Do you remember the first time you touched something hot and it burned your hand? You were more cautious the next time you approached the stove. Do you remember the first time you disobeyed your parents and got grounded? You paid attention the time and got home before curfew. What about the first disappointment or heartache? You remained guarded a little bit longer before you allowed yourself to be vulnerable.
Wisdom seldom comes from pleasant experiences. It often comes from a source of pain or hardship. The tactic to survive what you once thought was so debilitating is to apply that wisdom to future circumstances so that you can make better decisions and share that wisdom with others. Your “little birdie” is strengthened with each experience and has an amazing memory. Are you trusting it and applying your wisdom to help you navigate the inevitable pitfuls you will face during your journey?
This weekend while cleaning my bedroom, I watched the West Wing television series on DVD. West Wing is still one of my favorite television shows. I remember looking forward to “West Wing Wednesday” every week, eager to watch the witty banter by the staff in the White House. President Jed Bartlett is one of my favorite fictional presidents not just because he was brilliant. He was also kind, had a wicked sense of humor and he loved his wife. One of my favorite episodes from Season 1 is titled “A Proportional Response”. Now for those of you who have never watched West Wing, here’s a brief synopsis: After being offered “a proportional response” to the Syrian military’s downing of a U.S. military plane on a medical mission (and carrying his newly named personal physician), the president asks “What is the virtue of a proportional response – why is it good?”and then demands an option that will have greater impact. His Chief of Staff gradually talks him down, but the President is snarky with everyone, including his wife. The president ultimately agrees to the initial option, but is not happy about it. The president wanted to bring down the “thunder of God” on the Syrians. He wanted the response to be such a devastating blow, that no other country would even think about harming another American citizen. Are you asking yourself, What the heck does this have to do with ‘working my package’? Of course you are. Stay with me. This episode made me think about how people respond whenever we feel we are being disrespected. We tend to overreact in fear that someone else will try to disrespect in the same way. I thought about my “disproportional” responses and I wondered if my anger and need to set the record straight was best way to handle conflict. To be perfectly honest, because hindsight is always 20/20, there some things I should have left alone. I should have ended many conversations sooner than I did because it was clear neither side of the disagreement would be heard but egos can eliminate common sense and courtesy.
Are your responses to conflict proportional? Seeing a situation and a person for who they are, not who you want it or them to be can keep you from overreacting and giving too much time and energy towards people and situations who quite frankly just don’t deserve it. In the midst of conflict do you think, “If I let this person get away with it, then everyone will think they can do the same thing?” Do you talk about how you are going “set some things straight?” Do you go for the jugular to make a point or do you want a mutual understanding? Do you want crucifixion or correction? Now ask yourself, is it even worth it? Victory is not always in the public defeat of your opponent, but in the calmness of your mind and the ability to just walk away…
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Wisdom—Intuition, a gut feeling, a hunch…all part of your wisdom at work. Listen to it…it will not steer you wrong.
My brother and I call it the little birdie. The little voice that pops into your head when you are a millisecond from making a decision to either go left or right. It shows up when you are contemplating taking the local streets or getting on the highway only to find out there was a massive traffic jam on your route home. It shows up when you are ready to overextend yourself by saying yes when you know you must say no.
The little birdie is not some cosmic, new age way of thinking. It is your gut at work based on an accumulation years of experience and making mistakes. Nothing irritates me more than to hear someone say, “I don’t know why I keep making such bad choices.” Really? Please ask me because I’ll tell you. You keep making bad choices because you won’t listen to the little birdie sitting on your shoulder squawking and begging you not to go down the same road again. History repeats itself because you are listening to ill-equipped external counsel. TRUST YOURSELF. I don’t want to hear “But Ayanna, I just don’t trust myself to make the right decision.” I call shenanigans on that way of thinking. When you are faced with a decision your first instinct is usually the one you come back to even if it takes you a month to make a final decision.
Adapted from “Work Your Package—A Guide to Being the Total Package” by Ayanna Castro
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