What happens to our courageous convictions when we have one too many set backs? Since mid January my world has been blighted by family illnesses, lots of them. My conviction that I needed to let my work evolve more mindfully, which included taking time for myself, felt like it was being stretched rice-paper thin. Work became a tantalising aspiration in the distance and, getting to it an epic journey requiring me to circumnavigate piles of soiled washing, mop fevered brows and weather painfully regular sleep deprivation. However the huge dragon that required slaying in the midst of all this was my inner critic mocking me that I had it all wrong.
You are probably very familiar with the inevitable bumpy ride that comes with setting off down an unfamiliar track. It is usually an indication that you really are letting yourself try out a new path and are not just keeping to those old familiar routes that don’t get you where you want to go anymore. When we first risk trying something new it is only with hindsight that we know about the bumps whilst nursing our bruises. With a bit more practice at applying the pioneering spirit we start to know what we hit as we hit it and so we get ‘mid-sight’. The great thing about being a seasoned traveller is that in theory you have foresight and can remind yourself there will be bumps; forewarned is forearmed.
Why doesn’t this always work then? You are smart; you have experience so why get the wobbles? Two reasons come to mind.
1. The people around you. We all know that image of the butterfly wings … when you make a shift it changes the order of things however subtly and this impacts others. This can make those around you less easy to predict and trickier to navigate just when you need all your courage to stay on course. My children can sniff any whiff of change even if I am just at the pondering stage. Obviously their behaviour changes accordingly and sometimes that can add a huge element of doubt for me. Whilst playing at Florence Nightingale it occurred to me that I hadn’t properly thought about how positive my new approach to work could be for the children. If I changed it could allow them to change too. I’d been too busy assuming they would react as they had in the past. Then I got a surprising thumbs-up from my very mummy orientated daughter who suddenly announced that she loved having more time with dad when I took time for myself. It reminded me how easy it is to look at the present through the lens of the past. Purposefully looking at your family, friends, colleagues and wider networks through the lens of your new perspective can deliver unexpected results. To take full advantage of this and let the opportunities unfold for yourself and those around you can take longer than you anticipated though – why is this?
2. The pace of change. When I moved out of London to the country I had a sharp shock about learning to accept how slowly some things took. It seems to me that often genuine change does not arrive fully complete over-night, much as we may want it to. It requires patience and practice. We need to test run our new approach in lots of different settings before we can trust it and not revert to old strategies when a problem occurs. Creating that solid foundation takes time. It is an utter cliché that most inspired building projects go over time and budget and need more attention to detail than could be foreseen. Yet, when we set about changing our circumstances, we expect to realise our vision if not immediately, fairly soon after that. That things do take time, however frustrating, can be a bonus. This is the chance to do the ‘snagging’ check out how things really work rather than how they should work according to the plans.
I was getting hooked up on whether I needed to work more mindfully, needed more will-power to drive things forward or just needed to accept my slowed down pace. When I realised that in reality I needed all these qualities but not quite in the way I previously thought things genuinely began to change.
What supports you when you hit one too many set back, I’d love to hear?