Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Beware comparisons and expectations

To manage difficult feelings and enjoy life as much as possible I coach my clients to beware of expectations and comparisons. When people are struggling to deal with a situation it's amazing how often their focus falls into one of these thinking patterns: 

  • What's happening now is not what I expected and hoped would happen. I'm disappointed!
  • What's happening to me now is not as good as what's happening to that person over there. That's unfair. I want what she's having!
When hoping too intensely for a specific result or when comparing yourself unfavorably to others, it can lead to feeling irritated, frustrated, sad, depressed, and angry.

Instead it's helpful to shift into a willing focus, and full engage with and appreciate whatever situation is presented to you.

Let me offer an example of something that happened to me today. 

I've noticed a pattern: when the parent of an adult child calls me as a way to get that person to become a client of mine, it almost never goes well. Most often I have to coach the parent to back off and let the adult child do more of the work, and the child will probably never show up to a meeting; the parent wants it more than the kid. Or if the adult child does show up for a meeting, it's done only once to satisfy the parent before ditching the effort for some trivial reason. 

Generally it's a waste of my time, in that it almost never results in a client. However...I feel the need to keep giving it a try.

So recently I spoke with the mother of a 21 year-old child, and I told her that her son should call me and arrange for his own meeting. The son and I played telephone tag for a day and a half; meanwhile his mother tried to intervene to "fix things," and I ignored her call, forcing the son to deal with it himself. The son eventually emailed me, and we agreed to meet on the following Wednesday at 11 am. So far, so good!

The son then asked if he could meet with me using the Skype video conferencing software. I told him that I don't usually use Skype for the initial free consultation unless travel to my office is difficult. I asked him to clarify why he was requesting Skype, yet I emphasized that the appointment was still on. At this point I'm thinking, I've seen this before...he's going to bail on this appointment without notifying me ("no show")...I know it.

On Tuesday I still hadn't heard from the son, so I sent him a note telling him that I'd be willing to meet with him using Skype, I gave him my Skype username so he could contact me, and I asked him to verify the appointment. 

I never heard back from him.

So Wednesday morning comes along, I finish with my 10 am client, and I start Skype at 11 am and wait for a call from the son. Nothing.

At 11:25, I turn off Skype, and I notice that I'm irritable. That was a waste of my time. It's rude for people to do that. Grrrrrr!

Then I changed my thinking. Wait a minute. I knew that he was likely to No Show on me, I gave him a low-demand time that didn't inconvenience anyone. During this unexpected free time due to the No Show, I wrote in my blog and got some other work done. Where's the bad?

After changing my focus and my thinking I felt instantly relieved; I shifted away from my ideas about the way people should behave and how the situation should have played out, and I focused instead on what I could do in the moment with my extra time. Something that felt bad shifted into feeling pretty darn good!

As a result I got into my work and enjoyed it, instead of wasting time sulking about what had just happened. Engage with what you're doing in the present moment, and let go of what you expected it to be or how it compares to anything else. There is only what you are doing right now...enjoy!

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