What color is your energy?

“What color is your energy?” I was asked that question, rhetorically, in a meeting the other day.  That got me thinking.  I think I am a pretty energetic person, so my color is on the brighter spectrum.  But is it always?  Is it the right color, the right energy for the occasion? For the moment?

It’s probably pretty easy to say we would generally want to be around the person whose energy is brightly-colored. We can picture a high-energy person bringing a vibrancy to any interaction.  They literally shed some light on the situation.  I know for me that being around a person of bright energy energizes me.  It causes me to be more engaged and more alive.

For the most part, I don’t like to be around the dark, cloudy person.  You probably know them.  The person who already has a frown on their face. The person who automatically tells you why something won’t work or why the situation is not as good as you think or the idea is dumb.  They act like a black hole in space, absorbing all of the energy in the space and leaving everyone feeling flat.

These extremes seem simple.  But it does provide some cause for reflection.

Are you bright or dark?  Are you absorbing everyone else’s energy through your darkness?  Does your face, your tone of voice, your body language sometimes mute the energy level.  Does the situation dictate your color, your energy level?  No one likes sitting in the boring meeting.  Having to go to a networking event or office function that we don’t want to attend brings out the dark grays and somber deep blues in us.  We go into the situation not adding energy, and sometimes taking away energy.  I know if I am going to be somewhere with someone who I don’t feel particularly fond for, I can be muted and not project much.

How about the brightly-colored, energy-creating person in the room?  The event you say to yourself: “I want to make sure I am there because I know it will be energizing”.  The person you look forward to meeting for a drink.  The person who leads a meeting with such brightness and energy that you cannot help but be engaged.  It may not mean they are only bringing up positive thoughts or that they are going to avoid the tough subjects.  But you know they are going to address the needed subjects in a bright way – “we need to discuss this tough issue/problem, so let’s see what we can do together to solve it”.

There is no doubt that there are times where we need to mute our color – less bright or less dark – to allow others to be seen and heard.  It can be temporary. If your energy is so bright – or so deep – it may blot out all of the others.  We have all been in a room or a meeting where one person dominated.  Even if their ideas were sound, we are still left with a sense of frustration.  Our color, our energy, did not get utilized.  So sometimes a really vibrant energy person (or the very cautious person) needs to tone it down for the good of the group.  Think about it this way. Even the brightest color or the darkest color can clash with others.  Sometimes that color needs to mute a little bit, or be in the background to let the energy of the others out, to blend well with many others.

The act of muting your color may be as simple as sitting and listening for a while.  The sunshine yellow person who starts a conversation or riff and then sits back allowing others to carry it for a while.  The pine green person who gets outside their comfort zone of steadiness to challenge the group with something provocative. Allowing their native energy, their native color, to be present, but in the background (or foreground) helps everyone see better.

I’d like to bring you back to an earlier question I got asked. What color is YOUR energy?  How is that color, that energy, serving you right now?  How is that serving others?  If you provided a rainbow spectrum to other people, asked them where you fit, which color would they point to for you?  Would you like that?

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Changing Your Mind is a Good Thing

We tend to characterize someone who changes their position or their mind as “wishy-washy”.  We say to ourselves, “They have no conviction!”.  It is rarely looked upon positively when someone changes their position on some principle, idea or concept.

But what if we looked at changing your mind in a differently light?  Isn’t is wise to change your position when you gain new information?  We thought using mercury to treat illness was good.  We thought the world was flat. Cigarettes were considered good for calming you down, helping you relax or look cool.  We thought the Viet Cong were a weak, uneducated rabble (just like the British thought the American Colonists were in the 1770’s) soon to be crushed.

An unwillingness to examine, to be willing to change our position, can have disastrous effects.

Remember that first boyfriend or girlfriend you had (or the person you were infatuated with)? Your mind changed on that.  When we were young, and did not have a lot of facts or experiences at our disposal, we took some bad positions.  We wanted to be ditch diggers because we liked to play in the mud  As teens, most of us thought we were way smarter than our parents.  How did that one work out?

