This blog is morphing into somewhat of a diary; a first hand reflection of what I’m learning about how to be a more grounded, happy and confident person.
My intent in charting my own journey is to inspire others, as well as myself, to be more honest and kind with themselves, to inspire compassion and heart for a happier life. It’s not meant to sound woo woo, or lead strong men to snort, just honest and raw.
Some days writing so honestly has been a delicious catharsis, others it feels like I’m peeling back my skin and pouring on salt. Facing our most flawed and human selves is no easy journey, breaking it out it in front of an audience is doubly confronting.
I learned some important lessons today while catching up with a friend, fresh in her enthusiasm for her nascent venture, focused and motivated to live her dream. In many ways she’s already living my dream. In other ways, I’m living hers.
We chatted about her plans, the more enthusiastic she became the more uncomfortable I felt in myself, despite my genuine enthusiasm and happiness for her. To counter my feelings of discomfort, I rummaged deep into my basket of tricks until I pulled out my old comfortable hat.
The Hat is my Helpful and Constructive Hat. Or so I thought. Once on my head, it takes over my brain and begins to fire oh-so-terribly practical and helpful questions out of my mouth like, “where’s the revenue source, how well do you know your new partner, who’s your audience, how do you distribute, have you drawn up legal agreements?”
Had I recognised what was happening, the right question to ask would have been, “what can I offer that will best serve you right now?” The Hat carried on instead and the creative moment of magic was lost.
As I drove home I was curious about how I had chosen to handle the situation. What was the fear that had caused me to call on the old Hat?
The fear comes from two places I can find. One is the benefit of experience. I’ve had some past disappointments in the area in which she is building and I was afraid for her dream. Perfectly valid but it was not the right time or place to raise the questions I did. Two, her conviction made me feel inadequate. I wanted a purpose as clear as hers. In turn this led to uncertainty and I’m terrible at sitting in uncertainty. Cue angst, fear and all the horsemen of the apocalypse, in the form of the metaphorical Hat.
So as I started to write this piece, I called her to read aloud what I’ve written, and to pose the question I could more usefully have asked. Her answer, “I just wanted encouragement.”
In other words, “I want you to support my faith and keep me focused on the reasons why I’m doing this when I stumble.”
Instead of supporting her in the way she knew she needed, and moreover, a way which would have been consistent with my own intent, I gave in to my own fear.
Next time I find myself reaching for the Hat, I hope I can better recognise the pattern and stop myself. I hope to be a better friend and supporter, while recognising my own fear and anxieties for what they are. The recognition part is important, the fear doesn’t go away by our pretending it doesn’t exist, it festers and submits to ego. Far better to acknowledge it, understand it and ask how well founded it is, before letting it drive the conversation.
- We are not always best serving others by finding problems to solve, unless that’s what’s explicitly required.
- Be a good listener. People most often know their own answers.
- Listen from your heart, don’t problem solve for others from your fear.
- Fear has a rightful place. If you have deep experience in an area, fear can come from lessons hard learned (as in my case today). Use your judgement effectively to determine from where the fear is coming and just as important, the right time to listen to it.
- The creative process and practical steps do not belong in the same conversation. Trying to blend them in the same context inhibits the creative process, and prevents a practical plan from forming.
- Ask “what can I offer that will best serve you right now?” This is a question that can be used in so many situations.
- It is ok to sit in uncertainty. Goodness knows I still cannot grasp this one when under pressure. I like certainty, and my brain will do whatever it can to create it. Another topic for another time.