Some Thoughts to close 2012

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I haven’t had the chance to write up a post since election day; but, I wanted to say something before the end of the year.  So, I have two things.

First, if you are a regular reader, you know how much I dig the writings/speeches given by Brene Brown.  There is part of me who really cringes at anything that reeks of self help ramblings without some science behind it and Ms. Brown brings the science.  And she cuts through the mixed messages and gets right to the core of how we operate.  I love that.  I ran across an article by her that sums up bullying way better than I ever could.  I’m a believer that we live in a bully culture and encourage bully behavior and then are surprised when kids and adults “take it too far.”   We like to think we are a country of people that love the underdogs; but, in reality, we love our bullies even more.  Here’s a small excerpt:

Whether we are a sweaty-palmed 7th grader navigating a hostile cafeteria, or a laid-off worker trying to make a mortgage payment, or a young mother waiting for mammogram results, feeling vulnerable, imperfect and afraid is human. It is when we lose our capacity to hold space for these struggles that we become dangerous. We can legislate behavior all day long, but true compassion comes from a tender and vulnerable place where we understand how inextricably connected we are.

From :  The Cruelty Crisis: Bullying Isn’t a School Problem, It’s a National Pastime by Brene Brown.  Published on Psychology Today (www.psychologytoday.com) on October 31, 2010.

Read that article and pay special attention to the last paragraph.

Secondly, recently a few friends have been doing 30 or even 40 days of gratitude on Facebook.  I’m going to admit something.   As a (somewhat) reformed  eye roller,  I resist the urge to chalk all of this gratitude up to some touchy feelie, new agey bunk.  But, I also know that I feel better when I focus on the things I can be grateful for.  I feel better when I focus on seeing the good.

The amazing thing about gratitude is it can be cultivated, practiced and even developed as a reaction and the results are rather amazing.  I recently presented a program on leading with compassion.  I gave the audience a short exercise to try that several people talked to me about afterwards. So, I altered it and decided to share it with you here.

You will need a piece of paper, a pen, a quiet moment and the willingness to keep your mind open.

Think of the person at your job who most drives you crazy.  Close your eyes.  Think of their face.  Take note of the feelings that arise and sit with them for a moment.  Okay.  You are most likely sitting with negative feelings.  Imagine all those feelings are written up on chalkboard.  If you really dislike this person, your chalkboard is probably full, every inch of space being used.  In your mind, see your chalkboard filled with all of those feelings, now take an eraser and erase them.  Get that eraser into every corner until there is just chalk dust up on your imaginary board.  Great.  Now lets get started.

  1. Think of your person.
  2. Write down 3 things they are good at.  This can be anything.  Maybe they keep their desk neat.  Perhaps they are prompt.  Even if you have to dig deep, write down 3 things.
  3. Write down one thing you would miss if the person didn’t come to work anymore.  You have to write down one thing.  You can do it.  Even the most annoying, crazy person offers something that is worthy of missing.
  4. Write down one thing YOU can do to help this person succeed.

Now I want you to set down your pen, close your eyes and take a couple of calming breaths.  Relax your shoulders.  Think of your person.  Did your heart soften towards them a wee bit?  Maybe it softened a lot.  Take note of the new feelings.

I firmly believe, as a supervisor, my job is not to get people to do what I want; but, it is to help them succeed.  As a colleague, it is to help my coworkers succeed.  I understand that at times, this is impossible and that with really, really toxic people, the best course of action is to figure out ways to just reduce their toxicity.

Don’t mistake a softening heart for losing ground or giving in.  It is just about understanding that your person is just another person in the world navigating through the ups and downs of life and struggling with things as you sometimes struggle.  Try not to get bogged down with what other people are doing and focus on the things that are in your control.

2012 is winding down and I’ve heard so many people say that it was a bad year for them.  If this is you, I want you to immediately sit down and write a list of 10 things that were good about 2012.  Go!  Do it!  Enter 2013 thinking, wow, I found 10 good things about 2012, 2013 is going to be even better!

I’ve struggled to find the balances I need in my life so that I can thrive in NYC.  I think maybe I’ve spent a good portion of the year feeling a bit tired and foggy headed; but, 2012 is year that goes down in my personal history as a watershed year.  I got married.  I had this amazing, sweet wedding at an apple orchard in Vermont that is owned by Anya’s cousin and her family.  We were surrounded by people that love and support us.  There was a dude with a guitar and ten gallon hat singing Neil Young’s Heart of Gold.  Later, with his band, they did covers of Johnny Cash and other twangy greats.   After the ceremony and the toasts, with the party just getting into gear,  I looked over the lawn and saw my friend Ann, carrying a croquet mallet in one hand and a wine glass in the other, her pretty green dress popping against the blue sky and I thought, This is perfect.  Did everything go as planned?  Ha!  Of course not.  Did we panic and find someone to blame?  Hell no!  There was pie and happy people and this amazing hard cider from the orchard and the most perfect weather of the whole summer and there was this incredible, extraordinary woman who makes me laugh, reminds me not to worry so much, accepts me just the way I am and pretty much takes my breath away every day.  That is perfect and by perfect, I mean perfectly imperfect.  It truly is a beautiful life.

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2 thoughts on “Some Thoughts to close 2012

  1. Thank you. I think it’s one of the harder things to do. I know that I find it hard to always take responsibility for the kind of negative pollution that I sometimes feel when I allow a coworker to irritate me. It’s so much easier to just put it at their feet: if they weren’t so irritating I wouldn’t feel this way. It’s such a human reaction to do that. I use this exercise to combat that. I have found it useful.

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