Have you ever asked someone if they are an optimist? If so, I’m sure you’ve heard more than one reply that they are a realist. Are the two mutually exclusive? Do optimism and realism exist in some alternate parallel universes never crossing paths? While I enjoy dark dramas and comedies, I have no intention of living one.
Is optimism a luxury to be had by only fools and children?
While I regard myself as a playful cynic, the playful part was a process. I now recognize that life is not a fixed point although each moment certainly presents itself as an endless one. The real pain and sorrow emerges when we feel encumbered by our current circumstance, unable to accept the very evolutionary nature of all circumstances. I may have already lost 2 of my 5 readers with this post. To the remaining three, stay with me 😉 I just want to take a moment to speak of positivity and optimism.
Like many, I succumb to the pressures of everyday life (e.g. work, relationships, family, expectations, stress, etc.). I’ve even struggled with a few bouts of self-diagnosed depression. I read a study recently that highlighted the disparity of suicides among different age groups. Surprisingly, the highest rate occurred among individuals 25-34. While I cannot attest to the accuracy of the study or the sample size, I do know that the data displayed a perfect bell curve. There were virtually no deaths in you children and adolescents, with a sharp incline in teenage years approaching mid-20’s early 30’s. Then another sharp decline in the forties, fifties and beyond. I assumed that the most stressful time in one’s life would be those formative years when all of the major changes are occurring at once. But, after some thought, I understand the high rates among the 25-34 year olds (my age box).
In our early 20’s we are completely engrossed in the business of determining: 1) who am I? and; 2) what do I want? In the years that follow, we are facing unrealized potential. Some of us are realizing that we don’t like who we are or what we have.
So Where is the Optimism…
Like I said before, our current circumstance is almost over. Take comfort in knowing that happiness is lasting and pain is fleeting. Here is a nice little morsel of truth and hope for you:
If you reflect upon the past with anger and the future with fear, today’s happiness will never come.
At work, I find it rather easy to manage expectations of others. Conversely I struggle daily with the unrealistic expectations others have of me. In my personal life…ditto 😉
On Lowering Expectations…
I recently had a discussion with one of my employees regarding some work that he was preparing to submit. Before the end of the discussion he stated that he was merely trying to lower my expectations prior to reviewing his work. I told him that my expectations were not based on our discussion held the day of the deadline. But rather, my expectations of the submission were based on task and my instructions when I assigned it. The only potential modifiers would have resulted from requests for clarification or declarations of confusion; either of which would have had to occur prior to the deadline. Is it really possible to lower someone’s expectations of you without action, or inaction?
Managing Expectations in Friendships/Relationships/Situationships…
Unlike work, expectations in one’s personal life can be a bit more nebulous and uncertain. They are unconstrained by labor laws, annual goals, and performance reviews. Somewhere in that decade between 20 and 30, I’ve become more and more close mouthed about my expectations of those around me. Instead expectations tend to be cultivated based on historical data and framed within he context of our specific interactions. I called one of my best friends this past weekend. She didn’t answer nor has she returned my call…yet. I’ve known her for more than half of my life. If I wanted her to call immediately, I would have called her at least two more times, indicating urgency. Otherwise, I know that I will hear from her this week. And, this is perfectly acceptable for our friendship. My expectation is based purely on our previous bouts of phone tag. I can almost pinpoint the date and time of her return phone call. Other friends may not be so lucky. But that is largely due to their expectations of me as well. Do you think that expectations should be an instrument of reciprocity? Is it unfair to expect more from someone than you are providing?
Excerpt from my Journal (Tuesday July 5th):
A lizard crawled in my window this morning. I watched it scurry about the wall and to the ceiling. Less affected by my presence than I was of it’s, it hovered in the cool corner before escaping from whence it came.
For the first morning in a long time there was time; time to engage in the frivolity of something like watching a lizard. Although I had arisen early, I truly appreciated owning my day.
Island living is so different than in the cities. Its inhabitants do not seem hurried by self-imposed time restraints or discontent with their chosen professions. They do not spend their lives making a living and as a result simply enjoy living the lives they’ve made. I am envious. My mind has already been so polluted by iPads, HGTV, and my 401k that surely the hammock on my balcony would cease to amuse me with all of it’s simplistic novelty after a few days of vacation.
Note: As I type this post, weeks after my vacation, I am surprised to say that I was wrong.
After all, isn’t this type of existence, full of relaxation and rest the ultimate plan for all? City dwellers and suburbanites alike are all working to merely provide for the next legacy and to partake in some well deserved rest. Following four long decades of flurescent lights and sky high cubicle walls, aren’t we entitled? When I stop and think of it, our way seems nonsensical; working ourselves to the detriment of our health, relationships, and families in the hopes that our hard work will earn us enough money to sustain and protect those very things. If we were honest with ourselves, perhaps we would admit that some of our greed is masquerading as ambition and ego is masquerading as drive.
