"I had the worst day. I got up late, missed my opportunity to exercise, got held up in traffic, got yelled at at work, was distracted, didn't get things done, and was late getting to my class this evening". How many of you are familiar with this kind of rant? Likely all of us have uttered it ourselves (even if only when no one else was around) or heard it being vented by a friend or loved one. This is not uncommon - in fact, it's absurdly common.
Venting feels good. It enlists other people to massage our hearts, telling us that it will be okay, and that it's not our fault that things worked out the way that they did. You did everything you should have, and your day still turned out that way. It's not your fault!
While there are times when we simply need to vent, doing so does not move us forward. Though it allows us to clear the air (sometimes a necessity before we can move forward), it is ultimately coming from a place of victimhood. Furthermore, we usually go about subsequent days with the exact same being, expecting things to turn out differently. When they don't, rather than be at cause for the kind of day that we want to generate, we go back to venting.
This is part of a larger cycle in which our being - how we are showing up throughout the day, how we are experiencing the day - is being determined externally. We are not at cause to how our day is going; we are at effect. At effect to external events and how we allow them to affect us.
Leaders are not satisfied to simply let a day happen to them. They stand for the kind of day that they want, and they act so as to create that day. Because of how automatic it is, most of us jump into survival mechanism immediately and stay there for the next couple of hours, not even realizing that we always get to choose how we show up.
Did someone cut you off in traffic, causing you to go to anger and resentment? Find a way to experience compassion and forgive them, and get yourself back to being. Are you annoyed that you started your day late and missed something you wanted to do? Rather than trying to fix being late (as though there is something wrong with what has happened), ask yourself what kind of day you want to have and what kind of being you want to bring to the world, and then take action so as to create that.
The other default that most of us go to is trying to fix what has happened. Because we were late this morning, we treat it as though there was something wrong with the way things went, and work extra hard to ensure that it doesn't happen again later on in the day. While it is fine and good to take action so as to be on time in the future, this is putting your focus on doing, and by doing so, you reinforce the way you were being earlier. (Maybe you felt judgmental and self-critical when you were late. By doing things to ensure that doesn't happen any more today, you are reinforcing that way of being. Instead, consider what action you would take if you were a stand for being joyful or gratitude for the rest of the day.)
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As a practice, journal (no more than a sentence) each night about what your being was throughout the day. In general, a surprising number of clients I work with discover that the majority of their days are draining, and they did not get everything done that they wanted to get done. What's the solution they go to? Doing even more tomorrow! Rather than take on their being (judgment, self-criticism, unhappiness), they try to fix it with more doing. It's not their fault, this simply lies squarely in their blindspot. Take on this simple practice of journaling and start getting present and aware to how you are showing up throughout the day. Then, take action to be at cause for how you want to show up.
Be a leader for yourself and your life: be at cause.