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. I refer to this as 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, Texas. As an administrative assistant, I supported four directors and a vice president when he was in town. My immediate supervisor was one of the directors. One year, he gave me 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 directly to him instead of the director. I was elated. 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 printer located right outside of the director’s office that I no longer would be reporting.
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 his words and demeanor stunned me.
He was full of wisdom, because it really did turn out to be nothing but a small bump. 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 keep everything 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 other offices 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.
My relationship with my boss was for the most part pretty good, but one day she called me into her office to tell me she did not like the way I handled a particular assignment. She then 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. 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 delivered this 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 and unreasonable? 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 mistake, 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 only hurting ourselves.
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 making it into something it is not?
Putting my therapist on speed dial.
Click here to read Part 2.