Are You Choosing?
Like you, I wear a million different hats. Business owner. Teacher. Coach. Consultant. Mother. Wife. Sister. Daughter. Friend. I treasure my hats. I would like to think that how I define what it means to wear each hat determines the actions I take – how I spend my life. On a perfect day, I get to wear them all – mindfully rotating them in the backstage of my life, like a seasoned run-way model – balanced and poised. But as I suspect you know, “perfect” days are rare, and balance and poise are usually aspirational at best.
Stuff happens. You toss on the hat that is in greatest demand, or is the most familiar, and charge into the world hoping for the best. But who is choosing which hat you wear most? Your boss? Facebook? Your family?
Are you choosing?
Most of the time I don’t think we even stop and ask ourselves the question. Who is choosing how we spend our life?
I don’t know about you, but just the question fills my head with a litany of reasons why I don’t get to choose. Most of them sound something like: “I’d like to choose, but I have to….”, “I can’t just…”, “If I didn’t need to….I would….”, “It’s not my fault that…”, “If only he’d (she’d/they’d)…I could…”
Here’s what I know. There is power in choice.
I have a sincere love/hate relationship with the work that I do. I love watching people figure out how awesome they are and helping them do something about it. It really is the coolest job in the world. But I hate it too. I hate it because to do what I do – for real – requires me to continually put myself under my own microscope – and I’m not always crazy about what I see.
I remember this last summer, when I had returned to Dallas to lead an Executive Presence session, I was having a hard time reading how my participants were feeling, following a difficult self-awareness exercise. Rather than make assumptions or forge on blindly, I simply said, “I’m having trouble reading what’s going on with all of you. What are your thinking? What are you feeling?”
After what felt like forever, the CEO finally broke the silence and said, “It’s painful.”
(You can imagine how my brain was handling that comment!)
“Painful how?”, I said, bracing myself for the worst.
“It’s painful to look at yourself and not like some of the things you see.”
It’s so easy to be preoccupied these days. Our heads are in one place while the rest of us, in another. We’re at home spending “quality time” with our families while simultaneously searching the internet, texting our clients, and “Liking” whatever quote pops up on the screen. We’ve just so much going on! We forget that we can choose. We may define our hats, but when we map our definitions against our actions, there’s often a huge gap.
Mind the gap.
What does it mean to be the kind of business owner I want to be? How does that map against my actions? What does it mean to be the kind of teacher I want to be? The kind of mother, partner, and friend? How does that map against my actions?
What does it mean to be the kind of leader I want to be? How does that map against my actions? For real?
All excuses aside, when I get real, I can see that there’s work to be done.
Whether it’s due to a big transition, crazy deadlines, scary bosses, company changes, or simply bad habits, we often find ourselves simply reacting to the world around us, and just hoping to survive. Not a lot of conscious choice is going on. We don on the hat that is most familiar and stop thinking about what it means to wear it – about what we really want. We stop taking conscious action.
So today I aim to be more conscious. To fully inhabit the hat that I’m in. For real.
©OnStage Leadership, 2014 (originally posted in August, 2013)
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