. For 30 and 40, I was married and my ex-husband only put importance on his own celebrations. That’s partially why I’ve made a point of doing something every year, usually with friends. The last few years have been quieter. This is a tangent, though, so back to the point.
As I reflect most recently, I wonder if it’s become the same old thing or not. At the end of my last decade, I made some intentional changes. Because of that, I worked at improving general presentation skills as far as how I present myself. This is definitely ongoing. Making it intentional has meant choosing my wardrobe differently, being involved in a variety of organizations that cater to leadership, communications and public speaking skills. It’s meant returning to or staying in school. It’s meant learning how to take care of myself and live on my own, with or without help from friends. As a result, I have increased my self-awareness.
Every time I meet a new group of people I have to “prove” myself. Previous experience doesn’t matter until I’ve shown through actions that I have the skills. The environment has truly mattered because some people recognize what I do and others still call me “girl” or “the baby” when I am neither. If I’m spending all of this time “proving” does that mean I’m in the same old pattern?
It’s the intentional parts of my life that seem to help me the most. For example, I’ve been intentionally getting rid of things, and it is a little bit more obvious in my studio apartment and definitely different than 10 years ago.
Throughout the last 10 years, learning has been through organizations or school. These are constants. Has it been a game changer? Are things different because of what I’ve been learning? I would say “yes” and that it’s subtle. The big game changer has been studying psychology. I want to study it more, and write more.
What I have also noticed is that I am totally engrossed in my current life. I may refer to past examples and the examples might refer to when I was married or living elsewhere. I don’t miss any of those past eras (other than some of the people).
Maybe the most important question is if what I’m doing now will get me further on the path towards where I want to be. This is still a big question mark. Why? Because where I want to be is vague. You know the goals you always get asked about? Then you make a plan for that with shorter and longer term items? I see those as being vague in every aspect of my life. So, as far as leveling up, I have some work to do before my birthday. How about you?
Thanks for reading!
Usually talk is about people leaving or who used to be around. Have you ever had people return, even temporarily? I definitely have. Lately, it seems like a particular group is resurfacing, as opposed to a specific person. I met the people through a group called “Full Circle.” At the time, Full Circle hosted an event called “Coping with Divorce.” The event was designed to help people going through the loss of a long term relationship. Usually, that meant divorce. It could also be death of a partner or a break-up without having been married.
Not only is it interesting that I have been running into “Full Circle” friends, I also have friends who have or are ending long term relationships. Their actions and reactions have made me reflective on my personal experience.
One of the best things about seeing Full Circle friends is that there is almost always a hug. For the ones who really have been friends and not just people who may have been at a common activity, that hug is something I have missed. In fact, I saw several of these friends at Art Hop last Friday. Art Hop is a monthly event that I don’t tend to go to as much cause I would rather go with friends. Sometimes, though, like the June event, there’s something special. In this case, I wanted to hear a band. As I walked Downtown to take care of an errand at the beginning of Art Hop, I passed someone I knew and circled back after the errand and I am sooo glad I did! Later, I followed the band to where they played next, and ran into more friends from the same Full Circle group.
The highlight was seeing the couple waiting for the band. They have been a couple for as long as I’ve known them, which is nearly 10 years. The thing about long term relationships ending is that it makes it tough to feel confident about marriage, even if you’re ok with the relationship part. This couple decided to take that chance after being together for 11 years. I’ve seen that with others, too. Another couple who had been together the whole time I’d known them are now married. Someone else who went through divorce the same time I did (nearly 10 years ago) and began to date immediately, also wed this year. I don’t know details on that one since information came from Facebook postings only.
The trend seems to be immediate dating or at least “hook-ups,” or leaning on a friend who becomes “more.” For dating, it may not be called that, either. It’s a chance to meet people in person or (usually) online, still with that same end goal. I’ve seen it before and I see it now, over and over and over again. From what I have observed, if either party is still hung up on any past relationship(s), then there are probably more hook-ups or short term relationships than anything. Kind of like the long term “maybe marriage” some day, there isn’t a lot of trust or confidence, even when totally into the partner.