I don’t yet have a family of my own but I’m already thinking of ways that I will be able to work less, provide sufficiently while spending more time with them. Can the three exist simultaneously? I’ve wrestled with several ideas that will allow me to accomplish this goal. I’ve also convinced myself that “paying dues” to some arbitrary and fictitious universal keeper of sacrifices will guarentee my happiness and wealth in the future; whenever it comes about.
What do you all think? What is it that you are really working towards? Do you think the trade-offs are worth it?
After my hiatus, I have decided to schedule my posts. To my large reading audience, (of roughly five) look forward to a new post each Sunday at 10pm EST beginning September 18th. Consider this one to be a freebie 😉
Today’s topic is communication. You are probably wondering how I plan to tackle such a sprawling topic that dominates chapter after chapter in management books, hours in workshops and seminars, and incites complete and utter havoc in our personal lives. My approach is always the simplest. I’ve made a list. Original and innovative…I know. If by some strange miracle this post doesn’t mend all of your communication woes, you can always pick up this book.
1. Be open, honest, direct, and concise.
By giving your audience the clearest and most current information available, they will make the best decisions rooted in fact…not fiction. If you have communicated honestly and directly, rest assured that what you have said will be understood and valued. Don’t trouble yourself too much with skeptics and non-believers. The truth always comes to light.
2. Schedule face to face meetings when possible. A telephone conversation is second best.
For all of you e-mail tech-junkies that would prefer to stare at an (iPad, iPhone, PC, Droid, Tab, Blackberry) screen instead of into someone’s eyes, this will be the most difficult tip to follow. I know that I tend to be quite effective in written communication and often favor a well written response or question over conversation. However adept your mastery of the english language, I beseech thee, do refrain. Many of us do not posses the type of vocabulary necessary or literary finesse to accurately convey our intended tone and context, which are often lost or mis-communicated in written language. If you are one of the few wordies who do, the receiver may still may not receive the message as intended. Why do you think well-compensated poets and writers are so few and far between? Let’s leave the writing to the professionals. The rest of us should walk down the hall or pick up the phone.
3. Written communication is for documentation.
This really is an extension of the previous tip. We have all had experiences with co-workers who have self-serving selective memory or amnesia. Following a discussion in which meetings are scheduled, or actions items discussed, a brief email summarizing the encounter isn’t a bad idea. It is actually a very good one. It is also the reason my inbox is constantly exceeding its limit.
4. Do no harm and assume that the other person means no harm.
I’ve had co-workers refer to me in some pretty ridiculous ways. Take a look at my previous post. Additionally, here are some general comments that could have been worded differently: 1) I don’t even see color (referring to race); 2) You seem young enough to be my granddaughter; and 3) It’s nice to see an attractive sista in a management role. Regardless of how inappropriate the comments were, I knew that the individuals meant no harm. And, because I value ignorance over malice, my responses although a little strained by discomfort were not negative. I try to always assume that the other person means no harm….until they prove otherwise. Then I cannot be held responsible for my behavior…lol 🙂
5. The last word is not a trophy to be had.
When I was younger, my goal in any argument was to win. I took no prisoners. I sparred and debated until the other person walked away bruised and battered. Cue the Rocky music as I run up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and pump my fists above my head in sweet triumph. Age has taught me otherwise. Do not cower in submission. However, winning isn’t the goal. The goal in a professional setting is to present information dispassionately through the use of data and logical arguments. Assuming that the message is understood, it will be considered in the decision-making process.
In personal communications, sometimes that last words can be harsh, untrue and or hurtful. Keep in mind that they may also be cathartic for the other person. Why rob them of catharsis and closure? Even in disagreement, resist the urge to dissect and discredit the other person’s feelings/arguments. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to have the second to last word.
“A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet…”
I think that William Shakespeare would understand the flaws in his logic after reading my post. How we are addressed is important. In one’s personal life, it may make the difference between receiving a coy smile or needing a handkerchief to wipe the vodka tonic from your embarrassed face. But I digress…
Famous Bobs–I suppose I would be in good company.
Top 5 – Phone calls or emails that should have never taken place during my workday:
We have some work finishing overseas and our business partners are running a muck. I will not elaborate on the particulars of the muckery but know that it is indeed extensive and creating a desperate eagerness as we near project completion. With that being said, I had a decision to make that would either facilitate OR delay the aforementioned eagerly anticipated completion. The issue was a matter of doing it the “right” thing or turning a blind eye. So all eyes on me (yes, that makes two west coast hip hop references in one post) to make a decision. It seems that pragmatism is valued far above altruism in business. Although both paradigms both arguably have their place, they are only as good in execution as their least common denominator; the decision maker.
My observations have taught me that in business the end result seems to be the ultimate determinant of right and wrong. How does one make decisions with known yet uncertain consequences?
Miss Worker Bee (MWB)