The Coach is In…
““If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves” – Thomas Edison
Thanks for Noticing Me
If you have spent any time with A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh you are familiar with the main characters that occupy the 100-acre wood. I always laugh when hearing Eeyore’s familiar voice uttering, “Thanks for noticing me.” Eeyore always seems to be in a perpetual state of gloom or melancholy. Christopher Robin is steady and levelheaded; Tigger, the bouncy tiger, is well, the ADHD personality of the group; and Piglet, who worries about everything. Pooh, for his part, seems to never get discouraged, and is always offering a positive alternative to whatever negativity or worry is present.
I loved the adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh in the 100-acre wood. That love was enhanced by the opportunity to introduce the ‘Pooh gang’ to my daughter decades ago. The characters in the books were a microcosm of a number of personalities we deal with daily – those that tend to find the negative, those that are full of energy and just tend to find fun wherever they go, those that worry about everything, those that don’t seem to get flustered by much, and those that seem to see the possibilities everywhere.
My daughter and I loved how the personalities showed up in each story. There was an innocence to them, and, like all good stories, there was some danger or obstacle that needed to be overcome. I’m not sure, in my mid-thirties, that I always appreciated the nuances of the characters and their approach to life. I remember one conversation that Pooh was having with Piglet as they walked through the 100-acre wood and gale-force winds came up. Piglet: “Supposing a tree fell down when we were underneath it?” Pooh: “Supposing it didn’t?” Pooh always seemed to come up with a different, more positive alternative; a way of seeing things that helped others to rethink their position.
Several years ago, I had a good friend come to work for me. He seemed to be the perfect person for the position. As time went on, however, I noticed that he possessed a few traits (more negativity) and lacked certain skills that were not well-suited for the job. During one of our ‘heart-to-hearts’ I pointed out some of his negativity. I also offered a different perspective for him concerning one of the prospects he was struggling with. Out of frustration he asked me, “How the _____ do you always find the silver lining in EVERYTHING?” My response, “Because, finding the positive way to look at things gives me more energy than whining about everything that is wrong!”
I never thought that finding the positive was a particularly unique skill, but the longer I coach the more I observe how people’s pessimism can get in the way of their success (their definition, not mine). I am always curious to know what it is about some that once they have greater awareness about their pessimism what they choose to do about it. Some will say, “That’s just the way I am”, as if to say, “this is my lot in life”, or “this is my burden to carry.” For others, it is part of a mental health struggle. Others will choose to take a longer journey to discover how nature or nurture growing up shaped their thinking. If they are willing to go that far, some will develop ways of coping/seeing that they find more productive. Others will not. I am often baffled why certain individuals, with the presence of awareness and a path that seems to be better, will not choose it. Perhaps it is because it’s someone else’s path. What I know is that until what we want is different than what we have, there is no motivation to change.
That is why I developed the rule, ‘don’t care more than they do.’ There are two others I share when I’m working with new leaders: 1) Don’t take it personally and 2) Don’t make assumptions. Many people want to know about ‘don’t care more than they do.’ I explain that when we care more than another person about whatever, then the relationship begins to get out of balance. We begin to nag, cajole, and otherwise become a pain. In extreme cases the relationship can be severed. Matching the other person’s motivation/energy for something tends to keep the relationship in better balance, particularly with children. It also means that sometimes, or often, we don’t get what WE want.
The simplest, yet profound, question I can ask another about their life is, “Is what you are doing getting you what you want?” The second question is, “What do you want?” I find that those who are more pessimistic may want less (from or for themselves, from others, from life). Is that really what they want, or have they developed a certain ‘defensive’ posture toward life that helps them cope? I leave that question for you to hold, and perhaps share your thoughts with me.
Sometimes we need to ‘rewire’ our thinking when certain things are not working as well as we would like. That isn’t always easy. If we tend to ask, “what’s the worst that can happen?” it may be difficult for us to ask ourselves a different question, like, “What’s the best that can happen?” We may also need to ‘let go’ of past disappointments and focus more on past accomplishments. I find that those I coach who are self-critical sometimes can’t recall many of their accomplishments because they focus more on what didn’t go well. Creating more balance in our evaluation of events enables us to understand more objectively what we do well and areas that may not be a strength. A by-product of this balance can be improvement in our self-confidence.
I have a friend of mine who wanted to walk more. The challenge? She was in a wheelchair when she made the goal! She added that if she lost some weight while walking that would be okay too. She shared that in the past diets never worked for her. She hoped that keeping her focus on walking would help her be more successful. The year isn’t over yet, but she has lost 100 pounds! She could have thought about all the obstacles and given up early. She did not. What she did do was break the larger task down to smaller ‘steps’ (pun intended) that helped her deal more successfully with those days when being motivated was difficult.
I share this story as an illustration of what one individual did to overcome a mental model she had for years. She decided to make a different choice; then again the next day; and the next day until new habits were formed and a brighter path established.
Is my goal to turn all pessimists into optimists? No. My goal is to invite you to reflect on those areas of your life that may not be working as well as you’d like and to offer some encouragement and some thoughts on making a different choice. My passion is to help others find a higher version of themselves…if that’s what they want!
Toward a better you…
P.S. If you could use some help with changes in your life, let me know. It’s what I do.