I had a dream the other night. I was driving North in broad daylight for a weekend of outdoor activities. The snow was brilliant white all around me. In fact, it was so bright I found myself squinting to see. Already forty-five minutes into my trip, I realized with great disappointment that I needed to turn around, go back home and retrieve my sunglasses.
Thank you, dream maker, as I think this sums up nicely what many of us are feeling now.
We feel an urgency to move forward into the light and set straight all that has gone awry in 2020 and 2021. Yet, to regain this focus we need first to dial it back, dim it down, even turn around to reflect first.
That’s how I heard one person describe this first month of the New Year.
And yes, while we can see a light at the end of this tunnel, we’re still in a blizzard of COVID repercussions that blur our vision.
Disrupted, Disarmed, Dislocated, Disconnected
I’ve heard more F* bombs in this month than I have in the whole last year. There is an undercurrent and underbelly beneath our smiles and accomplishments. The sooner we can safely name this, the better we can support ourselves and everyone around us.
“Discomfort,” says psychologist Susan David, “is the price of admission to a meaningful life. It’s a non-negotiable part of being human.”
Yet uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings are where many of us draw the line. We make the decision that it’s more productive to do rather than feel and seemingly “wallow” in our discomfort.
We forget that emotions are not good or bad. They contain invaluable data and the more we can welcome and befriend them, the better we will defuse the stigma, stinger and fear.
This Harvard Business School article, Feeling Seen: What to Say When Your Employees Are Not OK, speaks to how we can constructively hold discomfort together.
First, let’s start with you. Be candid.
Are you okay?
I’m not okay all the time. Too many people in my life are suffering right now. I will recover, and they will recover.. However, there are nights when I can’t sleep due to a racing mind and worrying (which I know serves no one), and uncharacteristically, there are even times when I don’t want to get up in the morning.
What’s this got to do with psychological safety and trusting environments where we can drop our fight, flight or freeze responses? Research suggests that when we let down our guard and acknowledge employees’ emotions, we can ease distress and build trust. For example:
- Workers trust colleagues who acknowledge negative emotions.
- Ignoring emotions lessens trust.
- Workers bond more with employees when they make it okay to share frustration or discontent.
- Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.
- Emotional acknowledgment boosts feelings of belonging and inclusivity.
The work of showing up with your own emotions and validating others is as important as your strategic plan. It’s the only way to really move forward. To be fully alive and to create and innovate, we will naturally lose ourselves in order to find ourselves again.
525,600 Minutes: How Do You Measure a Year?
So when we feel like we’re losing ourselves, when sunglasses are needed for better vision, when forging forward is too fuzzy a goal, what is the measurement that grounds you?
I often find these answers through poems and songs. 525,600 Minutes is a song from the Broadway play Rent. It’s about AIDS, the first pandemic in my lifetime and it had a wildly successful, 11-year run. (Learn more about Jonathan Larsen, lyricist, composer and playwright here. It’s an amazing and heartbreaking story.)
The song asks us how we choose to make meaning of the precious 525,600 minutes in a year. Again, listen to it here (and I hope you will!) with the original cast in their final performance.
525,600 minutes, 525,600 moments so dear.
525,600 minutes – how do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In 525,600 minutes – how do you measure a year in the life?
How about love? How about love? How about love?
Measure in love.
Seasons of Love…
Take a moment and think about it, now. How do you measure your year? The answer matters, a lot – to your personal fulfillment, to team engagement and even to your strategic plan.
So how about it? How about love?