My dad’s father was an abusive alcoholic. My dad is not.
As a matter of fact, I can’t remember my grandpa sober.
And, I can’t remember my dad having a drink.
The cyclical nature of our family habits and the desire to replicate a familiar environment is a powerful force in our decision making process. It’s often an overwhelming force that provides meaning and identity, regardless of whether it’s a positive force or a negative one.
I’m an alcoholic because my dad was.
I never drink because my dad was an alcoholic.
Both paths originate from the same trailhead.
The meaning we attach to the experience will determine the path we choose.
This applies far beyond our family habits.
Why Should We Care?
One of the most interesting aspects of coaching is the opportunity to have a first hand view of how people handle failure and adversity. A player that appears confident and determined can be sent into a full tailspin by a seemingly innocuous setback. While the next player is completely unfazed by it, or better yet, doesn’t even view it as a failure at all.
The same is true for success. A little taste of success for some will spur them to continue striving and excelling while it leads to complacency and laziness in others.
It all depends on the meaning we attach to the experience.
Failure could be simply to evaluate, adjust, and improve the next time. It could expose a deficiency that needed light shed on it. Failure may just mean we aren’t there yet. The ‘yet’ is important.
Or, failure could mean you aren’t who you thought you were. Your identity as a success is in jeopardy. It could mean that not only was what you did not good enough, you might not be good enough.
The ability to be aware of the meaning we attach to events critical at a daily operational level for leaders as well.
When a team member is late for work, what meaning do you attach to their reason or excuse?
When one of your kids doesn’t work as hard as you think they should, what story do you tell yourself?
When you don’t follow through on something at the level you want to, what is your inner dialogue?
We choose the meaning we attach.
Do it with intention and purpose.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
Indifferent and reactionary are our two deferred modes of operation in most of life. The only way it’s not is if we first become aware of the opportunity to attach the meaning of our choice. Here are few ideas that I hope help with that process:
The meaning we attach to life’s events not only shape our story about ourselves, but also our story about others. Indifference will not cut it. Awareness and intentional action is the only way to make the meaning you attach work for you, rather than against you.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.