Over the weekend, I found myself getting really irritated as my husband was reading "The Ugly Duckling" to our daughter. I've never realized it before, but that popular children's tale is based on a totally false premise. The only reason the duckling is considered "ugly" is because it is being held to the wrong standard: it's being judged as a duck when it's really a swan.
Now this might seem like a forgivable literary contrivance (and I do like the soft revenge element at the end when the creature that was once teased and taunted suddenly becomes valued and vaunted), but when we do the same thing in our lives and businesses, it's less easy to dismiss.
Standards have impact (just ask the poor swan who was bullied and rejected for being un-duck-like), and sometimes, maybe often-times, we use the wrong ones.
I have lost track of the number of times I've judged myself based on an irrelevant or inappropriate metric. I've gotten dismayed about my business performance in Year X by comparing it to a far more developed business enjoying the success of Year Y. I've gotten despondent about my strength and muscle tone by comparing it to that of elite athletes working full time on their fitness. I've looked at any number of things going on in my business and had to fight the urge to compare it to someone else, something else, that is just different. My swan to their duck.
But as we build and grow our businesses and craft lives of our own design, we have to be diligent against irrelevant standards. We have to make sure that any comparisons are appropriate (ducks with ducks, swans with swans, and all that).
And then, perhaps, we have to let it all go anyway and find ways to judge ourselves by our own standards, our own values, and our own metrics for success.
There's a great scene in the movie Office Space, where the secretary is needling the main character for not being chirpier as he drags himself into the office. "Looks like somebody's got a case of the Mondays," she says, not knowing he has just battled stop-and-go traffic, ducked-and-dived to avoid seeing his slimy boss, and skulked into his cubicle only to be interrupted by the sound of an annoying colleague on the phone. (It's a hysterical film, and I highly recommend it for some silly Sunday fun.)
I love that case-of-the-Mondays quote because it captures so succinctly the feeling that so many of us have at the beginning of the week. And even now, eight-plus years into being my own boss, Mondays can sometimes fill me with dread at all the stuff I have to do.
But one of the magic tricks that I picked up years ago that has helped me cope better with that "Monday" feeling is this: reframing all of the things I feel I have to do, into things that I get to do.
It's a small mental shift, but it can have a powerful effect on how we perceive the day, week, and tasks ahead. Because it reminds us that we are lucky, even if only in a small way, to have the opportunity and the ability to do the things we do.
I don't HAVE to review my P&Ls, I GET to review them because I am in the happy position of being a director of two successful businesses and have a powerful brain that enables me to decipher numbers. I don't HAVE to take my daughters to nursery, I GET to walk them there because I am the lucky parent of two amazing children and have a healthy, functioning body that enables me to walk fast while pushing a stroller. I don't HAVE to get back in touch with a corporate client, I GET to email them because I have worked hard to develop the strong reputation I have, and others want to work with me.
Do you see how the energy changes almost immediately? Very quickly we can go from feeling put upon and burdened to feeling lucky and energized.
That's the power of what we "get" to do.
This may not work every time, but it has a pretty good track record, and is a quick and easy way to change the way we feel about what's ahead of us. Little shifts like this, little energy boosts, little mental reframings, they all add up over the course of a day, a week, a lifetime, and before we know it, we've become do-ers instead of complainers, activated instead of deadened.
So the next time we catch ourselves dragging our feet, hitting the snooze, moaning about what we have to do, let's remind ourselves that we get to do it, too. And not everyone is so lucky.