Disappointment = Expectations – Reality

Have you been disappointed lately? I have. A lot. Especially this past week.

The streaks of disappointments prompted me to reflect a little bit more on what were the triggers and effectively learn how to get out of my disappointed mode. That curiosity led me to this equation that I discovered a while back through a book by Chip Conlay: Emotional Equations.

Disappointment = Expectations – Reality

As an analytical person, I love the wisdom in this equation (and it is a linear equation!) yet it speaks to my sensitive soul, as well. Why is that? I love it because it has only 1 degree of freedom and we have a direct control over that variable – it is our expectations.

The key in this one variable is that we know that we can tweak our expectations to minimize the disappointment. Here are the 3 examples of the scenarios that might demonstrate the simple, yet powerful variable.

1. At work: In several occasions, I was disappointed with my team member(s), so it is important that I step back and ask myself if my expectation for this person is reasonable. Did I question his / her intent, or his / her competency? Did I expect reciprocity when I extended help to someone? What did I expect for someone in a senior position to do – is that my own projection of a high (sometimes unreasonable) standard that I impose to myself? What would be a reasonable expectation, taking into account all context and the background?

2. Relationship: I have to admit that I stopped expecting my spouse to read my mind on the day I decided I would get married to him. So, I will be very upfront about expressing my needs or my dissatisfaction. It has removed most frictions that would have occurred otherwise.

3. Parenting: I might expect that our children to ‘behave’ all the time. If we, as a family, spend a little bit more time to define on what really matter to us (i.e for me, they are safety and our core values), can I then choose and prioritize those that are in the highest priorities and let go of the lower ones?

Also, since this is an equation, I love the way that I can “measure” the disappointment and mentally “rank” the disappointment based on a matrix. Those that have larger magnitude will probably need more attention and the smaller ones will be quickly acknowledged.

[Disclaimer: This disappointment equation analysis is post-facto, and I have to admit that while I was stuck in the web of disappointments, I did have an amygdala hi-jack and was not able to quantify appropriately. :)] But hey, it is fun to make it light and fun!

Celebrating Wholeness

As we celebrate International Women’s Day this week and as I celebrate my newfound shift in thinking, I thought of writing something around celebrating wholeness.

What is wholeness?

To me, wholeness is embracing the full spectrum of myself: the planner, the go-getter, the loyal sergeant, the creator, the empath, the artist and the carefree child.

As I learnt the new possibilities of creativity, I found it extremely difficult to integrate this playful side of me with the serious, practical side of me. At times, I felt like Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde – one moment, I would immerse myself in intense work and drive, and at the other, I would be perfectly happy contemplating for days, not worrying about those work backlogs and wish I could be on vacation forever. It was quite a confusing phase (thank God it is quite short!) for me. For a while, I was living in an EITHER/OR world – I thought I had to choose which way do I prefer to live – to be carefree or to be driven. It was draining to put a serious, professional face all the time, but equally, I have no idea how to show up as that carefree, sensitive artist in my life. In short, it was confusing and counter-productive.

Then, I stumbled upon a book about life in spectrum that changed my perspective – “SWITCH ON” by Nick Seneca Jankel.

Instead of EITHER/OR, I found the concept of BOTH/AND very intriguing.

I have heard the term “Creative Tension” few times before, but the chart below (from “Switch On” book) illustrates the concept beautifully.

How it applies to me is the ability to recognize that it is okay to operate in a dynamic mode and to learn to move through this spectrum – oscillating from the thinkerMe to the playfulMe. Have you experienced the blissful moment and then in the next cycle, you became so determined and committed to step into the next action? That is creative tension dynamic at play.

What is most important about this shift in thinking is that I can now embrace the spectrum, ride the waves and enjoy it at the same time, without feeling confused. I can send the cues to my body to let go after I am in the fifth gear mode. I can remind myself to play and relax, after working so hard. And the most beautiful revelation is that I can be a driver and be a carefree person. It is through embracing the kaleidoscope of these moments that I become richer and more whole.

For mothers, it might mean that it is okay to be playful with your child and at other appropriate time, be the discipliner.

For leaders, it might mean that it is okay to be sensitive to your team’s needs, and also be firm on the principles.

For achievers, it might mean that it is okay to give the best shot in your project, and at the same time let go of the outcomes.

For some women, it might mean that it is okay to show up in the world in a practical way, and also embracing the sensitive and nurturing side of us, in order to make a better world.

For me, it means embracing all the pieces that define me: a mother, a professional, a friend, an artist and a carefree woman.

That is how I want to celebrate the IWD this week 🙂 Happy International Women’s Day!

Leadership. Reframed.

“As you go higher up, it gets more lonely.”

This expression from one of my former managers somehow got stuck in my subconscious for more than a decade for me, without me realizing how much damage it has done to my mental model until recently. This also explains why I was reluctant to be in a leadership position for a while – it feels lonely, it feels like a burden.

But does it have to be?

It took a week of severe tension headache for me to realize that there is actually another paradigm that I have been yearning for leadership, especially for me and the other female leaders. Yes, you heard it right – a headache.

I had suffered from a severe tension headache from misaligned neck vertebrae. So, when my accountability sister, Carley, who is 13,000km away, called, I informed her of my medical condition. It turned out that the call was a gift for me – she was so kind to help me with a guided meditation to recognize the trigger and heal the underlying emotional pain (aside from the fact that I do still suffer from a misaligned neck vertebrae, physically).

From the guided meditation, I realized that the emotional pain was due to trauma and a lot of stress from my fear of higher authority, from fear of missing expectations, from fear of expressing my opinion, when it matters. This is almost always exacerbated when I work with a female leader.

I got curious. Why such dynamics? What is my belief in leadership that made me respond this way?

What do I want to create instead?

  1. I want to create a new model / paradigm of female leaders where we amplify each other. A space we bring other female leaders up together, honoring each other’s strength instead of dismissing them. I am totally cognizant that the current context and the structure in the corporate world requires resilience and competition to survive. Habitually, that might have contributed to this survival mode without us realizing it. I have heard so much from some of the female leaders that they do not think gender is an issue, it is all about their competency that made them so good – in turn, they become so judgmental on other women. (I made the same mistake!) What is new is that the realization that not all women have the same opportunities, so it is important for the other female leaders to lift them up and be open by honoring the uniqueness of what each individual has to offer.
  2. I want to create a space where I (and my team) can honor our own creativity and play. The future of work will require a lot of imagination and creativity to solve complex problems. I used to (maybe still am, but less) be very particular about process, deadline and risk management. I hate to generalize but I tend to see more of this pattern in female leaders, seeking for ultimate perfection. While these are still very critical for deliverables, there is another aspect at play that is worth exploring – imagination. The beauty of having a balanced model (alternating between discipline and creativity) is that it will yield better solutions. I am constantly reminded that brilliant ideas usually come when we are relaxed, not when we are pressured by the “shoulds”. Somehow, I feel more pressured by female leaders of their expectations – still learning how to manage that and letting go. 🙂
  3. I want to create a model where my team are able to express themselves better. No longer do we live in a world where a leader knows everything. The realization that a sum is greater than its part is super powerful. Equally, I am always in awe to see some of really grounded leaders who are effective, yet provide so much space for each team member to excel and shine- that is my role model when I turn 50.

Most importantly, by creating this new paradigm and model of leadership, I feel much more hopeful and much less lonely. It is not a lonely journey, but rather a journey of a group of people with a shared mission, TOGETHER.

I am curious to hear your experience and aspiration on this, happy to hear your insights.