I was facilitating a session with a group of managers in a global technology company. We were a few months into their change initiative and I wanted to find out how things were progressing since we started.
I asked them to take a few minutes and come up with a list of the areas where they have seen progress and improvement since we started. One of the managers threw out a cynical comment “Well, that list will be short!“.
As it turned out their list of accomplishments was actually not short at all. In fact, they had made admirable progress in many key areas. However, when we got to the list written by that same manager he again insisted that: “Nothing has progressed or improved!”
I could tell that this manager had a chip on his shoulder. He was upset that certain areas that affected him and his team were not changing and improving fast enough. Unfortunately, it seemed that his frustrations were clouding his view and perspective about everything.
In my coaching work, I often come across people who seem to be stuck in the position that “nothing is changing” or “nothing has improved” even when everyone around them claims the complete opposite.
So, who is right and what is the truth?
I don’t think there is one. We often say: “I can’t believe what I am seeing!” However, I believe that in reality people actually see or don’t see what they believe.
When someone insists adamantly “nothing has improved or changed“, that says more about the person saying it, than the reality he or she are talking about.
I have a good friend who every time I ask her how she is doing she answers with some variation on: “Same shit different day!” That is ‘an attitude’, not ‘an objective summation of the truth’.
It takes a certain openness, positive outlook and talent to be able to see (and find) progress and accomplishment in any circumstance. It is an acquired skill, not something you have or don’t have. Yes, sometimes you need to squint your eyes, use a fine ruler or microscope to see the forward movement. However, if you orient yourself toward progress and accomplishment and look for it, you will always find it.
There are practical exercises you could adopt that would make you good at this. Here is one that I have been practicing for years, which has made a difference in my life:
Keep a notebook next to your bed (or somewhere handy) and at the end of each day take 15 minutes to complete the day by recording your answer to the following question:
“What are the 4-8 things I made progress in, learned and/or accomplished today?”
Don’t go to sleep before you have come up with at least 4 things. Some days it will be easy to fill the list. In fact, some days you will easily have more than 8 things. In other days, however, you will be scratching your head and searching your brain. Don’t let yourself off the hook. Do the practice and come up with at least 4 that have meaning to you. Do this for at least one month, in order for it to influence your perspective.
If you stay true to the exercise you will develop your ability to see and find progress and accomplishment in any circumstance. This will enhance your positive outlook, energy, and sense of accomplishment and progress. Ultimately it will empower you and make you experience yourself as much more powerful and able to achieve what you want.
So, if it is so easy to do this, why doesn’t everyone – especially those who are frequently complaining that “nothing is progressing” – grab this mindset and approach with open arms?
I’ll get into that in next week’s blog. See you then!