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Strains and Gains

August 24, 2012

Growth can come about as a result of a multitude of events. We may consciously choose to grow or we may be presented with an opportunity. Alternately, situations beyond our control may also force us to evolve.

It is natural for even the chosen growth to come with angst. What initially starts out as excitement can turn to “What did I get myself into?” or “I wish I could just go back to where I was.”   Even if we can and do go back, we will not be the same. See, whereas, we may be able to reverse some elements, there are many others that would tend to stick with us. We may wonder what might have happened if we stuck it out, asked for training or support, or how the move back may have limited our options.  Nonetheless, at times, the best decision may be to back out.  Even so, chances are that we have still learned something valuable about ourselves in the process.  During these times, it can be helpful to remind ourselves that we still have choices.

For now, let’s assume we are in the midst of this alleged opportunity (perhaps a new position at work, a challenging project or increased responsibilities) and we are feeling weighed down, uncertain and frustrated.  What if we thought of the events that encompass moments of doubt as a sign of progress…or the strain before the gain?  If we accepted this discomfort as an integral and unavoidable part of embarking on something new would it help us work through it more purposefully?

Below are considerations intended to help us hang on long enough to realize the benefits.

1. Either before the decision is made or quickly after initiation, think about the advantages.  In fact, it may be helpful to write these down in a place where they can be referred back to again and again. Get comfortable with these advantages as they can provide a home base for re-calibration and motivation when faced with rough spots.

2. Evaluate what some of the challenges may be in advance. Identifying these will not guarantee elimination, however it will minimize the number of surprises encountered. In most cases, a proactive plan can be created to get ahead of at least a portion of the challenges. When something comes up, this forethought not only helps level out unproductive frustrations, it demonstrates solid contingency planning and problem solving skills.

3. Understand the criteria for success.  If this is unavailable from a manager, team lead or sponsor, it is essential to create our own measures.  Common strategic measures have to do with quantifiable time, cost, funtionality.  Individually, we can plan and evaluate elements like specific skill development and level of personal/professional balance.

4. Accept that there will be unexpected events that show up along the way. Regardless of the pressure, take a step back to breathe and evaluate the situation with a clear thought process. If the path forward is unclear (and sometimes even when it is clear), this may be a good time to inform and/or involve someone else for guidance and/or support.

5. During the times where the fog is not lifting and it seems like we do not have the luxury of time to spend on anything else than the crisis on hand, make a point to do other enjoyable activities (i.e. play golf, meet up with a friend after work, take your kids on a bike ride, read a book, etc.). This is an effective way to take a break which can lead to fresh perspectives, solutions and regeneration of energy.

6. Reflect on what is going well…especially after a tough day.  This is as simple as asking ourselves ‘what went well today?’  In order to make this effective, recall the seemingly small wins (i.e. an effective meeting/conversation, a team member following up on a request, receipt of a compliment, etc.).   Remember that small things add up to create grander progress.   Use the positives to embrace and fuel progress.

7. Along the way, record accomplishments and lessons learned.  This is helpful for our own reflection and development.  It can also be a powerful way to review our knowledge and experiences with our boss periodically (at least annually).  Specifically, the lessons learned can be shared with others to shorten their learning curve and to improve common process.

8.  Celebrate the wins!  This feeling is why many people take on new assignments, yet too few people actually take the time to relish the victories.  Acknowledging success, especially at critical checkpoints/achievements on projects with a long development and implementation cycle, can reinforce motivation for continued performance.

Of course, the road from strain to gain can be rocky, yet the way we approach these situations greatly impacts our experience.

Let us know what other tips you have for staying steady through the strains of a learning curve.

© Viage Partners 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Viage Partners with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 26, 2012 4:31 am

    From my experience the first most important step is to acknowledge the discomfort with change. We like to stick to habits. And embarking onto something new and unknowing by nature causes fear. We must acknowledge it, thereby accepting it. Only when we step closer to the emotional barriers and look at them from nearby we start to feel ready to take on the new challenge.
    Then the second most important step is not only to set new goals but the set the right ones. For our goals to become a source of more energy and life force they must be the right ones!
    How do we know what the right goals are, though? What our employer tells us? What the media tells us? What is generally accepted as the right goals? The right goals have to be in accordance with our true self. And that is often than not more difficult to uncover amidst all the learned behavior, dictated goals, and other socialized behaviors. Goals have to come from within to be an energizer instead of gobbling all our energy in trying to achieve them.

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