Step One: Stop Trying to Fix It

Sunday , 1, November 2015 Leave a comment

By nature, I’m a fixer.  I like puzzles, and I like problem-solving.  It’s a great skill for putting out fires at work and helping disgruntled students, but no matter how hard I deny it, my fix-it strategy just does not cut it in my personal, relational, emotional, psychological world.

(please tell me I’m not alone in this?)

My brain is a constant whir of “fix it!”  I hear the whirring, and I hear its message:  If I could just figure out what’s bothering me, I could fix it.  If I could just find the reason I’m sad, I could fix it.  If I could just understand the underlying cause to student complaints, I could fix it.  Right?

Wrong.  So incredibly wrong.   

But I am stubborn, so this is one of those lessons I keep returning to over and over.  Sound familiar?  Maybe we can start a support group.

Not surprisingly, I’ve been looking at recent work frustrations from that very framework.  Structure, logic, connections, the root of the problem… all so I can smash the problem where it lies.

You know how this is going to end, right?  Totally, completely not working.

Thanks to some great recent conversations with team members (whose willingness to be frank with me is something I treasure), I’m feeling a shift in my reality.  To a reality where my team is experiencing seriously intense pressure and the pervasive stress that goes hand-in-hand with it.  A reality where I cannot immediately “fix” a damn thing.  A reality where my leadership and role modeling are more important than ever–a reality where letting go of my “fix-it” mentality empowers me to make a difference.

In the midst of this shift, I was reminded of this quote:

treat the worldI was reminded that even when I feel frustrated, stressed, and kicked around, I am still responsible for leading a team.  A team of rock stars who are beyond capable of doing their work without my help–but who are struggling to do so in the midst of expectations that feel out of their control.

I can’t fix that.  I can’t fix the expectations.

But even on the hard days, I can treat the world better than I feel I’ve been treated.

I CAN release my selfish, “But what about ME?” and instead focus on empowering my team to support students and each other in the way they know is best.  I am not in control of their emotions and I cannot “fix” their outlook on the current situation.

But I CAN encourage different choices.  I CAN remind them that they DO have that power.  I CAN recognize the work they are doing.  I CAN reinforce that their impact has not gone and does not go unnoticed.

Counterintuitive part of this?  None of it requires me to ignore my own frustration or stress.  Seems that empowering others empowers me, too.  Funny how that works.  Kind of beautiful, too.

I’ve been looking for an external fix.  Instead, it seems that step one is very much an internal shift of attitude and focus.  For the first time in awhile, I feel like I can see the path in front of me–and I like where I see it leading.

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