A couple of weekends ago I had the pleasure of a trip to Tofino, one of my most favourite places in British Columbia. Four blissful days of languid mornings spent reading in dappled sunlight, long walks with sandy toes, and delicious food in good company.
One afternoon I stopped into a small shop selling greeting cards. I’m the sort of person who buys cards in advance of someone’s birthday when I see something I know they’ll love, or that plays on an in-joke between us. I picked out a couple and headed to the register to pay. As I was waiting, another card caught my eye:
Unlike the other cards that I’d picked out that would someday find their way to friends’ mailboxes, this one held a reminder for me.
About two and a half years ago, around the time our move to Canada was taking shape, I found myself reflecting on how I’d gotten to where I was career-wise. Big life changes often bring things into sharp relief and I realized I’d been reenacting a pattern: you’ve heard of the saying “death by a thousand cuts”, well this was death by a thousand compromises.
Ok, well not death so much, that’s maybe a little dramatic. Or perhaps not? Not death in the corporeal sense, but I definitely felt a bit dead on the inside.
That feeling came from a realization that somewhere along the way, I made a compromise here, a concession there, over and over. Incremental deviations from what I believed, what I valued, who I wanted to be. The go-along-to-get-along moments because I wanted to be liked; letting someone make a decision for me so that I could avoid the discomfort of making it myself; doing what was expected of me; staying too long in a job when I realized that I was being asked to do things that just felt…wrong. Slowly but surely, the increments add up, until one day you face the reality that you’re not operating with integrity. And here’s the thing, this lack of integrity is most likely harming no one but yourself.
So what do you do when you realize that where you find yourself isn’t a place you want to be?
Well, you can move. I mean, I literally did. More practically though, you can find other ways to move yourself closer to where — and who — you want to be that don’t involve moving to a new continent.
Intentional choices are key. Start by getting clear about your values and beliefs. Learn to set strong boundaries for yourself to honour them — the act of saying no to shit you hate and making room to say yes to things you love. Take time to think before you act and check in with yourself afterwards; how did saying “no” feel? Acknowledge that there will be times when you do have to say “yes” when you want to say “hell no!” Compromise is an inevitable part of life — trees would snap in strong winds if they didn’t bend — so get clear on how far you’ll bend so that you can be intentional about it.
Journal Prompts and Further Reading
- How do I get clear on my values?
Brene Brown provides an easily accessible exercise to get clarity on your values which I’ve used with many of my coaching clients.
Knowing your values is one way; feeling them can be another. Following on from last month’s somatic theme, our body often tells us what we need to know long before our mind does.
- How do I set boundaries?
“Your yesses and nos are what boundaries are made of” In this short video, Sarri Gilman, author of “Transform Your Boundaries”, shares some simple tools for healthy boundary setting.
What’s on Repeat
Songs we can’t get enough of:
- Respect Yourself – The Staple Singers
- Should I Stay or Should I Go – The Clash
- Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads
Today’s edition of the L@S Newsletter was written by Cat Hawkins. Cat is a professional coach, formerly an IT architect and leader of technology teams. She has a passion for words and loves to consider different perspectives in life and leadership. Cat works with people to better understand their core values and beliefs, striving for integration of the personal and professional self. She has lived and worked in the UK, Australia and Canada and has yet to come up with a definitive answer to the question, “So where do you call home?”