What I’ve realized from all of this is that how I talk about my marriage or ex-husband has changed. It’s more like facts – where we lived or what we did. It used to be more emotional and now it is just something that happened during a particular set of years. I am more focused and interested on who and what is happening now versus 10 to 20 years ago.
Overall, although I did (and do) like meeting people and making friends, I haven’t felt the need to go on dating sites or “hook-up” just because. However, I do miss friends and having closer ones to “lean on.” Maybe when someone else realizes the same thing and we’re within the same circle of people, I’ll have a new story to talk about. That seems to put me somewhere in the middle – I’m not actively looking for partners and when I do come across those who I view as potentials, I’m not against the idea.
What are your thoughts?
Have you ever decided on a change of scenery for a short period of time? It might’ve been a couple of days or maybe even a few hours. I did this recently because I needed more perspectives and I made it a productive trip, too.
It’s easy to want to run away. That was not my goal. I know I’ve been missing some of the connection I have really wanted (craved, even). When I began to think about the last time this existed in my life, I thought about a particular organization. The connection existed, and to some extent still does, within the last few years during my involvement. In fact, the organization is known to connect entrepreneurs all around the world. It doesn’t exist anymore in my community, so I have to travel to attend an event.
I can’t say I miss running the events. On the other hand, I LOVE attending them. After thinking about it, I created my trip around one of the Chicago events. It gave me a chance to see a friend and pass along my leftover swag so it would still be used. Plus, I had a chance to tour the venue as part of the event, a definite highlight! I even managed to keep down overall expenses, meet new people, and listen to an awesome interview all in about 3 hours of time. I only thought about home in relation to the venue and tour.
I returned home the next day and still had one more day before seeing the usual crowd and to work. My scenery change continued into a second act set in the local area. The difference happened to be the crowd. I met with a group celebrating recent academic achievements, mostly related to undergraduate graduation and being accepted into graduate programs. Talk about another perspective – I usually only met the group on campus, so being out for dinner with them was a new type of interaction, at least for me.
More on Running Away
Let’s return to the “running away” thought. If I followed what my dad modeled as I grew up, I probably wouldn’t be writing any of this because I would have given up a long time ago. My dad seemed to pull me out or keep me from activities because of a conflict. My dad even had a conflict with what to name me. According to my mom, my Dad chose “Stacy” as a normal and known name. My mom had a different name choice that had my dad worried I would be picked on more. So, instead, I grew up as one of many others named “Stacy” (various spellings). The intention may have been protection. What does this type of protection tend to teach? Instead of learning to navigate while still a child, I am figuring it out decades later.
Things might be tough or feel unfair. When I feel like I want to give up on something I make sure to evaluate why. Ironically, while watching videos for work, I watched a bonus video that had an interview with Todd Herman. The video inspired me to search out more.
What He Said
You may have heard that it is important to surround yourself only with supportive people and to drop the rest. In this interview, Herman disagreed and stated “If you only know how to handle positive people, you’re very one dimensional.” Herman added that a thing not to do is to share new ideas just to hear a negative perspective. Both of these points make a lot of sense to me because people normally do not live in a bubble. Knowing how to handle the negative as well as the positive is beneficial. Hearing this point of view supports my decisions to stay involved in an organization that I believe in while learning how to handle the range of personalities.
Further in the same interview, Herman noted that if you do not have supportive people around you, don’t wait to find good people. He suggested experimenting with different groups and make it part of a three month theme to find a support network. Part of why I like Herman is because he supports what he states with scientific evidence. My effort is going to be more intentional now. Who would have thought that a video for work would end up leading me to additional videos with topics that overlap thoughts on one of my blog posts? A pleasant surprise!
Finally – here’s the bottom line – taking a pause for a change of scenery opened up new doors through the experience. I gained connections, strengthened current relationships, and I found it inspiring. It re-opened and expanded my world. I felt energized and a part of something and that people were happy I was there. I want more of these days and feelings locally, in the area I live in. That seems to mean that there is a need to get out and mix with people and organizations beyond where I have been focused and expand the connections. Taking a side-step for a day contributed to this conclusion. What do you think?
Thanks for reading!
