Disappointment is one of those feelings that comes to us sharply and then lingers. It may take up mental real estate or drain our energy trying to manage the feelings that come with a disappointment. It can feel even more acute at this time of the year, when we are trying to hold on to the “magic” of the holidays, or create magic for someone else. I always find the Christmas season makes me more vulnerable towards disappointment, in myself or through circumstances that get in the way of feeling the holiday spirit “What do you mean exactly when you say this is ‘out of stock’?!”.
Nowhere does this come to roost more then at work, which can feel like a real sprint to the finish line as the year closes. Getting things wrapped up for year-end (calendar or fiscal). Working to get your desk and in-box cleared out so you can relax over the extended holiday. Doing a self-review (since year end is often the kick-off to performance review and reflection in many companies). Possibly waiting to see if there is a “bonus” coming, and if there is, is it what you expected. Waiting to hear from management about additional paid time off between Christmas and New Year’s (AKA company-wide shut-down for the holidays)? “What do you mean exactly when you say we’re shutting down but you need me to be ‘available’?!”
And in the midst of all of this our personal lives are often just nuts. I went out to get groceries on Black Friday, and turned around without them when I couldn’t even get into the parking lot of my local grocery store. The chaos often starts on that weekend and doesn’t really stop until the holidays are over. Trying to find meaningful gifts for people who need nothing more then your time and attention (which is in limited supply…) also creates disappointment. Often feeling like we do not have the time or capacity to really do the holiday’s justice, and by now (mid-December) are on the path to just getting ourselves through to the big day; “What do you mean exactly by ‘Your brother needs to bring his wife’s family along for dinner on Christmas Day or they can’t come’?!”
As tempting as it is to just put your head down and plow through, intuitively you know that puts the enjoyment of this season even further from your reach. Here are a few tips to get you to the holiday break before your holiday spirit is broken.
Celebrate the season by being present for every moment, and you will experience the magic…because you are the magic.
“You are a gift. Open up, be present.” ~ Unknown
Needs are everywhere. We spend time each day meeting the needs of others or ourselves; it’s a never-ending process. Not all needs are created equal; some feel optional (reading for pleasure), while others are essential to maintaining our well-being (sleeping and eating). So what happens when circumstances arise that make you feel bad about yourself, asserting an emotional need? We have three typical responses to our emotional needs and while we use all three to cope in a world that doesn’t always set us up for success, one of these will be the place you start to meet these needs.
The first of these three responses is the direct route, acting on our need to feel good about ourselves. We fix the problem, justify our actions, demand something of others or find some way to re-take control of the narrative (internal or external) that we find ourselves immersed in. While taking action is often a good thing, do not confuse action with accountability; sometimes we act in ways designed to protect ourselves that don’t include getting to the heart of the matter when it involves making us feel vulnerable. Actions are a two-sided coin; to either work through unwanted feelings, or to subvert them, depending on what is motivating us.
Another way to meet our emotional needs is to earn the trust and respect we crave to ensure the way we want to feel is consistently present in our lives and work. We may try to appease others, or be of best service, to maintain or regain feeling good about ourselves in their eyes. This type of response is all about meeting expectations. Being aware of (and using) expectations as a motivator can be a very good thing, but when taken too far it can result in a polarizing outcome, where we either feel we are “better than” others (more moral, ethical, loving, etc.) or “less than” others (becoming a doormat or emotionally dependent on others for our own self-esteem). Earning the respect and trust of others is also a two-sided coin, being there for ourselves emotionally versus making others fill this void for us.
The third way we beautiful human beings try to meet our emotional needs is by withdrawing (as in “Stop the world, I want to get off”); moving away from conversations, situations and people (mentally or physically) as a way of coping with overwhelming feelings. Here the motivation is to take time to process what is going on, turn it over in our minds and see what it is all about. As adults we get very good at doing this in socially acceptable ways, like tuning out in the midst of a conversation; being there, but not really being present (or actually leaving, slipping away unnoticed). While stepping away from something stressful or meaningless can give everyone time to think, doing it without the intention to resolve the problem (preferring the more rational, fertile space of our inner mind to the harsh and unpredictable outside world) abandons responsibility. Withdrawing from others as a coping mechanism is also a two-sided coin (considerate time out versus abdicating accountability) depending on what our intentions are.
Learning which of these responses feels most familiar to you can help you to better see whether you are using it to work through something difficult (owning it), or to escape unwanted feelings (running away from it). Getting in touch with this essential part of you (coping with how you feel about yourself) is a powerful way to realize your full potential, at work and in life. Love yourself first.
“When we are stuck in our convictions and personas, we enter into the disease of having good ideas and being right…We think we have a lock on truth…but the bigger we pump ourselves up, the easier we are to prick with a pin. And the bigger we get, the harder it is to see the earth under our feet.” ~ Anne Lamott, Almost Everything, Notes On Hope
(These three ways we meet our emotional needs are based on the work of Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Triadic Self, page 60 - 63)
Photo Credit: Brigitte Thom on Unsplash
Today’s business world is very focused on results; deadlines, budgets, outcomes, efficiency, productivity, etc. Performance is measured in results, with the accompanying metrics that let you know how effectively you arrived at your results in your role. We even put our results on our resumes in the form of accomplishments, helping others to see our demonstrated knowledge, skills and abilities and how we could make a difference to an organization.
But do results tell the whole story of you in your work?
No, they do not, for they are too one-dimensional to do that. Results are really only the beginning. Results are sexy, there is a lot of thought and hard work that goes into making something happen in the right way, at the right time. Results get a lot of glory, but in reality they are not the whole story, because most of us don’t get out of bed to chase results, we get out of bed to make a meaningful difference…and that means we need to look beyond results to the impact those results have on ourselves, our organizations, our communities and our families.
Results are a product of our actions; impact is a product of our intentions. Most of us find a sense of purpose and meaning in our work because large aspects of it align with our core values. Our values, in turn, form the quality of our intent in our work. Being able to articulate your impact at work is far more powerful than just focusing on results. Learning to demonstrate how your values-based intentions lead to value-driven actions and positive impacts allows your employer to see your worth beyond the binary “did you get it done or didn’t you”. It gives you an opportunity to demonstrate what you learned along the way, how this work will serve the team/organization/end clients beyond its current result. In essence, it helps everyone to see how your work makes a meaningful difference to others.
So how do you do that? There is a simple “recipe” for writing an impact statement, something you can use to help your manager, team or organization see how your work has reach beyond just today. It is RESULT + YOUR VALUES = IMPACT and it looks like this (on a self-review or in an e-mail); “In completing the work on this service offering, integrity, teamwork and innovation ensures that not only will this meet our current company mandate for this client, but we have a ‘blueprint’ that is easily replicable for future offerings that will allow us to consistently exceed customer expectations.”
Try it. Take a recent result you achieved at work, and write it up reflecting the values you used in making it happen and see if the impact of that doesn’t write its self. We need to own more of who we are in our work, making it visible to others as well as ourselves, celebrating how we make a difference with the 40+ hours we invest every week at work. Show them what you’re made of, what you’ve got, and how it is moving the organization forward one good intention at a time.
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I believe in empowering others in many tangible ways. When I learn new career strategies or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website.