I am a fan of the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946 produced by Frank Capra, starring James Stewart). We watch it as a family every Christmas (if you prefer to read, it’s based on the short story The Greatest Gift, written by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1939). The movie’s premise is based on a man who does his best, has dreams he’s never been able to realize, is having a really bad time at work, and begins to believe he is of no value to this world; contemplating ending his own life. An angel, (a comedic one at that, lest this whole thing get too heavy for holiday consumption) comes to show him how he has made an enormous, and unknowing, difference in the lives of others, and how the world would have been a much darker place had he never been born.
"How does your commitment to your values make the word a better place?"
What would this world have been like without your special self? You bring something unique into this world simply by being here. What is it? How does your smile light up a room (or a bad day for a perfect stranger)? How does your commitment to your values make the world a better place (yes, there is something you do regularly that makes the world a better place, listen to your angel on this :-)? It would be nice to have the larger-than-life examples seen in the movie, but they aren’t necessary – you don’t have to have saved a life to be special (you are not in Hollywood after all).
"What are the small, everyday acts you do (without even thinking about them) that make a difference to others..."
We all make unknowing contributions to others. A kind word, a well-placed compliment. A belief in someone’s abilities (when they were unsure of them themselves). What are the small, everyday acts you do (without even thinking about them) that make a difference to others, a difference they may not be able to put their finger on, but that they would miss if you were not in their lives? What is it about your values and commitments that contributes to things larger than yourself? Things that will stand well beyond your direct contributions, playing a simple, but tangible part in the lives of others? As parents we bring life into this world; as caregivers, we nurture life (young and old) – these are no small acts.
You are a wonderful life."
You make a difference and you are enough. There are many things to point to that you may wish to do better or more consistently; it is the easiest thing in the world to find flaws and lack (a convenient way out of the vulnerability that arises when you are asked to own your gifts). This is not about those things; this is about the other things, the blessing you are, the things that make a difference because your precious life is here with us today.
You are a gift, open up and be present to the difference you make. You are a wonderful life.
It was a stunning revelation to me, on my own journey of self-awareness, that I had been making decisions in multiple facets of my life from a place of fear, rather than a place of trust. It was pervasive in my life (in things big and small). I simply did not trust myself enough to make decisions based on faith in myself. This will surprise anyone who knows me, because I projected a lot of ease and confidence during this period. And the Oscar for best interpretation of a strong confident woman goes to…
"Rather than being curious about whether what I feared was probable or not, it became just the way I operated..."
Making it worse is that in moving from a place of fear (unconsciously expecting the worst…of myself), I was also making assumptions, and telling myself stories, that reinforced that fear and lack of faith. Rather than being curious about whether what I feared was probable or not, it became just the way I operated – keeping myself in a constant state of low-grade fear. It’s a subtle and tricky thing, but now that I can see it, I cannot un-see it. It also explains a lot of what has happened in my career; results I didn’t get (even though I nearly killed myself trying to achieve them), interpersonal exchanges that didn’t go well, even though that was not my intention.
...being someone else in that conversation (an imposter) was what put me at risk in the first place..."
I once sat in a one-on-one meeting trying to manage my words so the other person wouldn’t blow up at me, and then causing a blow-up anyway because I wasn’t speaking enough. I knew this person was difficult going in, it was my fear of not being able to hold my temper that disconnected me from the skills I had to manage that exchange, for both of us. Moving from a place of fear put me immediately off balance, and left me at a high risk of being reactionary. It also reinforced the narrative that I was not enough. Here is the irony, being someone else in that conversation (an imposter) was what put me at risk in the first place. If I had acknowledged what I was concerned about (my temper), giving myself compassion (confirming I was more than my temper, I was enough), I could have trusted myself and there would have been a much better outcome. Too bad I made the real me sit on the bench. Well, no more.
"I am no longer some version of me I think the word wants to see, I am the real me..."
Real change happened when I started checking in to see where I was making my moves from – fear, or faith in myself. Doing this means I am more prepared to meet life head-on, rather than playing defense (being disconnected from myself, my gifts). I have survived 100% of my worst days; I am under no illusions, there are more challenges coming, I can tell you with 100% certainty I will manage those too. Not perfectly, but from a place of faith in myself that allows me to be more fully present for my needs, and the needs of those I work with and love.
I am no longer some version of me I think the word wants to see, I am the real me and I no longer mind what the word thinks of that: my intentions are kind and I am enough. Ditch the imposter syndrome and let yourself thrive.
