The Process of Alignment
“Don’t compromise your standard to get them to participate.”
If you’ve ever worked in the public education sector, you understand the pressure that comes with having your performance consistently measured. I want to maintain a high standard but at times feel defeated by feedback that looks like non participation, criticism (from students), low scores, etc. In an effort to sooth the anxiety, I’ll create “alternatives” or take a more passive approach with select students so the sting of not feeling adequate or effective in my work doesn’t hit as hard.
I’m a teacher by trade, but you don’t have to be in the same profession to know what it feels like to give your personal best and not receive the support, feedback, results, and/or praise you expected.
You put all your money into that business and saw no return of investment. You invested the best of your love into that relationship and he still left. You were a loyal friend and were still betrayed. You put your all into your brand and still didn’t receive the support you thought you deserved. You did overtime and still were not acknowledged. That sucks and it hurts!
Instead of processing this pain to receive a clear perspective, we internalize and go into overdrive to “prove” we are worth it. We take desperate actions that seem logical, but are not in alignment with who are endeavoring to become. We began to compromise what we believe in subtle ways (as this behavior is not always conscious without reflection). We start engaging in what’s “trending,” do things we said we’d never do, adopt a negative attitude, or relent any and all real effort entirely- inevitably projecting an image that is in contradiction to what we say we stand for and want.
The suckiest part is that after putting all that extra energy into being what we’re not, we still don’t see the results we expected. As a matter of fact, we now have to face the embarrassing consequences of what we’ve created as a result of our own self ignorance and betrayal.
Water the W(ONE)man
When you’re a woman with a big vision and high standards, you’ll often put undue pressure on yourself to achieve your goals in a specific way and on a specific timeline. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, but this pressure and limited perspective carries the potential to blind us from appreciating the magic of the unknown. Also, if we are only comfortable in our doing (assertive) energy, we will struggle to sustain our faith, passion, and consistency when life’s challenges interrupt our plan.
This means that what we do fairs in comparison to who we become as a result of the work we’ve done. Part of the journey is knowing when to slow down, speed up, stop, or retreat. We do ourselves a service when we master the ability to discern the difference between when it’s time to give up, let go, or try again. To be able to lead with confidence, yet follow with humility and grace is an underrated respectable quality. Knowing when to shift and/or adopt a new way of thinking about or doing something (without losing who we are) is a wisdom many women go their whole lives resisting.
Learning to accept when we’re on a new level and adjust accordingly is an unparalleled gift to self. The ability to admit when we're beginners and allow ourselves to simply rely on the fundamentals rather than trying to “go big or go home,” is a sign of maturity and self confidence. Offering ourselves grace when we make mistakes and feeling worthy despite our past is a reward only given from Self to self. These are lessons that we can easily read in a book, but in order to cultivate true wisdom and understanding of their principals we must learn through our experiences and seek mastery through intention.
At the end of your life would you rather people read your resume in awe of the things you’ve accomplished or would you prefer to receive passionate personal testimonials that speak to the value you brought to peoples’ lives? Grappling with the chaos of our inner world that seeks to keep us busy and ignorant to the deeply rooted unhealed characteristics that hold us back, requires the same level of commitment we put into producing material results. This creates balance in our physical body & mind, while purifying the energy we emit to others-allowing us to be steady and present.
I am grateful to be in a professional position where conversation and communal reflection regarding performance is an avid part of the process- providing a way for me to redeem myself when I’ve messed up. But I also know that many of us can attest to consequences we’ve faced in and outside of our work, that were void of the opportunity to explain ourselves, clear up misunderstandings, or even try again, which left us devastated with feelings of shame and guilt.
I’m not advocating for perfection, nor ignorant to the fact that we will make mistakes, but I am challenging myself and (you) to make a commitment to strive to be our personal best even if, (when) we are not getting the immediate feedback we desire or think we deserve.
A farmer doesn’t plant a seed on Monday, then expects a crop Tuesday. Instead, he consistently, with patience, tills and waters the ground in faith of an abundant and healthy harvest in due season. Sometimes our reward is delayed, not because we are not doing enough, but because the ground isn’t ready to support all that we’re becoming when we reach full bloom. Don’t dig up your seed (you) too soon. The most growth happens underground in the dark.
