I spent a long time thinking that external circumstances sometimes prevented me from being able to do my “real job.”
I would cite interruptions, emergencies (fires to put out), other people’s indecision or inability to see the right way forward. I would say, and believe, that decisions were “out of my hands.”
And as a coach, I often hear these seemingly innocent + true sentences from my clients.
They feel true because we have facts to back them up. We can cite the number of times someone brings an urgent request to us throughout our day. We can recite word-for-word accounts of meetings that determined that another person had the final say about a particular project or course of action. We say things like, “she’s my boss, so I have to get on board.”
There’s nothing wrong with thinking this way or believing these things if they are serving us. If you feel totally great, or at least neutral, about interruptions, other people, and your own influence or power, awesome.
But when I believed these things, they didn’t serve me. And when I work with clients on these beliefs, it’s because they’re not working. It’s because they want to control their days, influence the things they’re passionate about, and feel balanced. And they don’t.
It is absolutely true that we have no control over other people. We have no control over what they do, how they think, or how they feel. We can’t control how our CEO considers a specific decision. We can’t control whether or not a colleague makes an urgent request. That is all one hundred percent true.
We do always have control over how we think about those circumstances. We always do have control over how we respond. And we do have the option of feeling differently about them if we want to.
And what I would like to offer you is that if it seems like external circumstances have a negative influence on your ability to do your job, consider rethinking the way you think about your job.
When something is outside of us, we have no authority over it. We don’t get curious about it, learn its angles, take control of it. We don’t exert the influence over it that we do in fact have, because we don’t recognize the influence we do in fact have.
When we think that interruptions and other external circumstances “prevent us from doing our job,” we lose the opportunity to realize that those external circumstances are our job.
When we resist something, disown it, and try to push it away, we ensure it sticks around. Every time. What we resist, persists.
But when we take ownership, we give ourselves power and freedom.
For example, when we think about interruptions not as something that happens to us, but as something we are inviting, or at least not preventing, we take responsibility rather than being a victim of them.
When we switch the question in our brain from “why are there always so many interruptions?” — which will inevitably return evidence that there are many interruptions — to “how might I make sure I can focus?” we get a much more empowering list of answers, evidence that we have control and authority.
That evidence, that list of answers, is good stuff. It might include setting expectations with your colleagues, team, or boss. It might involve turning off notifications. It might involve saying no, or calibrating with others about what issues rise to the level of urgent. All things that can help you take more control over your productivity and focus.
Similarly, when we think about a decision not as something final that belongs to one person, but as something that is 1) the result of multiple inputs and 2) constantly evolving, we generate a different feeling, a different understanding of our influence.
The question in this example switches from “why doesn’t PERSON see this the right way?” — which will bring you evidence that something is wrong — to “how might I influence this?” or “what influence do I want to have?” These questions generate some pretty empowering answers and help us realize that the option is ours. Maybe we want to paint a different picture of our vision, or of the pain points that will be eliminated by our solution to a problem. Maybe we want to schedule a conversation with a decision maker to share our thoughts differently.
Interfacing with other people, advocating for things you’re passionate about, learning to navigate the particulars of your organization. When you see these as your job, rather than the things preventing you from doing your job, something amazing happens. You get good at them. You learn to manage them, do them well, and not let the external hold you back from your full sphere of influence.
I remember this transformation so clearly. The day I started setting clear expectations and kindly considering everything mine to influence if I wanted to. To consider every part of my job . . . my job.
I stepped into full responsibility. I stepped into a different relationship with myself. And into a far greater level of influence in my work.
How about balance? More time? Confidence as a meta-skill? A different relationship to yourself? Better relationships with the most important people in your life? And with everyone else? Every day, I work with clients to teach them the skills I’ve used to transform every aspect of my life and leadership. And I’d love to help you achieve whatever result you’re looking for — or help you identify it. Book a free consultation call with me — there’s no risk, only potential gain. I can’t wait to meet you.