Have you ever stayed silent because if you said anything it could hurt your job or status or something similar? It’s like a wall that holds you back, even when you disagree. I’m not talking about being polite. Rather, disagreeing or having a different view point is what could get you into “trouble.” Another part of this is being afraid and not doing something because of that. How many people won’t venture out because it is too cold, too hot, too rainy or snowy, or too far away?
I had a conversation with a friend recently related to that last part. My friend thought that I’m not scared and that’s why I am willing to do things like riding my bike at night. I replied that I might be scared, and I’m not willing to have that as a reason to miss out. I do make sure to take precautions. The anxiety that I feel is a motivating factor to prepare and stay safer or drier or whatever the case may be.
The Hard Part
An organization that I have been involved in for about a year and a half has been a love/hate type of relationship. Early on, I decided that as a volunteer I could take the risk of speaking out and I wanted to make my voice heard. I had some initial support that allowed me to be a part of the steering committee. As I have stated in other posts, I am much better at writing than I am at speaking. I remind myself constantly that my belief in the potential community impact and importance of the organization is why I stick around. To you, that may sound silly. However, I have seen and experienced snippets of that impact and still feel it is worthwhile. Some examples of the challenges of continually speaking out include being a woman around a majority of men, high versus low engagement, and communication misunderstandings.
To be clear, most of the time I can get along with anyone who is willing. The willing part sometimes falls off course. For example, the conversation I have with some of the men comes from the attitude that I am someone to flirt with and it doesn’t matter the age difference or either person’s relationship status. Other than the flirting, there is never a reason to talk to me or take me (or any woman) seriously.
Some men insist on what they refer to as “chivalry,” always giving things up to let the woman make a first choice. I believe in taking turns. Or, for example, if you are going to hold the door open, do it because I am the next person behind you, not because I am a woman. Chivalry might be ok for a date or in certain other circumstances. As a rule, it stinks because it is as if women need the advantage of going first or cannot open the doors themselves.
Then there are the men who either joke all the time or are a$$holes. In these cases, it is challenging to have a serious conversation when that is the intent. Jokes are a way to be distracting and blow things off. The flip side, sometimes from the same people, is the a$$hole side of giving everyone a hard time to get through a conversation just to give someone a hard time. That is the only point – to tease or give a hard time. I am ok with this attitude if there is an actual point to it and the delivery is in a way to bring attention. Usually, though, it is joking, a hard time, or sometimes being completely ignored or hijacked. An example of hijacking is when I am directly asked a question from one person and a second person answers without acknowledging that the first had been asked. Sometimes this is the most challenging because it is like being invisible. Plus, it would take someone who is seen (not invisible) as an authority to make the point and potentially get behavior to change. I have spoken up about a couple of these. Apologies or not, the behaviors return.
High or Low Engagement
My philosophy is to be involved as much as possible when it is something I am passionate about or trying to learn. I admit I have a hard time when others do not put in the same efforts. Equally, sometimes my involvement is invisible as far as an output other than my physical presence. Overall, especially a year ago as a student, I have felt spread too thin and have had to make choices.
This particular organization is still in a startup stage with a lot of setups being created. In other words, even if I solely focused on tasks for the one organization (which I cannot do because I need to keep my paying job), the tasks would range. Some of the work has been openly divided up. The problem is that where I consider the work similar to a paid job, not everyone does. As a volunteer, it is a choice of how much to do. If it is considered a job, that means if I am expected and cannot make it, I let someone in charge know. If I promised to do something, I work on doing it. If I have a question, then I also expect at least a direction if not a final answer. I do speak up since I am around. Still to be determined if my efforts are appreciated. See previous section for reasoning.
Do you remember the Universal Translator that tends to be available as needed in Star Trek episodes? In this case, the foreign language is still English. The interpretation differences probably have to do with backgrounds and how the communications have been previously interpreted. When interpretations have occurred that made it seem like I am “this” type of person and in reality I am completely different, it puzzled (and puzzles) me. This happened with my ex-husband, too, someone who was supposed to know me. It is much clearer when it happens now because I usually know what the interpretation is and sometimes there is an actual discussion and the “Universal Translator” has worked. I tend to forget about some of the other interpretations until the situation repeats. People have been mad at me before because of those differences in interpretations, which is not a friendly environment. When I can get a discussion in, I do.
