A mentor once told me "Hope is not a strategy." I had this idea that if I worked hard, took on extra projects, and got results, then I would get noticed and I would get offered the position I wanted. I worked hard, but not very smart. How? Because hope leaves your fate in someone else's hands, which is never a good place for your fate to be.
"If your plan requires getting picked and you're not getting picked, you need a new plan. ... Your talent deserves the shift in strategy that will let you do your best work.
The problem isn't that it's impossible to pick yourself. The problem is that it's frightening to pick yourself. It's far easier to put your future into someone else's hands than it is to slog your way forward, owning the results as you go."
-Seth Godin, "But I don't want to do that, I want to do this"
Continuing to do the same thing again and again gets you the same results again and again, if you're lucky. People change and landscapes change. More likely, continuing to do the same thing again and again will probably get you less and less desirable results over time.
The Losers: A 7th and 8th Grade Kickball Team
When I was in junior high I was never picked first for anyone's team. In 8th grade that changed; the teacher asked for team captains and I, along with a handful of boys, stepped forward. There was an unspoken rule that girls weren't captains, but no one was going to challenge me; they figured I'd get bored of the responsibilities and step down.
The boys let me pick first. I chose the most competitive boy in my class. He didn't want to be on my team and I knew it. But what I knew, and he didn't, was that his drive to win, his hatred of losing, would propel my team through the season. After him, when my turn to pick came around, I chose the losers. No one I selected had ever been picked, they were always left over and rarely got to play.
By the time we'd chosen teams I had a team everyone was laughing at and those that were on it wanted to quit. We didn't quit. (I don't believe in quitting.) We did better than quit, we came in first at the end of the season.
We named ourselves "The Losers" and set out to do our very best. Unlike the other teams, we had nothing to prove to anyone else. They believed we were losers. At the beginning of the season, we believed it too. The one boy who knew how to play kickball evaluated all of our skills and taught us. We lost our first our first game in a landslide. We lost the next game by a couple of points. In our third game, other teams came to cheer us on. We lost by a point.
I thought the others might be right, we might truly be losers. But I wouldn't let us quit. I promised the team if we lost our next game, we could quit. And then the unthinkable happened in the next game. We loaded the bases. It was my turn to kick and the outfield came in close. I ran at the ball and kicked with my left leg instead of my right leg. The ball soared over the opposing team's heads. My team began yelling, RUN! RUN! to me and the others on the bases.
That was our first win as a team. We won every remaining game and finished first. We didn't finish first because we were the most athletic, we weren't. We finished first because we each made a commitment to ourselves. We picked ourselves first.
Consistently Picking Yourself
Picking yourself applies to little things as well as big. It's a mindset.
In the Find Your Voice Facebook group, a few of us realized that we tend not to spend on ourselves. We'll journal or scrapbook with leftover supplies. Or, we'll buy notepads and pens on special rather than splurge on an amazing pen and bound book. Now there's nothing wrong with being thrifty. What I'm noticing is I need to be consistently thrifty or indulgent with everyone in the family including me. I need a consistent "Pick myself" approach.
For my Find Your Voice workbook, I chose a D-ring binder that was lying around our flat. My initial thinking was to save money. It was going to be a completed work when the workshop concluded. As I've been working on my story, my thinking has changed. Right now I'm really liking my binder because I've been able to pull together worksheets, Blurb magazines and Instagram photo albums, and mementos I've picked up over the past year into one place.
My latest plan for the end of the class is to create a Blurb book from select blog posts, photographs, and collages. This is a different approach than other participants have taken. For some, the story of Find Your Voice will be the journey itself, their result a journal, scrapbook, or album and filled with the worksheets and resulting creative call-to-actions. For me, my binder is temporary storage of raw materials. When the workshop ends, I'll use the eight weeks of raw materials for a final project, a Blurb book that serves as a reflection on my journey.
Ten Ways to Treat Yourself
Regardless of your budget there are little things you can do to pick yourself. Here are some of my favorites:
- Dedicate twenty minutes a day to yourself. Close the door, put on headphones, zone out. Do whatever you want in those twenty minutes. Nothing else exists.
- Subscribe to your favorite magazine (and read it!).
- Pour yourself a glass of wine or make yourself a cup of tea.
- Curl up with a book.
- Indulge in a long hot bath or shower.
- Send yourself a bouquet of flowers.
- Sit out in the sun.
- Watch your favorite trashy TV show.
- Treat yourself to an eCourse or a workshop.
- Attend a conference or a retreat.
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.