Don’t break yourself against your own expectations. The square peg won’t fit any better into a round hole by thinking the hole should be square or wanting the peg to be round. First know what you’ve got. Seeing things the way they are, isn’t limiting, it’s enabling. When you know how things are, you can deal with them more effectively and find a way forward. When you ignore the way things are, you create crossed-expectations, for yourself and others. The simplest way to miss how things are is to project the way things should be or the way you want things to be, on to the situation.
Key Take Aways
Here are some key take aways:
- The Way Things Are. Know the way things are. This means knowing the facts, knowing what people are really saying and doing, knowing what the current situation is setup for, and knowing the writing on the wall.
- The Way Things Should Be. Know the way things should be. This means asking yourself, “what’s the right thing for this situation, or how should things be?”
- The Way You Want Things to Be. Know how you want things to be. Ask yourself, “how do you want things to be?” Check yourself, if things were the way you want them to be, what would people be saying and doing, what would the situation look like if was already true? The grass isn’t always greener.
The real power here is your ability to use these different lenses to analyze your situation. At any given point in time, we’re usually mashing up these different viewpoints. Use these viewpoints to get clarity and to figure out whether to change yourself, change the situation, or pick a different battle.
The Way Things Are
One of the toughest things to do is see things the way they are. Why? We can fool ourselves. We see what we want to see, or we hear what we want to hear. We project our opinions, guesses or wants onto what we see and hear. We see a yawn, but are they bored or tired? We see a smile, but do they like us or are they just polite? In my experience, actions speak louder than words, but our interpretation can get in the way.
The key is to first know what you’re really getting. This means, being in the moment and paying attention. Start with, “what did you see, what did you hear?” This is your factual input. It helps you check your thinking. For example, did anybody actually *say* they like your idea?
Reality checks are your friend. For example, if you’re in charge of sweeping the parking lot, do you expect to make more than the person who runs the business? While exceptions happen, you want to check your thinking against what’s the most *likely* explanation for the situation. In other words, what results is the current situation setup for?
The Writing on the Wall
What’s the writing on the wall? This can be especially tough if it conflicts with what you want or what you think things should be. You hear what they say, but what do they really mean? What’s your gut say? What does the group really want? What does the current situation actually support? This helps you balance out what you see and what you hear with your more intuitive side. Use your facts to check your intuition, and your intuition to check your facts.
The Way Things Should Be
One of the best ways to frustrate yourself or distort a situation is to get hung up on the way things should be. They *should* like your idea, or this *should* just work, or people *should* watch where they are going. Well, maybe they *should* like your idea, but do yourself a favor and first acknowledge that they don’t. If you know the resistance, you have a starting point. A self-check is, do you know *why* they don’t like your idea?
It’s actually a good thing to know the way things should be. In fact, ask yourself, “what’s the right things for this situation?” The key is, don’t mix that with the way things are. Keep your lenses separate so you don’t frustrate yourself with crossed-expectations.
The Way You Want Things to Be
It’s really easy to overlay your wants for a different world onto the current situation. This is one of the easiest ways to miss what’s right in front of you, and not know the feedback that you’re really getting. It’s also one of the easiest ways to frustrate yourself, again with crossed-expectations. The key here is to ask yourself, “what do you want things to be?” Keep this separate and distinct from the way things are and the way things should be. Get clarity on what you actually want. The self-check is to next get clarity on what this vision of how you want things to be, would actually look like. The really hard part is to identify what people would be saying or doing, and how the situation would be structured to make it happen. It’s often easier to focus on how you don’t want things to be, then get real clarity on how you want them to be, beyond a fuzzy level.
The Power of Your Lenses
Rather than a mash up of how things are, the way things should be, and the way you want things to be, you can use each lens for better clarity. What is your current situation? Are there any real threats or are you making stuff up? How should things be? What is the right thing to do? Lastly, how do you want things to be? If a genie were to grant you 3 wishes, do you know what to wish for to make it happen? Would you actually want what you got? You can use these lenses to test your thinking, and you can test your lenses by asking questions, taking actions, and testing your results.
Remember that if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’re not going to see it, and that it’s not just what you see, but how you see it.
Photo by kthypryn.