When I saw this image this morning, it resonated with me. It reminded me of how my week started.
Monday was probably one of my toughest days during this COVID-19/isolation/work-at-home period so far. I went into it with a spirit of optimism and high expectations — I wanted to start fast from a writing perspective, having met my personal writing output goal from last week. The weekend weather was beautiful, and I got to spend a lot of time outside. All systems were go – there was nothing in the air going into Monday that was keeping me from getting off to that fast start.
It started like most every other day — my morning walk, a shower, breakfast and a little bit of news. I sat down to start writing, and it was one of those days were the words were hard to come by. I quickly got frustrated. Midday I went into a conversation with a colleague in my network, and I noticed right away that I wasn’t showing up the way I wanted. Some family group texting happened that irritated me. I ended up getting pretty much nowhere. No doubt this feeling of irritation was magnified by the fact I am isolated due to work from home.
Looks like the left image on the picture above, right? The squiggle mess? I am sure this happens to all of us at some point. So, what do you do about it? After my scheduled meetings had completed for the day, I read through the Agile Best Self Principles again looking for something to grab onto, like a life buoy to someone who has fallen overboard into the ocean. Hooray for Principle 10!
Agile Best Self Principle #10: Simplicity – focusing on what energizes your best self — is paramount.
Cy Wakeman is a drama researcher. Her Reality-Based Leadership research and teachings center on drama in the workplace. I remember her talk at Scrum Day Minnesota 2017 where she quantified the impact of drama to be 2.5 hours per day. At the root of this drama we find the ego (or as I like to call it, the Inner Critic) who is crafting the inner dialogue that can create the noise. This noise drowns out reality; stops us from moving forward; and sends us headlong into wallowing in drama. What I appreciate most about her teaching, is that there is a simple way to redirect the inner dialogue into something more productive. Empathy.
Here’s a link to a video of Cy’s TEDx talk that includes a very personal story.
Looking to get my inner dialogue back on track, I leverage the simplicity of Cy’s drama deflection strategy. The question is: what do I know for sure?
- According to the news, the current state of affairs in the world, including the COVID-19 pandemic just plain sucks, but I am doing what I can to help by staying home
- The opinions my colleague has are just that, opinions. Given that person’s frame of reference, these opinions are logical and reflect their personal journey and experience. They are not casting judgment on me or the choices I am making in my own journey
- My siblings wanted to simplify Mother’s Day gift-buying by working together. Everyone pitch in $25
Drama diffused. Inner Critic disarmed. The yarn ball is untangling — we’re moving to the right on the image.
The second question in the drama deflection strategy is: what can I do to help? I’ve got this.
- Quit watching the news. Trust what you are doing is helping the world, even in a small way
- Keep the focus on my own journey, and do what’s best for me. There is enough food on the table for everyone to have plenty
- Paypal, $25, tap, tap, done
I am moving even closer to the right side of the image now.
The third and final question of the drama diffusion strategy is: what does great look like right now? This is a Jedi mind trick. What I have learned, from the neuroscience perspective: a question such as this moves the brain activity to the part of the brain where innovation happens. For me, “greatness” in these circumstances means getting back to work on my journey while I have this valuable time away from work.
The process of freeing my brain from the noise of the Inner Critic, leading to getting myself back on track with the writing I wanted to finish, looked a lot like the image on top of the page. In this story, I was able to make it all the way to the diagram on the far right. I was energized, focused and clear. I was on the straight line.
“Get back…Get back…Get back to where you once belonged” is a lyric from an old Beatles song. Get Back was one of the songs in the last live performance by the band, the famous rooftop concert at Apple Records in 1969. In the midst of this week, hearing this song got me thinking. Where I belong, as I learned (with an assist going to Principle 10), is on my best self journey — being the best, authentic version of me that I can be today.
Tap. Tap. Done.
Copyright © 2021 Michaele Gardner and Brian Hackerson