There are often times where we are striving for a goal, for progress, for growth. And we are anxious because we aren’t meeting those goals. If you were to ask us why we want that particular goal, we’d be hard pressed to give an articulate and well thought out answer. Instead we tend to spout out a generic one: The purpose of any organization is to grow, or maybe, this project will get us to the next level. Taking a general statement and using it in a situation where more insight is needed, only to produce a non-answer. An answer that is seemingly safe. Only it’s not safe. It’s dangerous.
Often we are pushed to these points of danger by our inability to calm our own anxieties, neurosis, and insecurities. Just like we aren’t able to articulate a better answer than, “Just because”, we aren’t able to stop to reflect on where we’ve come from. Sure we may not be where we were hoping to be, but we are where we are. And the funny thing is that sometimes it’s actually a good place to be, it’s just not where we were hoping and pushing to be. People and companies often find themselves in these spots when they are using arbitrary markers or performance indicators. Arbitrary because it means more to someone else than them. It’s the shortcut. Instead of finding out what are the indicators of growth that matter to you and your organization, you look for what others will view as being successful. And that’s why it’s so dangerous. Because it’s a chasing after another person’s measurement instead of seeking your own unit of measure.
I was in a situation where a company I was consulting was frantic about their revenue generation in a slow period. Only to point to the fact that they were on track to exceed their previous year’s sales. But they couldn’t see it. They didn’t want to see it. And so they went down a path of erratic and frenzied change in order to create an organizational culture that mirrored the internal psychological frenzy of a few people. What appeared to be slowed quarter-to-quarter growth was still bringing about a strong year-over-year growth. It just didn’t feel that way. And instead of capitalizing on the things that were working and doubling down on those, it became about trying to fix all the things that weren’t working. Bringing even less focus to the things that were able to move the needle.
We are all ruled by emotions and there isn’t any way around that. But we can be better at understanding what triggers our disempowering emotions and conversely, what triggers our empowering emotions. And work to better cultivate the emotions that allow us to make better decisions. It’s not to say that we shouldn’t have negative emotions, they are just as valuable as the positive ones, but just because they’re the loudest ones in our heads, doesn’t mean they are the only ones we should always be listening to.