“Mom,” my son begged, “don’t do it.”
“Judge, I’ll try not to … but it’s really hard. It’s my nature.”
I explained this to my son while moving him into his college dorm last week. Upon spotting another freshman a few rooms down from his, my instincts were strong – go up to this young man and introduce him to my son so they could both be friends … maybe even best buds for life?
I could tell by the look in my son’s eyes that his freshman year success depended on me fighting every single urge in my body to not be a “helper” in this moment. To not embarrass him. So, I didn’t do anything. Then.
But when we started walking outside, the young guy started to, too. It would’ve been weird not to say anything, so once we were out of the dorm I turned around and said, “Hey there, where are you from?” Long story short: Kyle is a student athlete and seems to be a really great kid.
After introductions were made, and when we parted ways, Judge looked at me, cracked a smile, and said, “You just couldn’t help yourself, could you?”
Behavior change for me, and for anybody, is really hard. It’s challenging yourself to overcome years of programming and instincts – to tell yourself that maybe what you want to do isn’t what you should do … and override a powerful force that’s gotten you this far in life.
Taking this experience one step further, this explains why it’s so hard for leaders in organizations to lead through change – new projects or processes, new technologies that they’re implementing, and a new strategic direction. It’s not just yourself that has to be better than your instincts, it’s getting everyone else on board, too. A seemingly insurmountable task!
Change is an emotional process. Even good change, like a military service member leaving active duty, getting a new puppy, or moving to a new community. On paper, good ideas seem so easy to implement. In action, there are powerful human instincts that have to be overridden in order for a new era of success to be realized. And these emotions aren’t just yours – they’re everyone’s, which you have to learn to respect, empathize with, and influence.
Going back to my situation, aka my “mojo dojo casa house becoming less mojo*,” my son’s new chapter represents a cultural change for my family – especially my youngest son, whose emotions I’m tuning into heavily right now. It’s easy to get distracted and/or consumed with how change is impacting you, but when you pick your head up, look around, you can start to see how one event is creating a seismic shift for everyone and you realize that there’s a whole lot of emotional potpourri that you’re dealing with … a whole lot opportunities to be the leader you know you can be.
There are three qualities I believe we have to lean into when we experience a significant change in our lives.
– Self Awareness. Let’s start here. It’s impossible to lead other people through change if you can’t lead yourself. Being honest with yourself about your emotions is a starting point in being able to manage them. For me, self awareness is achieved in reflection – long walks and quiet moments have been my lifetime best friends. Reflection also helps me think about others and how they’re doing, and how I can support, which brings me to my second quality ….
– Empathy: Empathy is being able to identify with the emotions of others. I don’t have to have a similar experience as you to be empathetic. I just need to imagine what you’re going through and how I might feel in the process. This gives me insight into your mental and emotional state, and will inform me how I can support you.
– Grace: Significant change means we’re not always going to be our best because we’re operating in a new paradigm. Give yourself, and others, a bit of grace as we stumble in adjusting to our new normal.
Speaking of change, my thoughts are with you as we all transition into September, which marks for everyone a new pace, a new routine, and a new season. May self awareness, empathy, and grace guide you and help you better lead yourself and those around you.
My best, Angie
*If you don’t get the reference, go see the Barbie movie. It’ll all make sense, especially the picture of the horses. 🙂