This week, I had a meeting that I was not looking forward to. Right at the time that I was about to leave for the meeting, an issue came up that I assessed was going to make the meeting even worse than I was expecting. I was feeling incredibly anxious as I headed off to the meeting.
I left later than I would have liked to leave. By the time I parked my car and paid for parking, I was walking into the building right on the meeting time. Meaning, that I was going to be a couple of minutes late.
Right on the meeting start time, my phone rang. It was the person I was meeting with, checking on me. I told them that I was nearly at the meeting room, and kept walking.
At this point, I was an emotional mess, at least on the inside. I had a meeting that I was not looking forward to. I “knew” it was going to be horrible given the issue that had come up. I was later than I would usually be (“if you are not five minutes early, you are late”), and the person I was meeting with had already called me, which I interpreted as them really being angry with me and looking for anything to blame.
I finally arrived in the meeting room, waiting for the inevitable fight.
There was a coffee waiting for me.
The person I was meeting said “Sorry for calling. You are always early, so I was worried when it hit the actual meeting time and you weren’t here. I bought you a coffee. I’m not sure what you drink, so I hope it is ok”.
I was so wound up that I nearly cried with relief!
As we progressed through the agenda, we had what I thought was a great meeting. We achieved goals. We clarified different interpretations. We made requests and offers.
Walking away from the meeting later, I felt positive and accomplished. I also couldn’t help being curious about how I had felt at the beginning of the meeting.
I had been so anxious that I had created a story about how the meeting wouldn’t be fun. Then, when the issue had come up before the meeting, I had built on the story, “knowing” that the meeting was “definitely going to be an awful meeting”. Every event that happened from that point ended up with another story of the pain and punishment that was “about to become my life”. I had made a multitude of ungrounded assessments, and they had become my truth.
Instead, I had walked into a meeting with a colleague who was genuinely worried about me, who had chosen to do something completely out of the ordinary and buy me a coffee, and who was committed to working constructively with me to achieve an outcome, despite the issues that had led up to the meeting.
This led me to thinking that humans are great at creating stories to make meaning of situations. We don’t always seek to understand whether those stories are grounded. Instead, we run with them and create from them, potentially unaware of what we are creating.
I nearly did exactly that during this meeting, and I can’t help thinking:
- What if I had allowed those “truths” to stay with me during the meeting?
- What if I had allowed my truths to inform my actions?
Points to Ponder…
- Where are you creating stories about events, and not stopping to listen to them?
- How are those stories serving you?
- How would changing the story serve you?
- What opinions/assessments/judgements are you treating as truth?
My passion lies in coaching people to become the most resourceful version of themselves, and helping new and upcoming leaders who may be struggling with everyday life as a leader. I believe that the ability to be whatever we want to be lies within each of us, and sometimes it is useful to have help in finding what and where that is.