Just say maybe

Eight years ago, my supervisor at the time said something simple yet fairly profound in his assessment of me. He said that one of my strengths and flaws was my ability to see both sides of an issue. In his view, it was a strength in that I was able to understand people’s perspective and tend to refrain from being overly judgmental. But it was a flaw in that it held me back when it was time to make a decision and stand firmly on one side or another.

A few months ago, I had yet another annual performance review in a long line of annual performance reviews. As much as they’re necessary evils, I dislike them – both when I’m the one DOING the review (of my staff) and when I’m the one RECEIVING the review. I’ve had approximately 10-15 of them. I’ve done even more of them. I’ve grown weary of them. Partly it’s because they’re a little artificial and I think that people should be guided along a pathway on a day-to-day basis rather than face an annual assessment of how close to the path they’re staying.

I get along great with my boss, and mostly he said highly positive things about me, but one of the things he said about me has stayed with me because it reflected what I’d heard eight years ago. He said that sometimes I’m a bit too much of a “maybe” person – that I occasionally have trouble making a firm decision or seeing things as black or white, especially if it might negatively impact a person or group of people.

It’s true, it’s one of my greatest flaws. It’s also one of my greatest strengths. I am a leader and communicator partly because I can understand different people’s perspectives and can usually figure out the best way to get through to them and empathize with them wherever they stand. I can also find common ground in almost every disagreement. At the same time, I am held back in my leadership abilities because I am often not as directive or bold as I should be. I anticipate people’s negative responses to a decision (on one side or another), and so I hold back to avoid hurting them or causing dissent. I can usually see why something is a bad idea just as clearly as I can see why it’s a good idea. As a result, I get stuck in the middle of too many issues.

I think this strength/flaw explains why I prefer to be a “facilitator” rather than a “leader”. In my current job, I have to be a leader. I have to make decisions for a team, and every time I do, there are some people who disagree with me. I don’t enjoy it. I don’t like to “play the heavy”. I’d rather be the consultant they hire to help them come up with good ideas, help them see their way through impasses, and help them figure out how to strengthen their communication and build their teams. That way I can leave the decision-making up to someone else as I wander off to another project or task. That way, I can use my strength/flaw to its greatest advantage and nobody gets hurt.

The truth is, I want to embrace this piece of me, this strength/flaw. I want to embrace it and make it beautiful, so that it will in turn bring beauty to what it touches. I don’t want to be afraid to be bold, but I also want to be content with being a “maybe person”. Because sometimes the “maybe persons” are the most comfortable ones to be with in the middle of all these shades of grey. And sometimes, the “maybe persons” are the ones that lead us in the directions that feels right for all of us.

Always waiting

Life is good. I have a great job. I might even call it my dream job. I get to do creative things like writing and designing and brainstorming new ideas. I get to meet lots of interesting people – both here in Canada and in other parts of the world. I am in a position of some authority, so I get to make decisions and have a real impact on the organization and the work we do. I work in a non-profit organization whose mission is to “end hunger” – what better goal could there be than that? I even got to create a new blog – on work time! (It’s here – not my writing, just my design.) I get to feel good about doing philanthropy and I get to tell stories of the people whose lives we’re impacting. I get to travel to interesting places. In February, I’ll probably make my second trip to Africa – and this trip will be primarily for the purpose of writing stories and taking pictures – how dreamy is THAT?

I have a great marriage to a compassionate funny man. Three of the most beautiful girls in the world call me mommy and make me feel loved unconditionally. I have a comfortable home with enough food to eat, plenty of clothes to wear, a car in the driveway and a shiny bike in the garage.

So many of my dreams come true on a regular basis, it hardly seems fair. Not only do I have a great job, but I also get to do some fun freelance work on the side. My writing gets published fairly regularly now, I have a few opportunities to facilitate interesting workshops in leadership and creativity, and I get to do some public speaking now and then.

Life really is good. I could hardly imagine a more bountiful, complete life.

But then… why oh WHY am I always waiting for the next good thing to come around? It seems I am almost always restless, dreaming of something bigger and better and more adventurous. Beautiful things surround me, and yet I long for more beautiful things. There is always something I am dreaming of – another trip, another freelance opportunity, another adventure, another job, another room in my house, a bigger kitchen, another country to live in for awhile, more time for creativity, less responsibility to a 9 to 5 job, more time to take art classes, a beautiful office space that I can decorate to inspire me, a family vacation, and on and on and on.

Restlessness is so much a part of my nature, I probably wouldn’t recognize myself if I stopped being restless. When the thing I’m dreaming of arrives, I revel in it for awhile, feel blessed and refreshed for a brief time, and then I turn my back and start dreaming of the next good thing.

The teachers in school used to call it “daydreaming” and yes, I am very guilty of staring out the window and daydreaming. When I was growing up, I daydreamed about moving to the city, getting a good job, flying somewhere in an airplane, and having lots of adventures. Then I grew up, all those dreams came true, and soon I was staring out the window again.

Perhaps it’s in the nature of every creative person to have a restlessness like this. Maybe it’s good to always have a dream. Perhaps that’s the only way I’ll move forward – reaching for the things ahead of me.

But sometimes, I wish I knew how to be content. At least for a little longer. I think I could learn a lesson from the Buddhists who find contentment in mindfulness. Or the apostle Paul for that matter, who wrote these wise words: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Sigh. I wish I knew the secret of being content.

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