A young person in my life said she was experiencing a lot of stress at work. So I asked her the reason for this. “Well I cannot really explain it. But I feel out of my element and am not in a great head space.’ I countered “I cannot even pretend to understand your stresses, I have never been in such a demanding position but I could help.” “Well actually, I am right where the crosshairs are with bullets being aimed at me from different directions. I have bosses to please and my reports will not listen to me and my direct boss is just not able to help. Everyone has a different set of expectations and I am left feeling debilitated and ineffectual. My job appears to be hanging in the balance. I have to present to the CEO and feel like it is going to be do or die.”
“Wow” I thought, what a lot of interpretation and noise, but did not voice it. When you have so much clutter in the mind, how can you carry on with the task at hand, I wondered. Instead, and in a very calm and non-judgemental voice, I asked a question. “Is it actually possible to please everyone in your sphere of reference?’ She said “No”. “Heck, is it possible to please one?” She said “maybe, but not entirely.” “Why do you think that is?”, I queried. To which she said “I don’t know, maybe because I am not good enough?” “That’s possible, but not probable since you have more information than most, have been working in this field for a while and have told me yourself on several occasions how surprised you are when you go to conferences and find out how much you know, to ask all the right questions”. “Yes..” she hesitated. “Well”, I said, “what could be an alternative narrative, that serves you better?” “I cannot really think of anything”, she said. So to help her along I offered “Maybe that this is a field of new and emerging technology, where everyone is unsure and insecure and as a woman in a nontraditional field there is distrust in your ability to meet expectations. And when they see you reacting to that with insecurity then that is exactly what they want. They act to reinforce the feelings of insecurity that you are manifesting.” “Why would they do this?” she countered. “Maybe, because they act to serve their own self-interest. They want to get ahead and look good while doing this. Making you look bad may make them feel better about themselves. But more importantly anything you do they may be critical of or indifferent to unless it serves their self interest. Does it sound plausible as one possible narrative?” “Yeah” she said and added “And if this is the case, then I can never do things that make others happy and obtain their approval all the time?” “Exactly”, I flashed her a smile “so whats the best you can do?” “I know what I am going to do. I am going to focus and put out my best based on all the information that I have, that serves the project as a whole as I see it. I have the courage of conviction and confidence to stand up and defend it. If it means not meeting the expectations of a few people, then I can strive to understand why without immediately jumping to the conclusion that I failed. Knowing it is not about me, but about the project, I can have conversations with them to re-set and or understand their expectations to serve the truth. But I must never hastily conclude that I am incompetent and not up to the task.” In addition I pointed out – ” you are smart, hardworking, disciplined, clear thinking and truthful, if they do not value that then they will soon wake up to the fact that there are few millennials who have the patience to put up as you do. “Thanks …those are wise words. I feel better now”, said the young person.
A wonderful short video from Eckhart Tolle