The whole point here is to be able to respectfully speak out and take the risk even when afraid. If nothing else, I am learning how to deal with the situations and getting practice at being better at speaking out. In a more established or formal organization, I probably would have been fired several times by now. The question is, if we cannot speak out and everything stays as is, what is the point? The challenges and changes are what makes us grow and mature. Are you satisfied with the current state of life in the world you engage in or will you walk the line (respectfully) for something more?
Thanks for reading!
Have you ever had a change in mood and not know what triggered the change? Or maybe something is making you feel anxious or nauseous, and you cannot pin down the source. In reference to the title of this post, “Wakin’ Up” isn’t about wake up time or morning rituals. It’s about awareness. In particular, self-awareness. With the way society has rolled, at least in my lifetime, our brains default to automatic, a lot. Look it up – it’s biology and also psychology. More resources are available in our brain when things go automatic. For example – do you remember what you had to eat this week at every meal? Unless you keep a food diary, probably not. Or, if you drive to work, do you remember details from the drive? The point to all of this is being aware makes us more connected to what’s happening.
The last few years, especially, I feel like I slid backwards. My energy levels, appetite, and even social interests completely changed. Based on psychology class discussions and readings, if I better understand, then it will be easier to maintain and improve health. It’s also good for personal growth. The top three items that have helped push me in the personal growth direction are as follows:
When I began participating in yoga classes, I didn’t know exactly what that meant. I mean, I knew they were different than most gym classes, and the more I did yoga, the more I liked doing yoga. Plus, some days I know I need it.
My experience widened from a gym to a local yoga studio a couple of years ago. I learned more about types of yoga and hours of certification and how many people liked recovery type classes. I feel like I’ve been in recovery for “something” for a long time. Maybe I have been and maybe it’s multiple reasons. Yoga gives time for me and to slow things down for an hour. If I’m lucky, that time helps me to heal.
At the moment, my favorite class is a Friday night heated vinyasa. When I first started going a few months ago, I would get there and really “sink” into my mat cause I was exhausted from the week. The class has opened things up – less aches are good since inflammation seems to be a root cause of many health problems. Plus, there’s something about that group at that time making the transition to the weekend. Also, the instructor’s focus (which many there do) on cues and creating an awareness so we observe within – differences, aches, everything. I had a personal trainer who would do that – describe what I should feel and where. Otherwise, how are you supposed to know what is correct? Since we practice in a heated room, the heat stays with me and keeps me warm and happy until I am at home and fall asleep.
Sometimes in yoga the instructors refer to meditation. Plus, as Eastern culture penetrates more of Western society, it’s easy to find meditation references related to health, whether in schools or something that is trending. What is meditation, though? I mean, if we cannot remember what we ate this morning or anything about the route we drove to work, how do we connect through meditation? And is meditation really for anybody?
One of my friends happened to mention this book by journalist Dan Harris, “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story.” After an on air panic attack, Harris began to unravel the real problem – the voice in his head (that we all have) – and take the reader with him on his journey to tame that voice. The journey includes a meditation retreat, and Harris describes his experience in details. The phrases people express about meditation, such as “clarity,” make more sense after reading Harris’ story. The reader learns as Harris learns. Plus, Harris is a cool (acceptable) guy to teach a reader not initially into meditation or anything similar.
Feedback from Others
Years ago, sometimes a member of my Toastmasters club would challenge a speaker to immediately redo a speech after everyone’s feedback. I accepted that challenge, too. For Toastmasters, feedback is expected, and the Club meeting is considered a safe environment. What if it’s more random and in the wild – as far as you don’t know in what form or the timing you may receive it?
Referring again to psychology classes and discussions – without feedback, needed change would be slow, if at all. So when I get picked on for mumbling or speaking too softly (which I know I do), the feedback is aversive enough where I want to change (and I want to be heard). Yes, the group picking on me might make it feel like we’re on the playground as 5th graders instead of at a meeting with adults. It works, and they’ve done it enough that I have become more aware of how often and when it happens and therefore I have a better chance of improving my life. In fact, I’ve told the people who provide the most feedback that I don’t want it sugar coated. I just want to know. Wow, has some of it been a wake up call, too. Feedback is also two way, so I hope what I provide helps others. What you do with the feedback you receive is a choice. Always consider it, then use it or push it aside.
