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English: Princeton Walkway

English: Princeton Walkway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I mentioned in the last post, this year is already packed with changes. I have been thinking hard about to help both myself and my children cope with the changes. Changes, no matter how exciting and positive they can be, create anxiety in all of us. Sometimes it’s under the surface and sometimes the anxiety comes out in very outward actions… like the five bags sitting upstairs in my mad dash to redecorate our bedroom, along with the new paint color samples on the wall. To my husband’s relief, everything is being returned and I will only paint the walls. I’ve always thought paint as instant gratification – for under $30 a gallon you can change your world.

The first change that this year has brought is a relocation. We will be relocating from the north shore of Chicago to Princeton, New Jersey. Since we had just moved here from the San Francisco area only a year and a half ago, this move will be especially tricky with the kids. As a trailing spouse to an upwardly mobile husband (it was his promotion that provoked the move), it has certainly created a some hostility on my part. While I am very proud of him, his movement forces me to be incredibly adaptable and marketable. My goal in my career has always been simple – keep learning, have fun, and be challenged – not marketable.

Just before Christmas, I attended a two-day offsite workshop hosted by one of our general managers. Now call me an optimist, but while most of my co-workers are skeptical of off-site ‘kumbuyas’, I am always hopeful that we can find something useful to take away and implement. The program is called tlex – Transformational Leadership for Excellence and was put on by The International Association for Human Values (www.iahv.org). It was extraordinary.

I am not an earth crunchy person in any way, and just the thought of sitting still or even doing yoga makes me want to run in a different direction – but this class is essentially two days of meditation, yoga and self-reflection. The core of the course is the individual – if you do not know yourself how can you connect effectively to others? In the twenty plus years I have been working, all the ‘group therapy’ sessions I have attended have focused on the connection between people. Some may have you look at yourself briefly (FYI – I am the top right hand corner of the red box, controlling, controlling, controlling) but then it shifts immediately to the connection. So I have gotten very good at understanding what can provoke others … but first I needed to better understand my own buttons. Knowing these buttons in the context of my life priorities is essential to moving through change productively.

I have known about our move to New Jersey for a couple of months although it had not been formal until the second day of the workshop. From the day I first learned about it, my left eye began to twitch. During the tlex session… I learned to meditate, and after a full month of eye twitching, it simply stopped. During the session we evaluated our entire life – from family to work. We left the session with a better understanding of ourselves, leaving us more open to learning about the person next to us. It’s such a simple concept, but yet it is practiced so little.

During the session we did an exercise tlex called the ‘pie of life’.  Through this self-reflection I was disappointed to see pictorially that so little of my pie is made up with time for our kids and that my concerns surrounding the move followed suit.  It became clear that I needed to dedicate structured time to help them with the transition, otherwise my anxieties might become theirs.  And they have a right to their own craziness don’t they? I have since sat down with each child independently and made lists with them of what they want out of the move (yes, electronics were demanded), what makes them anxious and what they are excited about. Honestly, how did I not think about this before?  I have been doing this at work for years with staff, co-workers and those that I supported.  My children might not realize it now, but they are in the beginning stages of learning about their own buttons.  I hope over time, they can take over the questioning themselves during times of change personally and in their future careers.

Over the past two years, I have spent quite a bit of time to learn what drives me and what I can bring to an organization (I am a huge fan of Marcus Buckingham!). What the tlex session did was help me put that into the context of my entire life, from husband to kids to work.  In order to work to our full potential, we need to learn about ourselves in a specific order – self, life connections and then work connections.   Corporations for the most part do an incomplete job in this category… and well out of order.   As middle management, we are sent to group sessions that focus on the connections among the team.  As senior managers, we can be coached for issues or for development and only then do we focus on ourselves.  But this is after we have spent years building bad habits that are now even harder to break. And coaching for life itself in the work place… does it exist?  So much of what I have experienced in training/coaching at work separates life from work.  In reality, work is part of our overall life, and we have to understand it all to have context and appropriate perspective.

My hope for everyone reading this is that you to spend some time learning about yourself and bring that information into any team building events you participate in at work.  What can you take from the work training and apply to your home life and vice versa.   In today’s world there is no wall between work and home, so let the learning flow.