Need to cut yourself some slack? Staying upright when life throws you off balance.
Sometimes we just have to cut ourselves some slack.
At least that’s what I’m telling myself at the moment, as I sit here writing my first blog post in well over a month… nearly two.
As someone who believes that the quality of our excuses correlates closely to the quality of our lives, I’m not one for making them. But when it comes to why I’ve not managed anything more than a few Facebook posts since mid January, I have a few excuses to impress even the harshest critic.
In the last month I have moved with my husband and four kids 17,000 odd miles from McLean, Virginia to Melbourne, Australia. I’ve got them all decked out in their spiffy new school uniforms, organised all school books, enrolled them in various sports, bought a house, prepared our old home for resale, bought cars, organised health insurance, met a kajillion new people… and the list goes on… and on.
There’ve been countless moments in recent weeks where I’ve felt anything but calm, clear headed and on top of my game. It’s been a challenging time. Of course all challenges are relative but I think in the scheme of life’s challenges, uprooting from a very established community, career and life, to resettle on the other side of the globe is up there on the list.
I’m delighted to say that every one of my kids have settled in superbly well. I’m enormously proud of the young people they are, and optimistic for the adults they will each become: resilient, confident, outgoing, quick to make friends, and open to new life experiences.
As for me, well, I’ve walked this path before. Moving to the U.S. (Dallas, Texas no less, “God Bless Ma LittleHearrrt”) with three young children three weeks after 9/11 was an experience of giving up the familiar, stepping into the unknown, and being unknown to all around me. It was tough. While I do have some friends and family here in Melbourne, for the large part I’m back to being relatively unknown again. Not only in the local community, but professionally. Yet while it’s a familiar path I’m walking, it’s not necessarily any easier to be walking it again.
As human beings we long for connection. We love to feel significant to those around us. We enjoy having a shared history with friends. We are wired to feel a sense of belonging and to be surrounded by people who value what we do and celebrate where we’ve come from. So when we relocate to somewhere new, whether it be a new town a hundred miles down the road, or another country, it’s only natural to feel unsettled, to grieve the familiarity, community and identity we’ve left behind, and to feel a degree of apprehension about our ability to rebuild it all again. It’s also very natural to feel off balance when the ground beneath our feet shifts.
My oldest son Lachlan was the class president of the school he just left in the US. So this move has taken him from being a “top dog” to a young 14 year old without any profile in his new school. He has handled it beautifully; with humour, resilience, and confidence in his ability to rebuild his profile among a new group of peers. He has reminded me that adjusting to change takes time, and to remember that who we are is ultimately not who others know us to be, but who we know ourselves to be.
I’ve written and spoken a lot on courageous leadership over recent years. Again and again I’ve said that how we see ourselves determines how others will come to see us. Of course building an identity in the eyes of strangers that is congruent with who we are, and the value we have to offer, takes time, repeated exposures and consistency. But having moved a lot over my life, I know that when we show up in the world authentically, apply strategic effort toward our goals consistently, and do both with integrity, enthusiasm and courage, we ultimately meet with success. And then some.
Maintaining a strong sense of self, purposeful and positive in challenging times isn’t easy. Right now my daily runs are keeping stress and overwhelm at bay. So too are my morning lattes and evening glass of wine. Taking time to recenter each day (if not several times each day) helps in those moments when self-doubt rise up and threaten to pull us down. Rather than succumb to the doubts, we’re better able to recognize them for what they are (no more than F.E.A.R – False Evidence Appearing Real), to beat them back into submission, take a few deep breaths and then resume being the person that I aspire to be – purposeful, courageous, optimistic and resilient! Profile and platform, profit and professional success will follow in due course, in their own time… even if not always in ours 😉
My ever calm husband Andrew told me last night that I need to be more patient (never one of my stronger virtues.) My dear friend and fellow coach-extraordinaire Suzi Pomerantz encouraged me this morning to cut myself some slack. And as I write this blog, my own inner coach (whom I just call God but you may have another name) reminds me to give myself permission in the weeks ahead to catch my breath, and take some time to get my feet firmly planted on the ground of this wonderful sunburnt country. My metric for success isn’t about how quickly I can get my business back up to 100 mph but how much I can enjoy the experience of learning how to blossom in a new garden… a truly global garden.
I hope that in all these thoughts there is a lesson for you also. Maybe a couple. Regardless of whether you are riding a professional high right now, struggling to rise above an unforeseen hurdle, or just busy trying to keep all the balls in your life airborne, I encourage you to take a moment to ask yourself these three questions:
1. Where do you need to cut yourself some more slack?
2. How might the story you have about yourself be undermining the identity you create for others?
3. How can you embrace change in your life with a greater sense of curiosity and adventure?
For every thing there is a season. Be patient with the universe. Be kind to yourself. Be open to whatever lessons your life is currently trying to teach you.
Until my next quiet moment, life and lead bravely.
(And while you are doing that, I might just go get myself a pedicure. Can’t go off to all those networking coffees with unkept feet now can I? 😉