The combination of reading the Dan Harris book, yoga, and feedback, plus my intentions, have helped me. I love that I feel more awake and energetic lately. I am grateful for these practices and experience. What are yours?
I used to think that attention from a guy meant interest in me – Stacy. It probably did, and does, sometimes. On reflection, it’s also how I ended up in certain relationships. I remember one of those relationships being a lot of fun, especially in the beginning. When we would hang out – go to the movies or camping or whatever – we had fun. Once we began to interact with others, it didn’t work as well. I didn’t fit in with his friends – many of them lifeguards. His parents tolerated me. I knew it would end and didn’t stay upset long when it did.
How I went from a fun even if somewhat mismatched relationship to the next ones, I’m not really sure other than I accepted the attention and felt comfortable enough to get married in the second case. And aware enough that I needed to leave, even if it took a long time to get to that stage.
And on that note
Since divorcing, I have noticed the attention again. I am much more guarded about following the attention. I have more interest in a circle of friends than having a bunch of bed buddies. It’s a challenge to find those people. If I changed my goal to connect by sex, I’d literally be rich (and my doctor would make more money from me, too). Everywhere I go, from riding on the bus to waiting in line, there’s an interaction. Except now, I’m pretty sure the interest is in the fact that I am a woman, because most of the interactions involve people who do not know “Stacy,” if they even know my name.
I realize this is not a new thing. In fact, I’m sure my classmates had things going on before high school. “It” starts early. The score could get really high when in the minority, depending on the culture. I mean, people talk.
Of course, there have also been some who have expressed interest and I have had to fend off – especially when alcohol has been involved. I knew one guy who had an interest and I had told him no. It was only if he had been drinking and single that a problem could occur. He would apologize and we would be ok again.
Another “friend” broke up with me because after two weeks I didn’t feel any sparks.
And then there was the guy who decided after one day that if I wanted to get married in six months or so, that would be ok. He told me this the same day we visited his parents and his son (being taken care of by grandparents). Ummmm…..nooooo!!!
What happens when you’re new versus more established?
When you’re new to a group, it’s all about a flirting game. Even the ones who declare they are in relationships are a part of it. The grass may be greener. Or maybe there’s a rule – distance or type of interaction, for example. I could say I’ve heard it all – directly or other people’s stories – and then there would be a new answer.
Sometimes, it seems the worst experiences have been from mixed signals. I didn’t realize how much I “liked” one of my friends until he decided to tell me about his girlfriend breaking up with him. He didn’t realize I “liked” him at all. In retrospect, some of the actions on his part that I thought of as confusing signals probably had to do with actions he would have done for any friend. We have managed to stay friends, although the relationship changed at some point. I considered him one of my best friends cause we counted on each other for a lot of things. When he and his current partner started dating, it moved the circle of our friendship further away. Every once in a while we have a chance to chat in person, and I am grateful. We both moved on and found a way to maintain a connection.
So, what I want to know is, where are the people who want to become friends and establish longer relationships? The ones where our friends mix well. Where are the people who can have deep and meaningful conversations and also have fun.
Of course, writing what I have and posting on the web may be similar to when I signed-up, and then shut down, a dating app account within 24 hours. Plus, I have read a friend’s posts regarding dating app interactions. Although funny, it is also frustrating.
Really, I do believe in meeting people in current environments since there is already a common interest. The best that has accomplished are friends in those environments, sometimes with mixed signals. I feel like one of the environments could be extremely right for all of what I am looking for in relationships and conversations. The best days there have been awesome. Since growth has been slow, it means most of the attention and engagement stays at the surface. Surface means they might know my name and they might hold the door open for me (cause they think they are supposed to). Do they really know (or care to know) “Stacy?”
What are your experiences?
Thanks for reading!
Do you remember when you were first on your own? Maybe that still meant access to family, from a distance. I consider going away to college my first experience. Sure, my mom may have paid most of the bills. I decided where to live on campus, what to eat, and whether to study or be social. I decided on most things, which included moving back to my mom’s house after graduation.