Working from home is both a current, and emerging, business practice. You still see jokes and memes about “working from home” on social media (implying no real work is being done), yet it is a rising trend. What opportunities do you have to work from a more convenient location? It can be the answer to getting more balance in your work and life. I first began working from home during periods where I needed to do a lot of focus work; report writing, number crunching and data analysis. It was great to be able to sequester myself someplace where no one would find me, turn off the notifications on my laptop (and turn on my Out of Office) allowing me to happily work away…in my sweat pants. The first few times I worked from home I felt both free, and a little bit guilty, as I snuck in a load of laundry and threw dinner into the crock pot.
"...more employers are open to the idea of staff working from another location..."
Quick chores included, I worked more hours in a day from home then I normally did in the office, and they were highly productive hours. My role at the time required me to be on-site at work, and I loved that too, but it was nice to have the option to work from home when I was trying to meet a deadline. Fast-forward a few years, and working from a location other than the office is more prevalent and better understood; more employers are open to the idea of staff working a day a week or more from another location, and many employees are embracing the upside of having this flexibility.
"The change of scenery (and of pace) has many benefits as well..."
Even if you’ve decided working from home isn’t your favourite mode, it can offer benefits for balance. During inclement weather when your commute time may double (or triple), working from home means you don’t lose time (and you skip the frustration of a brutal commute). The change of scenery (and of pace) has many benefits as well, allowing you to get some much-needed traction on focus-work, while also feeling like you are staying on top of things in your life (news flash – you don’t need to feel guilty about getting non-work things done during work hours…no one cares as long as the work itself gets done). I’ve also found it helped when I needed to be with a recuperating loved one, allowing me to both be there for them and keep on top of e-mail.
"A chance to breathe, to catch-up, reduce distractions and interruptions and look after yourself..."
Far from being a perk, working remotely is an option many employers will rely on in the future, to reduce the cost of doing business. It also has a good-news story for the environment (fewer emissions). Outside of the benefits to organizations, there are benefits working outside of the office offers you. A chance to breathe, to catch-up, reduce distractions and interruptions and look after yourself and/or your household, all at the same time. What could your potential do with turning your commute into productive time? What are the benefits to putting in a full and useful day AND having taken the dog for a walk at lunch? Think about the ways this benefits you, and plan for it in your work life. Then watch it nourish your potential.
I have a lot of roles in life. Chief Procurement Officer, Chef, Taxi Service, Financial Planner, Laundress, Maid, Care Provider. I switch in and out of these roles more times a day than I can count. And that isn’t even my work life. We all hold many different roles in our lives, and it can be both rewarding and exhausting. In our work there are more and more tools coming on-line that help us to manage tasks and work, in ways big and small. I have a tool to help me manage my cash-flow, my projects, my appointments. But at home, things have remained decidedly “analog”, needing “hands on” and time.
Making skillful requests that support your well-being can be a challenge. It may sometimes feel like a personal failure that you can’t get it all done… always a last-minute scramble of some kind. From handing in the quality level of work you know you are capable of, to living up to your own expectations at home (as a spouse, parent, friend, etc.) what is often called for is a step back to look at the bigger picture.
Whose standards are these? Our potential helps us to achieve so many things, but just because we can see how well something can be done, doesn’t mean we should be investing the time to make it so on the first go. Professionally, you may have time to evolve the work to eventually get to that nirvana place that looks like you originally envisioned (it doesn’t have to be there in the first draft). At home, unhooking yourself from the expectations set in magazines, social media and TV is also key. Yes, it would be beautiful to have an immaculate table set with hand-made place cards and matching linens. If the point is to enjoy each other’s company, do you really need all that stuff?
Our standards are one place to look to give ourselves a break, asking for help is another. How comfortable are you asking for help (at work or at home)? It is responsible to have your half-grown kids do their own laundry, learning to do something that is the definition of life skill. It is strategic to let your boss know when a deadline is unreasonable as you spend more time understanding how much work is involved. You are the only person who can objectively look at what you have on your plate, and then work with others to manage it in ways that allow everyone to be successful. Killing yourself to do everything keeps your work and efforts invisible, and ensures you are not fully appreciated for what you do.
Asking for help, before you have hit a wall, are frustrated, or resentful, means you can source this from a healthy place, and make reasonable requests that others can engage in, increasing the chances that you’ll get what you need. Take a key step towards your well-being; consider, and then ask for, what you need to better balance the commitments in your life.
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ABOUT MY BLOG
I believe in giving back to others in many tangible ways. When I learn something new, or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website. You can always find my latest blog entries here, on Facebook or Linked In.