4 Keys to Become Your Own Standard(s)
Know Your Value, Then Add Tax!
This old but faithful adage can be the difference between settling for good enough or receiving more than you expected. Get crystal clear on the woman you see yourself becoming.
What does she look like? Smell like? Dress like? Think like? What kinds of hobbies does she have? Who are the people who are privy to her inner circle? What social circles does she frequent? What are her non negotiables? What makes her happy, sad, tick, shout with joy, and burn with furry or passion? How does she react to disrespect and mistreatment? Where does she want to live? Where does she want to go? With who and when?
These questions may seem materialistic after I just went in on focusing on who we are becoming, but they actually go hand in hand. When we get clear on what we want and who we want to become in the physical, we provide our minds with a steady mental picture to begin working its magic to create the best path that will get us there. When we don’t leave any parts of our vision to chance, it becomes easier to discern distractions and counterfeit people and opportunities that can and will present themselves while we’re en route. It will also, at key moments, provide perspective when it’s hard to stay faithful in well doing. We’ll be able to recall what we’ve asked for and understand that a quality meal at a five star restaurant takes longer to prepare than a double cheeseburger with fries at McDonalds (no shade).
Return of Investment (R.O.I) - a term used in the financial world to measure the profitability of an investment by measuring the potential return relative to the investment cost. In short, the question is, will what you put in be worth what you will get out of it? Society is training more women to do more for less (if anything at all). To run ourselves ragged for the crumbs or for the potential possibility to earn a title that may end up be handed to someone “new and exciting.”
I don’t say this be crass, but I want to make the mere thought of you giving the best of your time, energy, and intelligence to people and causes that are not guaranteed wins for you, a complete turn off! Understand that a win isn't always monetary nor is it receiving the outcome you wanted exactly how you envisioned. Rather, whatever the outcome presents itself to be, it should feel good and be beneficial for you. Many of us fall prey to the allure of titles, money, or other comforts that we think will make our lives easier or happier. We give more than we have in our tank to offer, over-extend ourselves in an effort to look available, enthusiastic, and more appealing, all while sacrificing the quality of our health, peace, relationships, and true happiness.
I also understand that sometimes we enter a deal with good intentions and high hopes but can’t really predict what the return of investment will be. For this, I offer two keys to better discern the guidance of your inner broker.
Only Commit to What You Are Okay With Going Without. It’s dangerous to give with the intent to get. Again, another contradictory statement as we talk about return of investment, but the reality is that we have to learn to give without a detachment to how the outcome will look or where/who the return will come from. This takes practice and intention, but it is not impossible. Example: You want to get married. You meet a nice man who wants the same thing. You date him and really began to fall for him. 1 year in, the relationship is still steady, but marriage hasn’t come into the conversation since early in the relationship. You muster the courage to ask where this is going. He still wants marriage too, but in another year or so, maybe. You get annoyed and scared because you think he should know by now and are afraid to give another year without clarity. You have to make a decision. You decide to stay because you see he is the one and fear starting over. The potential return of your investment (time) remains unclear, but you invest another year of your time because you are committed to the outcome of getting married and have attached its realization to him. Had you committed solely to your vision (wanting to be married) and got clear on the time you were willing to invest in any relationship in the process to get there, you would have made more empowered choices at key moments. When you are committed to getting the best return of your investment, you give what you want, not what you feel you have to give in order to get the outcome you want. You'll be able to trust that it will happen, be it through him or someone else.
When You Are Anxiously Checking the Clock It’s Likely Time to Go! One of the biggest mistakes women of all ages and ethnicities make is staying longer than she intended. This often happens because many of us don’t have a clear vision for what we really want; aren’t willing to admit we want it; or like the example above, too afraid to stand on what we know we want. Whether it's waiting for a promotion from an employer you’ve given years of faithful service, wavering rather to change habits you’ve outgrown, wanting your relationship to go to the next level, or wanting to start a family, understanding the value of your time is critical to the equation of your R.O.I. Again, we can’t always predict the outcome of every endeavor we give ourselves to, but we do have control over knowing and admitting to ourselves when we feel we’ve given enough at the current level or place we currently reside. Money can come from multiple sources and love can be found again, no matter how hopeless it seems; but time waits on no woman, and hardly ever comes back around no matter how much we wish it would. Invest it wisely.