Moving on after graduation is something I have been thinking about a lot. The pressure from society is to have a “real” job at graduation, continue on with school, if that is applicable, or possibly, for women, end up married. Although my original graduation took place over two decades ago, I think about it because I completed school again almost a year ago. As far as the stereotypical options, marriage is not an answer and I have changed my mind (for now) about more schooling. My job happens to be the same as what I had during school. Since I have already been living on my own, that part is continuing as is.
What’s the point of all of this?
While some may still have the choice to live with family, I am solely responsible for myself. “Adulting” means I work for pay so I can take care of my bills. Adulting means that I make sure I have food to eat. Adulting also means if there are dirty dishes in the sink, I am responsible. If the dishes stay dirty, that is the choice.
What about a bigger picture?
Being concerned about my apartment or my bills or a job mostly contributes to the individual level. The bigger picture is realizing that how we interact daily with people and the environment matters. The decision to leave dirty dishes in the sink for a day or two might not effect anything outside of the smell. On the flip side, not shoveling the snow from the sidewalk in front of the house makes it harder for the mail carrier and other pedestrians to walk on the sidewalk.
It goes beyond the shoveling snow example. How many of those neighbors walking by do you even know? If you do know them, how do you interact with each other? For those who live in an apartment complex, how do you interact with people in your building, especially in common areas? Do you want to interact with people in any of these examples? Sometimes, there isn’t a choice in order to get something done.
We have a tendency to push responsibilities – procrastinate or declare the responsibility belongs to someone else.
Bringing it back around
What if we all decided to leave our dirty dishes in the sink? Maybe the number of restaurant customers would increase or maybe landfills would fill at a faster rate than they do now from the additional paper plate use. Whatever we decide, we are the examples for a younger generation, unless they decide to reject the example. Isn’t that part of the point – to learn from parents and those with more experience, and then as an adult, make a decision? I think society forgets (or ignores) that choices exist. In other words, my life’s picture may look a lot different than any expectations from family or society. As long as it is legal, isn’t that the more interesting way to make the world go around?
Thanks for reading!
Have you ever realized how much missing information you needed to know for a project once you learned it? An example in my case is that I have been trying to figure out how to do a project from the bits and pieces of information I have learned between an activity, observing or asking others questions, and watching videos. Then I went through a two-hour training of the machinery and attached software. That training made the process make much more sense and things clicked. I do not know yet if I improved the design I have been struggling to do. It is definitely more fun now to try to figure out.
The dots connecting in this case might seem obvious. The solution of having an opportunity to go through a training is easy when the opportunity exists. What about problems that do not have as easy of an answer? In “Going Deep: Why Environment Matters,” I discussed the issue of being spread thin. An obvious answer might seem to be to drop activities. Being able to drop activities or to drop them in a short period of time may not be an option. I have been thinking about this a lot since I know that something needs to change, and I have a solution to test.
The test relates to another interest – running activities or projects. Although it has been a while, as a member of the Jaycees, I LOVED coming up with projects to run. I have wanted to do the same within current organizations, and to date have not run more than meetings. One of the organizations definitely needs more activities either run or sponsored by members. Switching to this goal still keeps me involved in being a paying member and contributing to the growth of the organization. Since I have other responsibilities, I will have to decide if I am going to move on from some or all of those once I start adding the activities.
Meanwhile, the training has been inspiring. I love to make things for people as gifts. The new access means I can create a longer list of ideas. Plus, the longer list of ideas includes a list of activities. What I believe will help with my focus is to narrow down themes and the purposes I want to promote. I have been trying to think of ideas without those criteria and it is too broad. Or I’ll ask others and while their ideas may be good, they do not always fall in my skill set. To an extent, I can come up with something different than what I might normally do. If it is something I want to learn then I would practice as a part of the preparation for setting up an activity. Hosting activities also means that I may have topics I can develop on my website (as opposed to where you are reading this post). I like being able to teach and doing that within a particular theme and focus would probably be more valuable than a general chronology. What I mean is – topics can stay broad as long as there is a connection to the focus.
