Do things happen to you or
do you happen to things?
Are you still waiting for
something to turn up?
You know the Becket play, Waiting for Godot? Two men meet and they’re both waiting for someone called Godot. Two other characters appear and join in sporadic talk for a bit, then leave. A boy enters to say that Godot isn’t coming tonight but will come tomorrow. The two original men decide to leave but don’t actually leave. Curtain fall. Act 2: more or less the same thing happens. The men again decide to leave, but are still there when the curtain falls.
This sounds like it might be an article about the importance of setting goals and going for them. But it isn’t: or at least not quite. It might turn out to be about proactivity….
There’s a folksong refrain that often comes into my head, “I love my love because I know my love loves me.” It’s from “I Love My Love”, set by Gustav Holst. The sentiment used to feel true to me, but now that seems all wrong. Do you love someone because they love you? Do you choose your friends? Mostly, I didn’t. If someone seemed to like me, I saw the possibility of friendship. An attractive man showed an interest in me? I’d then respond and something might blossom.
A friend of mine at university had her eyes focused on the person she wanted to marry from the very first weeks; she did all the running and made it happen. That seemed amazing to me and even, if I’m honest, a flouting of unwritten rules. But it wasn’t that I didn’t want to meet someone to share my life with – I did – but I was waiting for something to happen.
“I’ll do it when such and such happens.” Funny isn’t it that ‘such and such’ never does happen? I’ll change my job when …. I’ll do something about my relationship when …. I’ll take a holiday on my own when …. I’ll speak to my colleague when …. When Godot comes, I’ll ….
Many people say to themselves, “I’ll start to do public speaking when I’m a bit more confident.” “When I’m confident” is a very common precondition. But confidence grows with small acts of doing. You can hear the nonsense when you say, I’ll start to grow my confidence when I’m confident enough to start to grow my confidence which, as I just said, will be when …. Stuckness often comes from insisting on perfection from the word go, making you unwilling to risk performing below par, or to risk rejection, humiliation, criticism, pity or indeed anything at all.
There’s a thoughtless confidence before testing – the child who hasn’t known rejection, the singer whose voice has never yet let him down. But for confidence worth having you have to come through a certain amount of not yet having it to the extent you would like it. Not assaulted beyond reason, by the way: few people these days would throw their 2 year old in the deep end of the pool to teach them to swim. Trauma doesn’t build confidence.
What’s the answer? Godot knows. But making proactivity your friend is good, so here’s an idea or two:
Notice what choices you actually make currently in your life, even the little ones, including what you eat, TV programmes you watch, holidays you plan. Are you currently a bit short on proactivity? You might be amazed at how much in your life is either routine or planned by others.
Remember times of proactivity – those occasions in your life when you made a choice and took a step into the unknown. It doesn’t matter how long ago it was. Recall the time with pleasure, and remind yourself, “I did that.”
Choose or change something small in an area of your life. Any change, if it’s a real change for you, is great practice in proactivity. Choose anything where afterwards it will give you pleasure to say to yourself, “I did that.”
Face the fear. What stops you from being proactive in an area of your life that you really want to change? E.g. as you think, “I’ll take a holiday on my own when …”, wait till you’ve come to the end of excuses, and then ask yourself, “What really stops you?” Is it fear? That’s the most likely reason. Maybe the fear is huge. So what might be a small step towards that holiday? Maybe spending a day away on your own? Then that’s the thing to do. Plan your day with enthusiasm and care, fix the date, and go for it. Afterwards, write down everything that pleased you about how you lived the experience. There will probably be the odd negative as well, but stick for now to what pleased you. And say to yourself with pleasure, “I did that.”
“I did that. And now I will do this.”
What are we all waiting for? Godot?
The Art of Conversation
My latest book is just out – published by Capstone in April. It explores ways not only to build the skills to converse well but how to reach each other at a level where trust blossoms and new understanding is created between you. The possibility of more fruitful connection and cooperation has deep implications, not only for success in our everyday encounters, but also for our wider world in this century of change. It follows on well from my previous book, The Art of Conversation. Here’s a short excerpt published in Minutehack .
You can quickly get a hard copy or Kindle or audio editions from the world’s largest online publisher, or your local bookshop – e.g. Waterstones.
If you enjoy it as I very much hope you will, I’d greatly appreciate it if you’d write a review on Amazon.
I’m one of the speakers for this popular TEDx event on 13 July in Norwich. They have just released extra tickets if you want to come.
I’m running a session for the EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council) in Guildford on 26 June at 7 PM. Non-members are very welcome, and you can register here. Just go to ‘Create a new account’ to book.
As a coach you want to be able to hear in a client’s voice what is going on for them. Each nuance of tone gives clues to particular feelings and states of mind.
Moreover, if you have freedom in your own voice you have the potential to connect better, to influence your client’s state; to invite them subtly to enter a different level of connection. It’s a tool that you can employ in numerous different ways, and essential for a coach.
I’m confident that after the session, you will appreciate the sheer wonder and usefulness of sound, both for hearing information that is not said, and for connecting beyond the actual words you use.
See you there?
And I’m giving another talk open to all. 3 July in Surbiton, Surrey at 7 PM . Hosted by CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants). More information here
We all want the skills and confidence to get our message across when we give a presentation. However, there’s a huge gap between people hearing what you say, and their connecting with your communication, let alone acting on what you say or changing their thinking or attitude because of it. Most talk — in meetings, the boardroom, presentations, conferences — doesn’t cross that gap, however fluent your language, firm your voice and confident your physiology. If you want to sell services or an idea, if you want to influence, or even establish good relations, you have to do much more than deliver competently. Find out how in this interactive session.