There are several times in life where, for whatever reason, something someone says or does teaches you a valuable lesson that you never forget. It is so profound that it resurfaces at appropriate times to help you adjust your behavior for the better – a life lesson.
Here is the story of two of my personal life lessons.
If That Is The Worst Thing That Happens…
In my early thirties I was working at a gaming company in Austin. As an administrative assistant, I supported four directors and a vice president when he was in town. My direct supervisor was one of the directors. One year, I felt his personal views clouded his objectivity and resulted in my receiving a bad annual review. I had never received anything other than glowing reviews before, so I was shaken. I decided to discuss it with the vice president during his next visit.
The VP treated my concern with respect and ended up having me report to him directly instead of the director. I was very appreciative. I shared the news via a chat with another admin in our California office. I’m not sure how or why, but I accidentally printed out the chat conversation to a local printer that sat outside of the office of the director I was no longer reporting to.
The director found the printout and it made quite an interesting read for him, I’m sure. Although I didn’t say anything derogatory about him in the chat, I did not veil my excitement that he would no longer be doing my annual review. At this point, the VP had not had a chance to speak to him about the change in reporting structure. The director was livid. The next thing I know, I’m getting called into the VP’s office so that he can have a conference with myself and the other admin. He was stern, but not unfair. However, I felt awful, ungrateful and disappointed in myself.
At the end of the day, almost in tears, I apologized to the VP for putting him in such an awkward position. He just laughed and said “Traci, if that’s the worst thing that happens today, we’ll be fine.” After having beat myself up all day and blowing this incident up into the biggest catastrophe of my career, his words and his demeanor stunned me.
He was full of wisdom though, because it really did turn out to be nothing. I apologized to the director a few days later and we have remained friends.
Now whenever I make a mistake and I start to feel like it is something I won’t recover from, I remember those words and am able to keep it in perspective.
You’re The Only One Upset
While living in Savannah, I worked as an executive assistant for a performance psychologist. She owned a victorian style building located downtown and rented out rooms to acupuncturists, life coaches and yoga instructors. Her only other employee was a young guy that helped her with marketing projects. It was an interesting and eclectic environment.
One day she and I had a disagreement. She called me into her office to tell me she did not like the way I handled a particular assignment and gave me instructions on how she wanted it handled in the future. She never raised her voice or acted angry in any way.
However, I took her words as a personal affront and grew very angry and agitated. Furious, I went back to my desk and proceeded to vent to the marketing guy.
He listened quietly for a while and then put his hand up and told me to take a deep breath. Looking me squarely in the eyes, he said, “You’re the only one upset right now. You’re ready to have a heart attack over the supposed injustice of it all, and I can assure you that she is upstairs not thinking about you at all. So either you are so upset that you need to go back upstairs and discuss this with her further, or you can just accept it and move on and stop letting it ruin your day.”
He said all this very calmly, not in a patronizing or diminishing way, more like he was just relaying facts. It caused no defensiveness in me, so I was able to actually think about what he said. He was absolutely right. I was making myself miserable because of what? I was disappointed that she didn’t like the way I handled it, and because I couldn’t handle that disappointment I twisted it into she was being mean to me? That wasn’t true at all. Or maybe I was upset because I felt my way was better than hers? Even so, this was HER company, so it was pretty arrogant on my part to get so indignant. Whatever I was feeling and however I was justifying it, I was still making something out of nothing.
In the first story I beat myself up for a simple infraction and in the second one I let an inappropriate response take over my senses.
We tend to get upset over insignificant things and then balloon them into something bigger than they are. When we do that, we are mainly hurting ourselves. It’s a work in progress to fully learn this lesson.
So next time you get upset, take a deep breath, keep calm and keep it in perspective. Is it really as big as it feels or is that just you mucking things up?
Putting my therapist on speed dial.