This post relates to a lesson that I keep encountering these days.
When I’m working on creating or learning something, which I haven’t quite figured out yet, and I’m disappointed in where I am, I have this thought:
This [thing I’m working on] sucks!
And, almost always, this is followed by this more vicious, shame-based thought:
And you suck for not figuring it out yet!
Unfortunately, sometimes the above gets abbreviated to:
Lately, I’ve been noticing, over and over again, that after the You Suck! phase, I actually come out the other end with some good ideas. That is, once I start to feel better, I come up with several new solutions that often solve the problems I’ve been encountering up until then.
Do I think the You Suck! Step is necessary? No, I don’t. However, it does seem to be a signal that something’s not working and needs my attention.
Believe me, I would love to skip the You Suck! Step. I haven’t quite managed that yet, but I have been making a lot of progress in getting off that step — and moving on — a LOT more quickly these days. Thank goodness.
One thing that is helping is the phrase (which I believe i mentioned in a previous post): “It’s good enough already, AND I can make it better.”
Of course, when I’m in the “I suck!” phase, I don’t believe that sweet and helpful phrase. But perhaps using that mantra, whenever I think of it, is helping me inoculate myself. And maybe that’s one of the reasons I’m moving through that step more quickly.
I want to give you an example of this process, which is on my mind, because I lived it this morning, between 5:30 and 6:30 AM. Yes, I did.
Here’s the deal: I am planning somebody’s 60th birthday party. And I’d like it to be a meaningful AND fun event, for the birthday girl and also for the participants.
I searched on-line for ideas, and I didn’t find anything that was particularly helpful.
So I’ve been working on the idea of Story-Telling, and how to create a space where people can share memories in a way that feels comfortable.
I’ve checked out this concept with people, and several of them have cautioned about the dangers of this, pointing out that this kind of party might seem awkward or forced, and that people might feel anxious or on the spot.
Here’s where I was at 5:30 AM this morning: I had been working on the idea of designating a time during the party when people could gather around and share memories, tell stories, or say whatever they wanted to say. I was going to try to make this easier by having “prompts” available to suggest ideas for stories, if they hadn’t thought of one ahead of time. For example, these prompts might include “Tell a story where you and the birthday girl had an adventure.” Or “If you were going to spend a whole day with her, what might you do?” Or “If she appeared to you in a dream, what might she signify?” (I’ve facilitated going-away events at places I’ve worked, and I’ve used these sort of prompts to help in the process of people expressing appreciation and saying goodbye to the person who’s leaving.)
Anyway, at 5:30 this morning, I wasn’t liking this plan very much. I was imagining all the different attendees at the party — many of whom don’t know each other — with all their different interpersonal styles. And I could see, very clearly, that this activity might be …. awkward or forced, and that people might feel anxious or on the spot.
And then the “This sucks!” and “You suck!” thoughts came in for a little while.
But then, about a half hour later, I started to have more ideas. I thought: What if I set up a sort of Meaningful-Birthday Amusement Park throughout the party and give people more room and choices to say what they’d like to say to the birthday girl? What if I have a room set up where people (who might be more introverted) could use a computer to record a message (which might be a story, or anything they chose) and to look at the other messages recorded? And what if there were places to write down stories and share them? And I also remembered these cool magic wands, that make noise when you wave them, that I had seen at a toy store. What if there were a bunch of those around, and at any point in the party, somebody could grab one of these, wave it, get people’s attention, and make a wish for the birthday girl? (Sort of the equivalent of tapping a glass to propose a toast.)
Anyway, I just kept coming up with more ideas to integrate the meaningful stuff throughout the party, and it started to seem like an evening that might be fun for a wide range of different types of people.
By 6:30, I was no longer feeling nervous and insecure about the party. All thoughts of “This sucks!” and “You suck!” were gone. I was actually looking forward to planning the party AND attending it. The pressure was off.
Now, did I have to come up with all these ideas to make this party work? Probably not. The party probably would have been good enough, as it was.
But I think it’s going to be more fun for all, now. And I’ve been telling people about these ideas and — so far — the advance reviews have been good.
I’ll tell you how it turns out, dear reader.
And maybe, just maybe, I’ll skip the “You suck!” step next time.