"The glass is not half empty, it's half full … of frosting." — Cyrus Martin
A few Fridays ago I was working across town from where I live. I stayed after the training to hang out with some colleagues, and set out for home after dark.
I knew the weather wasn't the greatest, but as an intrepid life-long midwesterner, I firmly subscribe to the adage that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.
I set out slowly and knew right away the roads were super slippery: the snow came down on warm pavement, and then froze into treacherous sheets of nearly invisible ice. But I'm calm, I'm cool, so I smoothly merged onto the highway on-ramp.
Then, as the road curved to the right, my wheels suddenly had a strong preference to go to the left. Uh-oh.
I summoned up decades of winter driving skills and turned into the skid. But the car still spinned in a slow 180-degree arc, back up the ramp.
Finally, I came to a gentle stop facing the wrong way on the entrance ramp.
By some miracle on a Friday night, no one was behind me: the on-ramp was empty other than my car.
So I slowly turned the wheel, and got headed the right way.
But then the real trick came: I still had to drive 20 minutes to get home. I was scared and shaken, and I had to keep driving, knowing the weather would probably only get worse as the temperature dropped.
This was literally where the mental rubber had to hit the road: the course I was assisting that day was all about making conscious and intentional choices.
The message couldn't have been clearer: I could be afraid and tense all the way home, anticipating more danger, or I could choose something else.
I made a choice.
I summoned up other skills I've learned from coaching. I focused myself on the task at hand – driving home calmly and safely. I tuned into my breathing to ground myself in the present, and sent the fearful thoughts away. I imagined a huge bubble around my car, keeping all other cars away from me. I thought about my family and how glad I would be to see them when I got home.
I made it home without a scratch, hugged my family, and watched one of my favorite movies, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," with my husband and kids. And counted my blessings.
So, what does my story have to do with you (other than making you thankful for road salt) or with your leadership?
Because this type of thing happens in our lives as leaders: we are going along in our daily life, and we hit a skid.
A key staff person leaves; our budget shrinks; we are laid off unexpectedly; a funder doesn't renew our grant.
We didn't ask for it, and we might have prepared for it (or not) and still: taa-dah! Here it is.
And we have to decide what to do, how to be, how to respond to the situation.
We can freeze, panic, freak out, or deny what is happening. We can muscle through it, complain about it, or blame the circumstances or ourselves.
Or we can turn into the skid, right ourselves, learn from it, and keep going.
None of these perspectives are necessarily better or worse. It's about consciously noticing and proactively choosing what we call a resonant choice: one that supports you and helps you move forward, versus a perspective that gets in your way.
And as a leader, it is critical to be aware that that your perspective is a choice: a choice that will in part determine the outcome.
So, when you find yourself in one of life's metaphorical or literal skids, try this:
1) Turn into the skid: Face what is coming your way. What's actually happening? To the best of your ability (once any shock wears off), describe it in neutral terms as if you were a causal observer. Without meaning to, we can over-dramatize the situation and unintentionally make it worse.
2) Choose your perspective: What perspective or attitude will you consciously choose to cultivate about the situation? What supports your goals? What gifts or opportunities exist?
3) Get going: From your chosen perspective, use your experience and draw on your skills and know-how to get back on the proverbial road.
In the comments below, I'd love to hear from you on this topic. In your responses, let me know:
– How do you handle life's skids?
– How does consciously choosing your perspective get you back on the road?
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