sanity-insanity-road-signI believe one of the sources of our frustrations is when our expectations do not match the realities of our situations. I’ve learned through the years to recognize what I can control or influence and those I just simply need to accept as I’m in no position to change them. I’ve also learned it’s easier to change my perception and my emotional response than changing those around me. By re-framing or recognizing the boundaries of my control/influence, I’ve come to learn how to minimize my frustrations and even make the best of my situation.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life is that it’s probably easier to change myself (or my attitude) than to change other people. For example, some folks are just more naturally outspoken and have more dominant personalities than I do and during meetings, I’ve gotten frustrated when I’m not to be able to express my thoughts/ideas when the discussions are happening. Maybe it’s because I’m introverted and it takes a lot of energy for me to be in these situations or that I’m just not eloquent enough to be able to verbalize my thoughts. Sometimes, these folks are way above the organizational hierarchy or from other organizations and asking them to change their ways would probably not the wisest, nor the most effective move on my part. Given that I can’t change these folks, I’ve learned to change my attitude and expectations when attending these meetings. I’ve learned to relax and accept that these meetings are sometimes monologues and I’m there to just listen. I’ve come to realize when decisions have already been made and I wasn’t going to waste my effort and energy having to argue my points. If I do need to convey my ideas, one of the things I do is to write them down and email them to the group before or after the meetings. I may also just share my thoughts to other folks individually so they know where I’m coming from and they can help me express them during the meeting. Just a side note, when I facilitate meetings, I definitely make the effort to encourage other folks to participate and acknowledge their ideas.

Another scenario I’ve come to accept is that formal positions don’t always mean being in a position of authority. Throughout my career, I’ve led several committees and projects at our university ranging from departmental, divisional, to campus level. For the most part, my position as chair/leader of the committee/project meant I’m able to have a fairly high level of influence and I’m able to shape the discussions because of my expertise and/or position in the organization. However, there have been times when I find myself having the position in name only. Based on the politics, personalities, or the expertise of those involved, I find myself in the position in a role with limited authority. In the past, this would have bothered me and took it personally.  However, I’ve come to realize that as long as the objective of the project is being met and the process is generally what I consider respectful and productive, I will contribute in the way I can, even if it means just scheduling the meetings. This doesn’t mean however that I don’t exert my “authority” as a chair/lead and adjust the direction of the discussions when needed. What it does mean is that I’ve learned to “pick my battles” and not to take my situation personally.

It’s easy to get lost in the messiness we encounter along the process. Keeping the bigger picture and end goal in mind gives us compass to guide us along the way.

We all have ideas on how things should be. Personally, I’ve read so many books on leadership, communication, and organizational management and I sometimes forget these books are about what and how things should be in an ideal world. The reality is that these ideals could be far from our realities. Because of our value systems and experiences that shape our views of the world, we also set our own expectations. When these expectations are not met, it’s when we get frustrated. Keeping in mind that our ideals are not always shared by others and accepting this fact may just prove to be the difference in how well we maintain our sanity.

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