Pat pulled open the file drawer in her bedroom. Ten manila folders were hanging there, each neatly labeled with the names of the Girl Scout badges we were working on: Cooking, Adventurer, Reader, Camping and so on . My eyes widened. My chest felt tight. I was jealous, anxious, afraid. She was so far ahead. I would never catch up. What would I do?
I was eleven, and Pat was one of my very best friends. We were both the oldest of three girls, played the piano and did well in school. Yet, that year in sixth grade, she became the self-inflicted thorn in my foot. If I got a 95, Pat got 100. If I got 100, then Pat got 100 with extra credit. Somehow in my own eyes, I could never measure up, never catch up.
Fast forward several decades, I began noticing a consulting competitor showing up in all sorts of places. He’s online, in the paper, hiring more staff and on top of that, a new client decided to work with him, not with me. My eyes widened. My chest felt tight. I felt jealous, anxious, afraid. He was so far ahead. I would never catch up. What would I do?
I was allowing all the feelings of the eleven year-old to take over!
“STOP,” the adult part of me said. “Let’s get a handle on this.”
It’s easy to look at what others are doing and let it intimidate you. But before you do, ask yourself some key questions:
What are YOU trying to accomplish?
Is your end goal the same as his?
What do you need to be doing to accomplish your goal?
Are you doing those things?
If you were doing what he’s doing, would you achieve YOUR goal?
Are you really behind?
So is it OK that you’re not doing what he’s doing?
Of course it’s OK. I’m going to a different destination, why would I take the same road!
I don’t want a large number of consultants. I don’t want to have a big operation. What I do want is to maintain direct contact with a small number of high quality clients and expand my work as a writer and speaker, creating on-line tools that help people live the life they love. My building a company like his doesn’t serve my personal goals.
I could stop there and feel good about myself and perhaps even a bit smug. I did.
But then I would have missed a nugget that could add to my success.
Hear Sandy’s story:
Sandy, a thirty-something manager has a co-worker Helen. Helen is working nights and an occasional weekend. She has set her sights on the regional manager position in another city. Sandy too is working hard and delivering good results, but never staying late. There are times when Helen’s work habits leave her feeling, anxious, fearful and yes jealous.
Will the boss like Helen better?
Will she make more money?
Will she pass her by in the rise to the top?
Here’s how Sandy might assess her situation.
What am I trying to accomplish?
I want to head up a new project the company is taking on. I’m committed to staying where I live for now because my family is there. I want to move out of my current area of focus and the project will give me that opportunity. I don’t want the regional job because it requires a move and travel.
The temptation would be to stop right there.
But there is another powerful question that will help Sandy get what she really wants. However, it requires putting her insecurities on hold.
What can I learn from Helen that may apply to my situation?
I know Helen talked with her boss and is clear about what she must do to get the regional manager job. She’s documenting her responsibilities so she can move up. She’s developing her team so her boss will have great resources and not be reluctant to promote her.
Sandy, you and I have choices:
We can continue to feel anxious, jealous and fearful.
We can rationalize that what they are doing doesn’t apply to us (and a part of that IS true).
Then we can ask, what do they have to teach us? We can take that and interpret it for our own situation. For Sandy, it may be talking to her boss about her goals, being clear about what she must do to get there and staying focused on the results she must create.
Take charge, ask the questions and let me know what you discover.
Until next Tuesday.