by Robert S. Tipton
Tell me about your collection of “used-to-thinks…”
You know what I mean — “I used to think that _____________, but now I don’t.” Or “I used to think every ______________ got _______________, but now I see it the other way.”
That’s a “used-to-think.” (U2T)
Now, the older I get, the bigger my collection of U2Ts becomes. In fact, my collection seems to be getting exponentially larger as I age. What about yours?
If you’re like me, your U2T collection started growing somewhere in your late teens or early 20s. Prior to that age (again, if you were like me) I had nothing in my collection at all. This is because I was the typical (or maybe even a bit of an extreme example) of a full-time-know-it-all when I was young. Some people might say “insufferable” would be a good adjective to describe me.
What about you?
Were you insufferable too? (Let’s start a focus group — recovering insufferable full-time-know-it-alls, or RIFTKIAs. Ha!)
U2T Disharmony = Ineffective Parenting and Bad Managing
A couple more questions — are there any parents out there of some insufferable teenagers / early 20-somethings? Any conflict in your relationship with your kids? How about any managers out there who feel their employees just “won’t listen” when it comes to your explanations about how to do things?
I’m convinced one of the areas of serious and continuous conflict between parents and their insufferable full-time-know-it-all children, and managers and their “problem employees” is one of “Used-To-Think-Disharmony.” (Okay, the psychologists in the world are cringing — but I like this term I just invented. I’m going to keep using it!)
Anyway, when we haven’t developed enough U2Ts, we tend to operate with a limited perspective that’s characterized by our “need to be right.” Unfortunately, rather than remembering (and honoring) the process by which we as parents and / or managers have acquired our U2Ts (trial and error, mistakes, epiphanies, etc.), we try to PROVE to our kids or employees that they don’t know it all.
So, how does the need to PROVE we are right work for us?
It’s often like having “nitro” meet “glycerin.” BOOM!
“The Book” on the Subject of Resolving Conflict
There’s a different strategy that might help here — and I have a good friend who’s literally “written the book on it.” His name is Dr. Roger Frame, and his book, “Don’t Carve the Turkey with a Chainsaw, Resolving Family Conflict” is a must-read, especially for parents of teenagers. While this book is primarily written from a parenting perspective, nearly ALL of it will apply to management too.
Buy it, buy it now, and you’ll have the chance to add some new U2Ts yourself about dealing with difficult kids, employees, customers, bosses, etc.
My Collection of U2Ts
Anyway, back to my own personal collection of U2Ts.
Within the past few years, I have added a BIG U2T to my collection: I used to think that achieving balance was the key to a successful, happy life. Now I know that’s not true.
This was a hard-fought lesson, and my learning went this way… The more I strived to find balance, the more elusive it became. It was as if I was trying to hold smoke in my hands – each time I “thought” I’d achieved balance, the scale would tip the other way and I’d be back out of balance.
And — it didn’t matter what I was trying to balance. Work and family. Employee satisfaction and a strong bottom line. Weekend getaways and home repair. My work as an author, a speaker and a consultant. Whatever I was trying to keep in balance just kept shifting out of balance.
It was frustrating. And as I learned later, pointless.
Why is it pointless? Because balance “never” happens, at least for long… You may be in balance for that split second when the scales go in opposite directions, but that’s it. And trying to “stay” in balance means you’re constantly trading-off one thing (i.e., employee satisfaction) for something else (profit). Trade-offs represent “lose – lose, or win – lose” thinking, and that’s just not a powerful way to operate in the long term.
Instead, making choices by being centered in principles like “I’d rather be joyful than try to prove to anyone that I’m right…” or, “I will be the change I want to see in the world…” or, “I choose to be an indispensable member of my team…” or, “I choose to be responsible and effective related to driving profit so I’m able to do the volunteer work that I love” means there’s no need to try to balance anything. As a result, the typical “I can’t keep things in balance” symptoms like frustration, resentment, and anger just disappear.
And — we can relax. (Deep cleansing breath)
Choose Centeredness, Not Balance
So — to summarize everything in the previous few paragraphs, here’s my new U2T:
Balance (looking for trade-offs) is not the answer — being centered (grounding my choices in meaningful principles) is the answer. Let me say it again, balance is not the answer — being centered is the answer.
Here’s an example from my personal life related to the difference between “balance” and “centeredness.” I’ve been asked this question before:
“Bob — you have four children. Do you love them equally?”
Pause… (how would you answer this question??)
Here’s my answer — no. I don’t love my children equally (balanced), I love them uniquely (centered). There’s no scorekeeping, debits-equaling-credits, calendar management stuff going on — I am simply centered in my approach that I will be the father each of my children needs me to be. And by making that decision, I love them the way “THEY” need / want me to love them, not the way I think I should love them.
And that’s one of my “used-to-thinks…”
How big is your collection of U2Ts? If you’re like me, aren’t you amazed at how much less you “know” as you get older? I am. And I realize that ALL of my U2Ts are gifts that come along with experience, with new-found wisdom, with more trips around the sun, etc.
I can’t wait to add another U2T today.
How about you?