Are You Wishing Things Were Different?

Jo Ilfeld |Executive Leadership Coach| Are You Wishing Things are Different?

I’ve been reflecting recently on the nature of disappointment.

The holidays this year fall into this category. . . unless you’re lucky enough to live nearby to a pod with your family, the chances are great that your holiday table looks very different from last year’s. Less family or more Zoom computers?

It seems wherever you’re looking these days, there are plenty of opportunities for wishing things were different, and if you’re in the right mood, going down the rabbit hole of despair that they’re not. (And yes I’ve spent some time in that dark hole!)

And while I could wax on about how necessity is the mother of invention and to look for the helpers, that feels a bit thin to me right now.

What feels more real to me right now is how you can make space for the disappointment, for the fear and perhaps for the anger, without letting it take you over. In the Old Testament, there’s a story about Moses seeing the burning bush, and what is compelling about this bush is that even though it’s in flames, it isn’t being consumed. For most of us, the idea of “falling apart” without “going to pieces” seems more like a word game than something to strive for. I believe it’s important though, to fully recognize all that you’re holding, but not let that be a reason to stop showing up for yourself.

Here are three things I’m doing right now to show up for myself:

Self-care. Yes, I know I sound like a coach (maybe because I am one?) but the truth is that when we’re feeling bad/sad/pessimistic, it’s easy to continue along that trajectory until it seems that nothing you do matters. The best way to break that downward spiral is to keep showing yourself that you matter. That being good to yourself matters. Whether that’s meditation, turning off the computer at night, sleeping, exercising, eating healthfully, we all have those good things that we tend to abandon when the going gets rough. Pick one, just one for now, and force yourself to integrate it back into your life again. It’s a great first step to signal to yourself that things aren’t at their worst and you still have the space and wherewithal to support yourself. Trust me, it matters!

Stop answering email. Yes, I did say that heretical phrase. Perhaps this is just me but when I’m circling the drain of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, I keep returning to my email. Any new messages? Any junk I can delete? Yet at the end of a day spent browsing 100s of uninteresting messages, I feel even more hopeless.  It’s really turning to my projects and diving into one I’ve been avoiding that makes me feel like I’m moving the needle and that my day was not wasted. Trust me those emails will still be there but the opportunity to go deep into something that matters can easily fade away.

Try something new. Maybe it’s a hike you haven’t taken before, a new book or show someone recommended that’s not your “go-to genre,” or a work ERG (employee resource group) activity you’ve never made time for before. The sneaky thing about disappointment is that it can make you believe that things will always be this way. Trying something new not only engages new parts of your brain, but also demonstrates how it’s possible for you to take a left turn and check out a new path. This year my family headed down to Oxnard to rent a house for Thanksgiving. We had never been there before and we’ve also never had a Thanksgiving without extended family. So we decided to shake it up instead of just mourning what couldn’t be. In the end, we all enjoyed ourselves and made new family memories to treasure.

So what about you? Any advice for me? Any ways that you’ve found work to get you through the inevitable Covid “slumps?” I always welcome new ideas for my toolkit.

In the meantime, I hope there’s lots of joy for you in this upcoming winter season and only the good kind of surprises!

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Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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