Overall, I find the pivot exciting and energizing. Maybe connecting the dots will also create a full picture that even I cannot imagine yet. What is your experience?
Thanks for reading!
Have you found that you are spread too thin and cannot be involved in all the activities you want to be doing yet can’t figure out what to give up? Would you rather choose to focus on one around your work and family schedule? When we spread out the way we do, similar to multi-tasking, we end up doing the minimum, sometimes barely, and not as well as possible. Being able to dive in deep and focus gives us the chance to engage. I know that I struggle because I like everything I am involved in, and it is too much. In a discussion with a doctoral student, she felt the same way about being in school. Nothing really zeroed her in, although she liked everything. She stated that the people she knows doing the best are out there making what they want to do happen.
What does it take to make something happen? I had the opportunity to facilitate a discussion in a psychology journal club (run by the same doctoral student) on the topic of going deep. This group is an example of being in an environment that is supportive at an intellectual level, and I am grateful to be a part of it. The doctoral student had advised looking at a special issue of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management with the topic of leadership and culture and choose two articles (noted at the end). One of the articles had a table that compared the needs of the working world versus characteristics of young professional. Some of the characteristics seemed to apply to a greater population. For example, being a passive consumer versus a dynamic creator. Also, doing as told versus seizing the day.
If you are willing to be a dynamic creator and want to “seize the day,” does that mean you will be able to? Here is another example of how the environment matters. Think about where you work (or have worked). Have you ever been encouraged to come up with ideas on a project, only to be shut down? Or maybe the words and actions do match, and you and the people around you thrive because you are given that opportunity. Those opportunities also encourage personal growth, which is another benefit. Being shut down, though, is like stating that you are not worthy. Being shut down or told what to do is a control. Sometimes, the controlling is necessary to make sure things like vision, mission and goals stay in alignment. Are there other ways to manage? How this is done is usually a part of the culture, and culture is typically based on what leadership does.
When being shut down happens to me and there is something keeping me connected, I may stay and at the same time look for other activities. In my life, for example, I have a paid job, I volunteer at a place where I am also a member, and I am a part of my local neighborhood board of directors. On top of these choices, I also have to maintain the personal end, such as grocery shopping, paying bills, cleaning my apartment and that I am eating/sleeping/exercising enough. That’s a lot, and I’m only one person! I do try to incorporate things such as biking for transportation because that is also exercise. For those who have a family, then some of the personal end also means making sure the family has what they need. After that, how do we have energy left to be creative and explore new interests? Is this why a more controlling structure evolved?
Again, I believe this is where environment matters. The people who I know that thrive are the ones with a great support system. Maybe parents take turns driving several kids in a carpool. Maybe grandparents babysit so the parents can have a break from that role. Maybe company leadership provides more of a support and feedback system instead of micro-managing. Maybe a group of friends takes turns with making a meal or cleaning or the group is good at knowing resources. How can there be growth if we keep following what society has taught us and keep to ourselves, listen and not question what leadership is telling us to do, and only seek answers?
Sometimes, being spread thin is a way to try different activities. At the local art institute, for example, they have an open night every once in a while. On the open night they have classrooms setup and each has a different type of activity related to their art school. Participants are able to try the different activities and see if they want to explore it further. What a great way to sell art school classes! And, what a great environment! Anyone attending already has that mindset of exploring. It sounds more like fun than work. Plus, once you do start learning and practicing, you have the chance to become really good.
The conclusion of the journal club discussion did not end with any solutions. I still do not know how to narrow down the activities so I can have the focus and become really good at something. The point of the journal club discussion and also this post, is awareness. If we are aware that there are different choices and that environments can change – at least your personal one – then we might be likely to ask the right questions and come up with solutions. What I do want to focus on is writing, although I do not know if writing is my answer. When it comes to environment and going deep, what do you think?
Thanks for reading!
Articles I read:
Geller, E.S.(2015).Seven Life Lessons from Humanistic Behaviorism: How to Bring the Best Out of
Yourself and Others, Journal of Organizational Behavior Management,35:1-2,151-170
Krapfl,J.E. & Kruja,B(2015). Leadership and Culture, Journal of Organizational Behavior