This afternoon didn’t go quite to plan. There was a gap in time where my husband wasn’t going to be at home, I wasn’t going to be at home and our children were going to be at home alone. When I say children, I mean children of an age where most people would willingly leave them home alone. I don’t mean very young children. Anyway, I decided that I would minimise their home alone time by leaving work at 4pm, calling to the shops, and then arriving home early to cook a reasonably healthy dinner. The universe, however, had other ideas and I couldn’t leave work until 6pm.
And so it happened that, without even lifting a finger, the healthy home made dinner of chicken and vegetables became a not so healthy takeaway noodle dinner. I called home as I left work and asked my children to message their orders to me. Then I called in to the shops on the way home and ordered and picked up dinner.
As I was walking back to the car with our takeaway, a fleeting thought went through my head: Well, I have failed motherhood tonight. I am home two hours later than planned, and my children are eating takeaway. Almost immediately, however another voice popped up inside my head: So you called your children, checked on them, explained that you were going to be home late and asked them if they would be ok with takeaway. Then, you made sure that you arrived home with dinner as soon as possible. So, when your plan changed, your first thought was about taking care of your children. Exactly how is that failing?
At this point, I changed the story from being a story of failure to being a story worthy of self-congratulations: Congratulations, you dealt with something at work, took care of the people involved, took care of your children, and everyone still got fed at a reasonable time. Good on you for being flexible, considerate and committed.
As I arrived home, greeted by two children who were incredibly excited to be having noodles and banana and nutella spring rolls (they are SOOO a thing!), I started to think about the stories that we attach to situations. How often do we focus on one interpretation of a situation, creating stories that really don’t serve us, when there could quite possibly be another interpretation? The other thought that occurred to me is around how we apply our standards to events and situations, and then use those standards to form judgements. For example, my standard is that I must provide home cooked meals most nights. When I don’t meet this standard, I tend to judge myself as having failed. This is what happened in that fleeting moment tonight. When I shifted the standard in the moment to “I must provide dinner for my family every night”, the story shifted to a story that was perhaps more serving.
How often then, do we measure ourselves against standards that we don’t even realise we have, and then use that measurement to create a story about a situation, without understanding how that story may be serving us?
Points to Ponder…
- What have you judged yourself as failing recently that, if you observed it differently, could be considered a win or even considered a “just is”?
- How are your standards serving you?
- How are your stories serving you?
As a leadership and life coach, I help people explore how they are being in their interactions as leaders and in life. I use the Be. Do. Learn. approach to assist people in shifting their obstacles and turning them into pathways. If you feel that it would be useful to have a conversation with me, please contact me via the Leading and Being website or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org