In my perfectly unperfect mind, I wander around in my thoughts a lot. Ms. Linda, my podcast-partner-in-crime lets me wander around for an hour or more every month or so, and we explore our mutual thoughts, tossing ideas at one another, testing our life philosophies and ever-changing life experiences against the thinking of the day (ours and others').
In this blog/podcast discussion, we started with my posing this question:
What if every dream you ever had was wrong? For you.
Listen, we dream a lot. About our goals. Our ambitions. The things we think we want or need to make us happy.
But I want to ask: why chase a dream? Dreams don’t always work out.
I’m not trying to be negative or pessimistic. It’s just a fact of life.
You can head in a direction, and BAM, you hit a wall. Something happens outside your control. Something happens that you weren’t planning for. Let’s say it’s even a life event of enormous magnitude–a “life quake”--that hits you and you unwittingly find yourself at a crossroads or in circumstances that you could never have imagined. Much less asked for.
What if your dreams don’t work out?
I’m not going to agree with the popular notion that “sometimes the dreams that come true are actually better than the ones that don’t.”
The longer I live, the more I think that expression has become a bromide.
In my own life experiences, I can’t say that things turned out better than the the things I dreamed about.
An one painful personal example: I dreamed that other people’s marriages and families were what mine would be like.
That didn’t happen.
My 18-year marriage was spectacularly destructive. It threw together two dysfunctional adults who burned through everything that came into their two self-destructive paths.
We crashed and burned through two productive California careers and numerous homestead dreams and schemes.
We made and lost friends. We made and lost love. We made and destroyed the “til death do us part” contract.
We left behind two kids. One ok. (I think.)
And one not. (But who can know?)
I dreamed that I would love on my grandkids one day. But I’m here. And my kids are not.
I left a state, and started a new life. It’s ok. (I think.)
It might not be. (But who can know?)
These dreams of love, stability, and passion crash through our lives…and they can cause pain. And self-doubt!
That’s not only true for a person or individual. Like me, and my story. But it’s true for all humankind.
Back to YOU:
If you don’t fall into the trap of trying to live the life you “thought you wanted,” or that “someone else told you you should want”....
How do you figure out…for yourself, how to live more authentically, being true to yourself?
1. Ask a few self-loving questions...and stop the negative self-talk
What happens when you set out on a path, to “do you?” Not someone else’s version of you.
“Going back to the bad unions example, they can take away your life,” Linda said.
You have to try everything, to know if it’s working or not. Learn who you are, learn your worst, or what you will put up with.
When you decide to make a change in yourself, things start growing.”
“A mission becomes a vow. That’s when things come to you; it starts with setting that vow, that mission, for you. Once you say it, it becomes you. It is you.”
I agree. A mission is a vow to yourself. So, a few more "coachy" questions now:
How do you answer these questions:
What do I love?
What drives me?
What pledges do I make to myself?
How can I treat myself like I would treat a friend?
It is easy to turn on the self-criticism. It is hard to turn off the self-doubt/”chatter.”
Try not to burden yourself with negative self-talk, self-criticism, rumination about past events, future fears. There are many good Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) techniques you can check into, or get help with in therapy, that can teach you how to do a better job of stopping or changing these unhelpful thought patterns. See "Unhelpful Thinking Styles" handout.
2. Remember that growing pains hurt...and learn the "foreign language"
Go boldly. Learn something (or many things) new!
Holy cow, the learning curves I put myself in - so much pain!
“Pain equals growth,” Ms. Linda said.
What stops us:
Fear and uncertainty
Fixed mindset Wanting to “be in control”
How to overcome these:
Allow “Good stress”
Develop new routines
Choose a fear and face it!
Linda says “When my mind chatter comes to me, I change it into a foreign language. It’s chattering, but I don’t understand you.”
We have to enjoy what there is to enjoy, and suffer what there is to suffer. Growing pains is like going to the gym, she continued.
“If you see a river, jump in it. It’s up to you whether you are going to sink or swim,” her grandpa used to say.
3. Focus on your strengths...and give yourself grace
As our convo in the podcast continued to unpack, Ms. Linda reminded me as I expressed to her my frustrations in my new job that I should not be discouraged that some of my co-workers appear impatient, dismissive, or unsupportive during my steep learning curves and feelings of inadequacy, while I operate as the newbie in the system that is familiar and comfortable to them!
"People that have those positions, that’s all they know. But you are versatile, you are able to step in and step out of these new domains; while you are doing it you are gaining knowledge." she coached me. I love that! So often these days, it happens that Ms. Linda is coaching me more than anything! :)
So, here are the points we came up with as we continued to discuss how you can be kinder to yourself while you are growing. Especially if you are in a complex, new work system and you are accustomed to being capable and contributing in a way where you feel valued--and it hurts your pride, ego, whatever, while you are the weak link in their established system!
Here goes...more "coachy" stuff:
"Use your strengths. Don’t get hung up on your deficits, especially while you are learning!"
1. Trust what you have inside you and revisit that when you feel small (or you think others are trying to diminish you).
2. Remember that your strengths are yours; if other people put you “underneath them,” they may be doing that to boost themselves up.
3. If you need help once, ask for it. If you need help again, ask for it again. When you are a stranger in a strange land, you have to ask for directions! How can you get something done in a new area when you don’t know the answers?
4. Consider that you are there for a reason. There must be something you have that THEY need. Maybe you are going to show them there is more than one way to do things. Maybe you are there to teach them.
5. Share the responsibility or put it back where it belongs. It might not all be yours to do.
6. Recognize the need for collaboration. Maybe consider cross-training. Ask others to co-work, or co-share in the learning and decision-making. Be a facilitator, not the “it girl.”
7. Be the person who changes things.
8. Think about what questions are the right ones to ask? “Dig it out til you figure it out,” Ms. Linda said.
9. People always say “be the best you.” If you don’t know the real you, how can you become the best you? Keep putting that self reflection in context when you find yourself in the midst of a strange environment and stretching outside your comfort zones.
10. Remember, many of the people you ask may not really know the answer. But they can’t resent you for asking in order to learn to do your job better. If they can’t answer it and get an attitude, maybe it’s because they don’t know the answer. They may have more work to do themselves.
Just be who you are. If I am being me, I am living my mission!
Kind words to tell yourself, as you are being a friend (to yourself): You are not inadequate. You are you. You bring something special to that environment.
Towards the end of the podcast, I mentioned my dreams for "Love, stability, passion"…all things I want in my life. These are my dreams. And yet, everything is a foreign language to me right now. Here is what we ended up with:
"Move from the heart. And if you don’t know, you don’t know. Try to learn the words in the foreign language."
And...If you don't push through these hard things, you are not really living, are you?
“The opposite of living,
Is failing to live.”
~ Coach Karen