This week, I’m writing about conquering adversity. Christopher Novak’s book, by the same title, gives us an easy-to-access primer on ways to get you and your staff through tough situations. In my last post, I talked about affirmation. Here, Novak instructs us to “Identify bedrock values; recognize what is and is not lost; and accept a healthy selfishness.”
The next of his six strategies for conquering adversity embraces the notion of expectation. By the way, although adversity (and the author’s impetus for working in this area) often connotes something dramatic it can be anything really that throws up an obstacle, which prevents you and your staff/colleagues from getting work done. So often we stumble in our jobs because either we don’t understand what’s expected of us and/or we haven’t expressed our expectations to those we supervise. Sometimes it seems as if our expectations are obvious, so why express them at all? In some cases, managers don’t have the language—they’ve never had the training and don’t know where to begin when it comes to telling people what they need to get done. And there are those people who’d rather get a root canal then tell a staffer what to do or what needs to get done.
Yet if we can understand the usefulness of expectation then maybe we’d be more likely to incorporate it into our daily lives. Novak writes, “Expectation establishes a mind-set that accepts what is and projects what can be. It is more than making lemonade from lemons—it is having no lemons and still visualizing a thriving lemonade business.” Novak makes good sense here and he presents it all so clearly. He writes, “Adversity attacks our vision, limits our sight and blinds us with the challenges of the moment. Expectation refocuses the vision and takes us beyond today with a forward-thinking perspective. It does not ignore today’s reality but it does not become mired in it, either.
The people in Blacksburg, Virginia are surely one of the best current examples of what Novak is talking about. It’s extraordinary really when, as we listen to the news, that so many of those being interviewed speak of moving on and staying on, of carrying forward. It is their oxygen. Tragedy always gives rise to the question “why?” Novak suggests that we avoid the “why?” traps. Why traps slow us down, he says. And the list of why questions goes on and on—“Why am I working with her?” “Why haven’t I been promoted?” “Why is he/she such a jerk?”
Of course the antidote to the why trap is to move ahead. Just last night I phoned a friend to confess how unsympathetic I’d been earlier in the day when my son wouldn’t go to school because of a blemish on his nose (I am telling the truth). She said, “You worry too much. Look ahead. Go forward.” I’m taking her advice. Novak agrees. He’s talking about topics more serious than pimples but he says, “Get past it. Move forward. The answer is not in what is behind you, but in what is ahead. It’s not about shy. It’s about how—how I go forward.”
What’s your “how”?
Next time: more again from Novak