Space & Grace
Hello friends. Aside from the work I have been doing in support of others I have recently taken on a bit of introspection myself. I would love to tell you that I have all the things worked out, but that would make me what my British friends call a “massive bloody liar.”
We all have things to work on. I’m currently considering my goals for the next 12-24 months by gathering insights from people I’ve worked with over the years. Meanwhile, I’m spending time with amazing leaders working on a breadth of issues that run the gamut organizationally from setting up a board, launching a new national initiative, and creating a revenue model, to individuals getting a first job after graduate school, developing a personal brand, or pivoting to new roles in new industries.
While I spend time harping on who you rely on for advice and information as inputs, I realize that I have failed to share in as much detail two conditions that will enhance your decision-making ability. Were this an online quiz with generous prizes I suspect you would win given the title above - Space & Grace.
Space is time you can set aside to realistically accomplish a task. This may sound simple, but it gets messy pretty quickly because you need to do a bit of intentional planning.
- How many hours are you allotting daily and weekly over the course of the project to come to a resolution?
- Is that realistic given the rest of your responsibilities?
- What will you no longer spend time on to enable you to do a good job with this?
My intention is not to scare you off from dedicating yourself to big issues. Rather, to ensure that you are giving yourself the greatest opportunity to be successful and not succumbing to some of the typical errors that people make.
For example, sometimes people assume that they will simply work more. For many of us the hours devoted to predictable aspects of our life inside and outside work aren’t that elastic. AND deciding that you won’t go to the gym or see your friends for three months doesn’t give you the balance you need to be okay in all aspects of your life.
I’m working with several entrepreneurs on the founding of projects, and I always start with an exercise that establishes where their time is currently going to figure out what they can reprioritize to fit in the new piece of work. It is the same with those looking for work around gathering information about fields or attending networking functions.
Furthermore, there are often phases of the work. There might be an initial phase of understanding your goal(s) for X weeks, then doing some landscape analysis on your own for Y weeks and asking questions of ‘experts’ for Z weeks. You want to give yourself the space to do the foundational work in sequential order with realistic expectations. Why realistic expectations? Well. If you think that the 12 people you write are all going to get back to you the same day and make time to have the conversation you want in the next week, you are wrong. And I would rather you see you should give yourself more time to get it done than to make yourself anxious or feel like a failure.
Which is why we often need to have a deep reserve of grace for ourselves. Grace, in this context, is the kindness and understanding you offer yourself if things don’t go quite right or as you told yourself they would. This means that you don’t do the following things:
- Give up if you fail to complete a step or have difficulty realizing a due date.
- Get frustrated if what you learn isn’t what you hoped.
- Allow the work you complete to require additional steps which may extend your expected completion date.
Unfortunately, many of us are far better at extending grace to others than to ourselves. To be human is to make mistakes, misjudge and to be flexible in the face of new information. It can be frustrating to realize that the path you had ‘planned’ to follow won’t work because employers aren’t hiring or you aren’t in a position to gain the skills that would make you an attractive candidate, but at least you did the work and therefore won’t spend months flailing.
Or you’ve dedicated yourself to a new writing, speaking or health practice with goals to get to 3x weekly and you’ve only realized x. Much better to celebrate movement in the positive direction than fixate on what may have been an unrealistic goal.
Perhaps you’ve learned that what you thought was one choice, be a chef, is actually more complicated as you might consider being a baker or becoming a caterer or dietician. It will take more time to figure this out, but the fit may be much better.
I hope this offers you some new perspective on realizing your ambitions. Introspection and a strong group of supporters will get you a good deal of the way. However, a little space & grace will make the journey much easier.
—Russ Finkelstein is the opposite of your High School Guidance Counselor. A career coach, social entrepreneur and advisor to founders, he is currently the Director of Coaching with the Roddenberry Fellowship, Coach-in-Residence with StartingBloc Fellowship and a Co-Founder of Title8 a Legal Marketplace. He was a founder of the noted careers website Idealist.org and his new book, "Let's Sort Out Your Career Mess, Together..." is forthcoming in 2021.