As an adult, remember when you thought that job was going to be great, or bad, and it turned out the opposite? It may be that your politics or your religious beliefs have changed as time and experience became available to you. Changing your mind and moving on in each of this instances was a good thing.  It was the prudent thing to do.

We all had some goals in life that we thought were the right thing.  They may have been so at the time.  But with time, we tack a different way, riding the winds that make sense now.  And if the winds are blowing gale force against us, perhaps might it be a good idea to change our course?

So why is it that most times when someone changes a position, we consider them weak or disloyal or just catering to the masses?

The writer Malcolm Gladwell had this to say: “What I try to do—try to be—is unafraid of making a fool of myself. Often I will often say something that later I consider wrong. I don’t mind changing my mind. The older I get, the more I’ve come to understand that the only way of pursuing valuable things and saying valuable things is if you lose your fear of standing corrected. ”

Not a bad philosophy. Are you holding onto something simply because you don’t want to be viewed as someone who flops their position?  Time to get over that.

Getting out of your self-imposed spotlight

Do you feel sometimes like other people are disproportionately focused on you?  How many of us “just know” others are judging us at the gym, the party, when we walk into a bar, when we go into a business meeting?  It is a natural human feeling.  And it can effect our confidence and our ability to be ourselves.

The Spotlight Effect describes a tendency to feel that we stand out in the eyes of others more than we actually do. The term was coined by a group of psychologists from Cornell University. The key finding of their research was that we are terrible at judging how much – or how little – our behavior is noticed by others.

All of the things I wrote in the first paragraph apply.  We walk into a party and feel like everyone is watching us. Going to a networking event involves apprehension because we are “sure” we are going to be less accomplished than everyone else.  In an interview, we are so focused on our own spotlight that we forget the interview is supposed to be a conversation (and perhaps the other person is blinded by their own spotlight).

The Spotlight Effect does not just apply to networking, it applies to most human decision-making.

The problem with the Spotlight Effect is that it leads to cautious decision-making. We “decide” it is best not to invest in a bold personal branding campaign (or indeed, any campaign), in case it embarrasses us.  When the spotlight is on us, the risks seem much greater and the rewards seem lost in the shadows.  It’s like when you are on stage and have the lights shining in your face.  You cannot see everyone else, so you imagine what they are thinking.  And our imaginations in this type of instance are usually negative – and wrong.

Think about that networking scenario I mentioned earlier.  Eliminating the few “superstars” of networking, ALL of the rest of us are in our own personal spotlights.  Each of us is apprehensive.  Each of us is judging ourselves from a crazy perspective.  Each of us thinks we are being judged by the other.  But if all of us are experiencing the Spotlight Effect, we are judging ourselves, not others! When you step into a networking event, most people don’t judge you because you are not in their personal spotlight.

It sometimes takes real courage to step outside our own self-imposed spotlight. But sometimes, I think it might be easier to do than we initially think.  Just stop for a moment.  Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.  What do you see?  It is probably much different. Or, ask a friend or colleague what they see when they see you.  I bet it is a different spotlight than you see.  Don’t get me wrong, caution might be the right move at individual moments.  But holding your self back, simply because of self-perceived notions, is almost always the wrong move.

“The upside of getting it right could be significant”

I think this sums it up well: “To be reminded just how unlikely we are to make a catastrophic error is to be liberated from the cautious consequences of the Spotlight Effect. It challenges us to experiment more freely with being ourselves. The penalties for getting it wrong will rarely be noticeable, the upside of getting it right could be significant.”

 

Career Dreams, Getting Advice and a Grain of Salt

A recent post (link below) got me thinking about the role “advice” plays in our desire to achieve our goals or dreams. I really loved these two paragraphs:

Yes, sharing my potential plans with all sorts of different people taught me something important (aside from the fact that people are typically much more willing to offer criticism than compliments): Absolutely everybody has a completely different idea of what makes an awesome career. And, as a result, you need to take everybody else’s advice with a serious grain of salt.

