Relentlessly positive?

I started writing here for a few different reasons. Getting back into the habit of writing was one. Getting some thoughts out of my head was another. I also made the decision to try to limit amount that I write about negative things. There is enough negativity in the world right now, I don’t want to add any more if I can help it. (And Yes, I’m aware that my ranting about “bullet resistant backpacks” wasn’t super positive. But that was important enough to write about.)

Now I want to be clear, I don’t consider myself a relentlessly positive person. I tend to think that I lean towards being a realist. I totally accept that for the most part, the world can be a flaming dumpster fire. I try not to obsess about it too much, I instead try to plan for any eventualities that may come up. I like having backup plans in case things go sideways. And my backup plans usually have backup plans, which can have backup plans. I like to be ready for whatever may crop up. I also really dislike change. So as part of my planning and backup planning, I tend to do what I can to minimize change whenever possible. It’s not that I like things to be static. I’m just happier with small incremental “adjustments” to my life rather than massive changes.

I’ve managed for lots of years operating this way.

And then this year happened. It seems like everything that’s gone on has been a major change. School started for my little one, so my constant companion is off at school every weekday. I’ve shifted my business in a pretty dramatic way, which has not only required new training and challenges, but also I’m discovering that its requiring me to change how I approach things. Some days its feels like ever facet of my life right now is being pummeled with changes. And its been rough.

I had a training session with one of my coaches, and we were working through an exercise, and it was just not going well. I was getting more and more frustrated because I knew what the problem was, but I did not know how to correct things. It eventually boiled down to my instructor telling me that I needed to “relax and just be myself”. And that’s when it hit me. I did not know how to do either of those things in a work setting. I’ve spent most of my professional life playing some sort of role. Teacher, trainer, instructor, coach, mentor, expert, sounding board. And I’ve been able to use those roles to keep work separate from my personal life. I’d go to work, “Put on the uniform” and get to work. At the end of the day, I would take off the “Uniform” and go home. And I can’t do that any more. To do what I want to do, what I need to do to make this viable and successful, I HAVE to relax and just be myself. To be clear, I don’t need to mix my personal life and work life. I do have to step out of the professional roles that I’ve created and played over the years and I need to just be myself. I need to relax and just be authentic with my work.

I was trying to approach my new business with the same analytical approach that I’ve always used. Find the problem, work the problem, fix the problem, then repeat. And in the middle of that session I realized that WAS the problem. I was too worried about doing all the right things all the time, I couldn’t relax enough to actually do the work to the best of my ability. I had convinced myself that if I threw myself into everything 150% I’d just be able to power through to where I wanted to be. And that was not the case. I was stressing myself out with all of the things that I felt that I needed to do all at once to make things successful. And all I was doing was getting in the way of actually being successful. To do more and to do better, I realized that I needed to slow down and focus on individual tasks rather than trying to power through everything at once. It was difficult to wrap my brain around the concept of doing less to do better. But I took a risk and jumped.

So I made some fairly major changes.

  • I sat down with a productivity tool and organized all of the things that I felt I needed to do for the business. And in the process, I realized that I do not have to do them all at once. All at once is overwhelming, One thing at a time is more manageable. I’ll probably babble at some point about specifically how I organized everything, but since this post if more about personal changes, I’ll leave the technical stuff for another day.
  • I realized that if I wasn’t really taking care of myself, I could not take care of the people that I care about. (Yeah, I know..)
  • I realized that I needed to stop stressing about the things that I had no control over. And I needed to stop stressing so much about the things I did have control over.
  • I needed to learn to trust myself to just relax and do the work, to build the systems, and then to put them to work so I didn’t need to stress about everything.
  • I realized that I had lots of things that I could and should be grateful for, and I needed to focus on those things instead of obsessing about the negative things.
  • I realized that I need to take the small wins when they come and don’t discount them. A win is a win, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem at the time. Celebrate the win and then use it to build momentum and keep moving.
  • I took some time and actually relaxed. I cleared my schedule of work things for several days and just did things that made me happy.
  • I had to keep reminding myself that I do not need to be working 24/7 and its OK to take a little time to breathe. And I don’t need to stress, worry or feel bad about taking that time.
  • And I try to take a little time every day to pause and recenter myself. Ground myself with something tangible, or tactile, or just something that I enjoy.

Its still an ongoing process. But things seem to be getting better. I’m still not a relentlessly positive person. But I’m feeling better overall and several people have mentioned that they have seen a change in my attitude and general demeanor. I don’t feel as stressed overall as I did a month ago. I’m actually able to accomplish more in less time because I’m focused better. I’m not thrown too far off course when unexpected things crop up. I’m spending more time doing things than I am making backup plans for terrible things that may never happen. And I’m happier than I have been in a while.

Am I relaxed enough that I can just be myself and let my “authenticity” shine through in the work? I’m not totally sure yet. I have an exercise that I need to do next week and send to my instructor for feedback. But I have gotten positive feedback from a client that I’m working with though, and several people have mentioned that I seem “different” these days. So for now, I’m taking the small win and concentrating on keeping up that forward momentum. And I do feel different. I can be happy and less stressed without feeling like I’m slacking or wasting time or not investing enough time or effort into the family or my business or whatever. It’s a bit of a change, but I’m learning that not all change is bad.