These past few days I came face to face with a few of those things for myself. A request was made of me about six weeks ago and as the deadline loomed near I attempted to get to work. I noticed I was really having trouble getting started. Then there were a few false starts. I found myself printing a series of attempts and promptly crumbled each in a ball to toss into the trash
The deadline I had given myself was Saturday. On Sunday I communicated that I had not forgotten and I was working on it. Even when I wasn’t working on it, my integrity would not allow it to drift far from my mind until it was done. Finally I sent a note coming clean about my struggle.
I was not clear about what I was doing or why. The embarrassing thing for me is that I know better!
Resistance, procrastination and frustration are good indicators that clarity is lacking.
As a coach I often work with people to get and stay clear. In fact, my clients tell me that is one of the things they count on most from me. However, that does not mean that I am immune to suffering from a lack of clarity or that my emotions don’t sometimes transcend my knowledge or skills.
When you are the one who is resisting, procrastinating or frustrated it can be hard to see what is really going on even when you “should” know better. When that happens it can be humbling. The good news is it happens to all of us on occasion – at least it does if you are human.
So what stopped me from just asking?
In hindsight I can now see there are 3 things that were in my way. These same three things can get in the way of my effectiveness and my leadership if I am not mindful.
1. I Thought I Should Know
I let my embarrassment that I was not clear about the request get in the way of reaching out to actually ask. I really respect this person and didn’t want to look bad in her eyes. Wow, that one is hard to admit out loud!
2. My Commitment had Become an Obligation
I lost sight of why I was doing this both in service of my own commitments and in service of my commitment to this person and our bigger cause. The moment that happened this task was just another thing on my to do list that didn’t have the same level of importance in my mind and heart that other things on that list had. There is a big difference in your experience when you are acting from a commitment vs. an obligation. For more about this topic read The Opportunity of Obligation.
3. I Was Experiencing Overwhelm
The good news is this woke me up to realizing I am feeling over committed at the moment. Now that I can see it I can take action by reassessing my commitments and plans and making adjustments. However, the first thing I know to do when I feel overwhelmed is to reconnect with what I am most deeply committed to so the adjustments I make can be informed by my commitments rather than an intellectual exercise that could end up being the equivalent to “moving the deck chairs around on the titanic!”