We all get so wrapped up in the things we want, that it becomes almost impossible to imagine that anybody else could possibly ever want anything different. But, it happens—particularly when it comes to careers. We’re all unique.

These came from a blog post called “Why You Can’t Judge Your Own Career Choices By Other People’s Ideals”.  The gist of the post is that people are well meaning and willing to give you advice.  You should seek out their advice – if you know how to handle that advice.  Because, in the end, everyone’s advice is coming from their own perspective and experiences – not yours.

Consider:  everyone’s advice is coming from their own perspective and experiences – not yours

There is some real wisdom to consider there.

I am a strong believer in verbalizing your goals and aspirations to others.  The act of speaking them refines them for you.  The conviction (or lack thereof) in your voice signals more about your intent.  Sometimes what sounds clear and concise in our heads comes out jumbled when we have to speak them (and sometimes the opposite happens!).  A willingness to talk to anyone about your career or life goals is a good thing.  You will gain awareness.  You will force yourself to be more honest with yourself.

And by speaking them to another person, you are going to get feedback from many different perspectives.  That 360 degree view is enlightening.

But you have to remember that the 360 degrees includes people who only look one direction.  In includes others who are looking one way when you are looking the other. Some are looking down at you.  Others are looking up at you. Some people are utterly incapable of seeing anything from any perspective other than their own.  Maybe their view is blocked by some obstruction that is not in your way, like a pillar at a football stadium.  Maybe you are much taller, or shorter than them, so the view is just slightly different from that vantage point.  Have you ever met someone with tunnel vision?  By definition, they are looking at things from a limited perspective.

Think about this example.  Perhaps you want to move to a big city because the energy and the job prospects are better there.  When you talk about that with some people, living in a big city sounds terrible.  They will tell all the bad things: “Stressful commuting.  Lots of noise.  Too much hustle and bustle.  Too little green space.  Small living quarters without your own lawn. ”  Their well-meaning advice is accurate, from their perspective.  But they have not taken into account your situation. Maybe they grew up on a farm.  Perhaps they are from a small town.  But does their advice fit YOU?

I understand that we all need help in making life’s decisions.  We may feel like we are being rude if we don’t act on someone’s advice.  Maybe it is simply a feeling of embarrassment that if we don’t follow up on something someone said to us, it will be awkward when we see them again (“So, did you do what I told you to do?”  “No, I thought it was a bad idea” is a little awkward).  If we have paid someone (like a resume writer or a consultant) to help us on the journey, we might feel like we must use the advice we paid for.

You need to take everybody else’s advice with a serious grain of salt.

But if you outsource your decision-making SOLELY to the feedback you receive from others, you are missing out on the greatest expertise you could get – YOURSELF.  Don’t you want to make a decision based on the best available information?  Of course you would like to.  Well, the person with the most information is you.

So, please go out and gather information.  Talk with lots of people.  Keep open and present to what you hear – and how you feel about it.  After a while, it may be time to assimilate that information.  Some thoughts on how to proceed:

  1. Maybe you have a trusted friend who is really good at 360 views.  Tell them about what you have heard and how you see it from your perspective.
  2. Maybe your spouse or significant other or father or mother knows you better than any other.  Perhaps you can talk to them about the advice you received and your reaction to it.
  3. In some cases, a good coach might be the right person to talk with.  Because if a coach is doing their job right, they are their to build awareness, not change your mind.

Life, and a career, is not a one-size-fits-all prospect.

If you want to read the original post written by Kat Boogaard that got me thinking, here is a link. http://www.forbes.com/sites/dailymuse/2016/11/22/why-you-cant-judge-your-own-career-choices-by-other-peoples-ideals/#25eeb818551c