I’m going to be sixty this coming Saturday, and I’m in quite a reflective/introspective mood. So, I thought this week I’d share some of what I’ve been thinking about, and that I’ve learned from my almost sixty trips around the sun!
“Things don’t always turn out as we’ve planned…often they are BETTER!”
The first is, almost nothing ever turns out as we planned for or expected. As a young person, here was my plan: I thought I’d be an artist and art professor in Toronto, Canada! Didn’t turn out that way, though! I married someone who loves to travel, and did all their schooling in the United States. I home-schooled my kids and didn’t work outside the home until my mid-forties. Eventually I learned lean process improvement, worked in many businesses, started my own company at fifty-five years old, The Love and Kindness Project Foundation at fifty-seven, and wrote and published six books (including The Kind Leader) in the past six years! Now I’ve started The New School for Kind Leaders!
If someone would have told my 20-something self all this would happen, I wouldn’t have believed it. And I would have been upset! “It’s not what I planned. It’s not going to turn out as I want it to”, I would have complained. Often, when things don’t go as we wish or as we hoped or expected, our negativity bias, the hard-wiring our brain has to see the negative first, focuses us on the thought that we failed, or that things aren’t good if they don’t go as planned.
As leaders, it's easy to get hyper-focused on 'the ends', or 'outcomes' or the results and forget all about 'the means', or 'the how', the way we get where we're going. The learning that comes from struggling along the way, the joy we get from figuring things out and picking ourselves up, brushing ourselves off, and starting again. The new and unexpected discoveries that happen (like Velcro!) when things don't exactly go as planned!
But as I’ve learned over the past fifty-nine years, often things turn out better than anyone (including me!) could imagine! Because beyond the limit of my own imagination were unknown adventures, amazing paths to explore and fabulous people to meet along the way! My life hasn’t been perfect, and I’ve had many difficulties and challenges to overcome, but things have definitely turned out better than I could have imagined or planned!
So, whenever you put on your Leader Hat, please remind those who are following you (and yourself), that it's okay if things don't turn out as planned. If they take an unexpected turn, it's okay because we'll learn, and that getting to a different destination isn't a failure, because it's like that we'll arrive somewhere BETTER than we could have ever imagined!