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Pins & Needled

Publishing Date : 25 December, 2017

Stuart White
The World in Black-N-White

Last week found me waxing lyrical about counting my blessings and all that was bountiful in my life. It was clearly a Zen moment, never to last, for no sooner had I sent my article to the Weekend Post when I had an unwelcome altercation with one of my clients.

I am not known to having a squabble with my clients, not nowadays anyway. But this incident felt like my client had a blueprint of my vulnerability, and like a voodoo master strategically sticking pins into a doll, every one of my buttons was consequently being maliciously pressed. For the most part I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but a bigger part of this tale is that I couldn’t believe how I was responding.

By the end of the discussion I was rattled, my mouth was dry, and I had lost control many times. The discussion had spiraled negatively, bordering on name -calling, but I was more spitting-mad with myself. Where were the coach and the professional when I had lost control and taken the bait like one of Pavlov’s dogs summoned by a food bell? I couldn’t believe that I had stooped so low and not exercised restraint. I should have shown more competence and maturity and handled the situation within my capability.

In my younger days when I did not know any better, I could and did react like this. My manner could be very assertive, bordering on aggressive and I was known to react to clients and challenge them for example, if I thought they were making a wrong decision - not fully appreciating that it was their decision to make. I felt that as a consultant I should always give my opinion even when it wasn’t welcome.

Now I am smart enough to know that if a client wants to know what I think, they will ask me to tell them. Besides, people don’t always want the same thing as me.   So, you can see I have changed but not enough. This is what a work in progress must feel like – change, setbacks, mistakes, change; as the saying goes the only constant here is change. It is an inevitable part of life and no matter how happy we are with how things are currently, situations, behaviours and life will always alter, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

We are forever growing, expanding, aging and changing, yet we are all capable of slipping back into old habits - why is it so easy to do this and be scared, resist it and fear it?   Accepting change and in fact embracing it in work and life is vital to growing as an individual and being a better person than who you were yesterday. I can count so many instances in my life where I repelled change and how this resulted in missing a lot of opportunities to live up to my full potential by not allowing myself to fully express who I really am and what I could have become.

I have learnt two things – to embrace change and always change because our environment doesn’t stay the same forever either. All around us, there is change happening daily. Just in the last 12 months look at the changes to our views about what constitutes sexual harassment. The world has changed and is changing even when you don’t fully want to accept it. Take Harvey Weinstein's weak apology for his misdemeanors which suggests that he’s still a predatory sexual dinosaur.

Hey, it was the ‘70s, everybody sexually harassed people! Sorry about that! What he forgets is that it wasn’t just the 1970’s, it was also allegedly much more recent, and it allegedly involved criminal forcible rape, with investigations reportedly underway by police in New York, Los Angeles, and London. I guess that’s a lesson in selective change. He stood still, time and the times did not.

I like the idea that you should make change before change makes you. If change happens to you, rather than you influencing that change, you are much more likely to feel like you are being dragged through life and forced in certain directions against your will or natural inclination.  It is better to initiate change using our free will than to let our life progress down a negative path where the change affects us in a dramatic way.

Our attitude toward life is affected by our ability to embrace change. And I am thinking about the change that I will make for the year ahead. It is a long list which will include among other things not to have another run-in with a client where I don’t live up to my abilities. One thing I know for sure is that that the list will change, many times, which I will embrace, of course, and it may even include changing some of my 2017 changes! And the first of those will be that I will learn again to bite my tongue which will effectively prevent me from putting my foot in my mouth – I knew all that Bikram yoga flexibility would prove handy one day!



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