Don’t Take Anything Personally
Borrowing from the notable author of The 4 Agreements, the second agreement, “Don’t Take Anything Personally,” Miguel Ruiz, describes how our individual perspectives can be compared to living in our own movie as the main character. A character who has a background, dreams, goals, fears, and everyday problems to solve. Everyone else (to the main character), are only supporting roles no matter the significance of their title. He spends time outlining this because the average person (everyone) struggles with separating their self worth, value, and esteem from the actions or inaction of others specifically when they can’t or won’t give us what we want or expect.
Example: I had a student that was a part of my after school dance program. She was enthusiastic about learning and had a close friend who joined her at practices. The friend decided to quit four weeks in because in her words, “the work was harder than she expected.” Two weeks later, the initial student began being inconsistent with our rehearsal schedule. Eventually, she ceased attending all together, without a warning or providing me any closure to the prior commitment she made. When I questioned her waning interest, she insisted that she would be back and expressed interest for the upcoming auditions for next year’s team. No follow through. While trying to accept she didn’t want to be apart (because I really wanted her to), I took her inconsistency and wavering desire to participate personally. Since I also had her in a regular class period during the day, I could feel her attitude change toward dance. Where she was once a star and enthusiastic performer she now dragged and rarely put forth full effort.
While I knew that her close friend quitting (who was also in her class) had affected her and that she also lost her father at the start of the semester, I struggled with separating my capacity to influence her, from the behavior I now witnessed.
“Was I too strict?” “Did I require too much physically?” “Did I make dance boring?” “Am I the reason dance isn’t her happy place anymore?” I harassed myself with questions to the point it affected my attitude toward her and other students who waived in their enthusiasm toward participating in my classes. I let their personal story affect my enthusiasm for what I love.
We often mess ourselves over by begging people to stay, support, or participate who are showing through their actions, they can take it or leave it. We then overlook the person/people who are consistently showing up, in our corner, and attempting to pull from the well of what we have to offer while actively offering something of value in return, even if only a smile and nod of approval.
I’m not sure if you can relate to being a dance teacher, but I’m sure you can identify a moment in time when you began to feel uncertain, unworthy, or self conscious as a result of someone's response to your best efforts. We all know the saying “What people think of you is none of your business,” but dang it, sometimes it is our business- at least we spend so much time making it so. The truth is, it’s not an easy feat to be totally unaffected by the actions or inaction of others. Nor is it easy to override the criticism even when we are receiving praise from others. It is even more difficult to act unbothered when we are investing what we consider our best effort, time, and enthusiasm. When we perceive untapped potential we insert ourselves as the person that will help them realize it. We inadvertently make ourselves a key player in their movie, not taking into consideration that they've recasted the script based on the story they want to tell. Unaware of the scene change, we take everything they are doing and not doing as a personal challenge to try harder. We inwardly began to resent them and who we are becoming as a result of the negative energy we can’t seem to shake as we observe our waning joy dim like a fire in the rain.
Many of us have been here, but it is our responsibility to stop allowing it to get this far. To endeavor to master the principle of not taking anything personal, is to have the ultimate level of self confidence, assurance, and self possession needed to be a fearless beast at this last key...
ALWAYS Be Willing to Walk Away!
Once you’ve gotten clear on your vision, claimed your value (added tax), and calculated the time you’re willing to give to see your R.O.I, your work is proven by your ability to walk away the very second the clock strikes the coordinates that you pre-set in your vision statement. It does you no good to know when your time is up, yet stay out of fear of missing out or making the wrong decision.
Be it deciding to maintain your standards in a community, job, or group where people are satisfied with the bare minimum, end a relationship that refuses to grow, or whether it’s releasing yourself from the person you use to be, walking away is your Draw Four when the person next to you shouts “UNO!” Don’t let anyone end your game, your movie, or your story without your say so. The final play is and will always be yours, but you have to play to win and not to avoid losing. Just like there are rules in a game that dictate the way it's played, your standards clarify and make known what you expect from yourself and others without question.
I affirm that you have the understanding to discern your next right step, the wisdom to apply it, and the immediate obedience to do it without delay. Ase’. Ase’. Ase’.
Peace. Love. & Soul Glow Grease.
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