I was reminiscing today and reminded myself of how fortunate and grateful I am to have met and worked with my now husband for a number of years in the same company. Naturally I used to talk to him in the evenings about issues I would be facing in the workplace – this just so happened to be very regular – daily in fact! The single most influential thing he’d say to me after listening to my problems in detail, in a calm and compassionate tone is ‘so what are you going to do about it?’ It was as if there was nothing else for him to say but simply these words of wisdom. They would stop me in my tracks every time and then I’d start thinking about how I could answer the question.
I can’t tell you the number of times I heard this sequence of words and it eventually got to the point when I’d hear the question being asked in my mind – tone and all. It was the question that provoked a behavioral change – a shift in my attitude in the workplace and essentially in my entire life. My early conversations started to transform into talking about what my issues were as well as what I’m going to do about them or what I’d already done about them. It was a way of preventing THAT question being asked of me AGAIN. I was being smart and giving the answer before being asked the question.
What I may not have recognized at the time is that this question caused a shift in my behavior and attitude. It really allowed me to be more in control of my own mind and actions in the workplace rather than being reactive to the impact people or processes were having on me. Upon reflection it gave me the opportunity to learn so much. I took it a step further and started asking the question of other people too, including my husband on the occasions he would talk to me about issues he might have been experiencing too – I’m sure he was just as grateful as I was for the opportunity for growth! 😉
This shift in behavior and attitude reminds me of something I connected with earlier this year…I was told of a story where a man was on his own secluded paradise island, perfect in every sense – food, water, beach, shade, weather and then one day a storm passed over and washed driftwood onto the beach, it covered from one end to the other. The beach he walked along each day was no longer perfect as it once was and it would be no easy task to clean it up. Through no choice of his own he now needed to choose his response to this situation he found himself in. He can blame the storm for making a mess of his perfect beach or he could accept what had happened and take action by cleaning it up to return his beach to the way it was. I loved the essence of this story and how it is a beautiful representation of not always being able to choose what comes into our life or what washes up on our beach but really whatever happens we do have a choice…what do you choose and what action would you take?
We can explore this at an even deeper level and ask ourselves what has this come to teach me? I’m a believer in life being a series of experiences and lessons along the way. Who else is better than the universe to send us lessons – these lessons come to us in the form of challenges, mostly in disguise and when we don’t learn the lesson the first time it seems to repeat in different forms until we get it and then we’ll get a new lesson. Having this approach can also help take some of the emotional responses out of your day as it can be exhausting letting people or things get to you.
Someone else who has supported me over more recent times has shared a pearl of wisdom that I’d like to share with you…it’s a little mindful strategy – hold things lightly – when you hold things lightly then you don’t have the emotional response…meaning there is really no need to turn mole hills into mountains. Just hold it lightly – emotionally – thoughtfully. This is something I practice a lot these days and it’s a beautiful experience to feel peace, love and joy as much as I do and it’s a much more stable baseline to be in each and every day.
In summary, start practicing asking yourself these questions and watch how it transforms you both in the workplace and at home;
- What am I going to do about it?
- How am I going to choose to respond?
- What has this come to teach me?
- How can I hold this lightly?