Every week I speak with people about the hell they went through or are going through at work. The circumstances are always complicated. Their pain is obvious – the facts, not so much.
While I focus on work situations, the reality is that a bad circumstance at work is frequently intertwined with one’s personal life. Life is complicated.
Generally people desire to work through their circumstances; many people start rather defensive – telling me about how they’ve been wronged. Others are bewildered – not sure what the heck just happened. I’ve learned how we create explanations to rationalize our actions and raise questions about the other party’s behavior. We often create a narrative that works to ease or explain our perspective.
I’m fascinated by coaching because I love the process of watching someone see their circumstances more clearly. There is joy in seeing, setting goals, getting past a barrier and having a better career.
Truth, courage and responsibility have a way of cleansing the soul and the air.
Coaching others has helped me clarify my values and actions. What I’ve worked through and learned helps me walk alongside a client seeing what they see but with a fresh perspective. I also see more clearly what’s still on my table (personal and professional).
How should we move past where we are stuck – past a bad circumstance?
First, God has given us two eyes. Use them to see yourself. Pierre Teilhard wrote “To see or to perish is the very condition laid upon everything that makes up the universe by reason of the mysterious gift of existence.” Seeing a circumstance is one thing. Seeing how the matter short-circuits your future is another. The highest hurdle, the one that sets the stage for change, is in seeing and accepting the potentially ruinous impact of the thing one knows is there. The hurdle or matter could be anger, bias, not developing work skills, attitude, defensiveness, a weakness of character, a strained relationship or any matter that may throw one off.
Second, as Peter Koestenbaum wrote in a recent blog, the primary role of any leader is to accept personal responsibility. I have to take personal responsibility for my world – the things I do, the things I need to change, the way I am. If I wax defensive, I will stay as-is. Chances are, staying “as-is” leads to an uneventful career or something worse.
Until I see (Step 1) what I’m doing (or did) and accept full responsibility (Step 2), the next step will ring hollow.
Third, act. Being alive always points to one place – the place where we decide what we will do. Recently, a person I was meeting with emphatically stated how difficult it was just doing what he knows he must do to advance his career. Unexpectedly, he quoted the Apostle Paul who wrote about the same struggle. Paul, a prolific writer of the New Testament, faced a normal human experience – how to act on what he knew was right while sometimes doing what he knew was wrong. This is deciding differently.
Even though it’s several miles from my home, I can see the tall office building of FermiLab out the back window of my home. As noted on the website for FermiLab, they “…operated the Tevatron, the most powerful particle collider in the world.” The on-going work at FermiLab is complicated and powerful.
I think there is a far more difficult project that can also produce powerful results. The project is called Life and the steps are 1) seeing, 2) accepting responsibility and 3) deciding differently.
Peter Burchard is a coach, trainer, speaker and healthcare strategist. Website: Peterburchard.com