We Can’t Own it All

I’ve written about what Dr. Henry Cloud refers to as being “ridiculously in charge.” Meaning, instead of blaming, complaining, and defending, we own our actions and our learning. I do think that this is something that takes practice, and I do think this is a place where many of us will always have room for growth. Myself included.

The key is really understanding the difference between what is ours to own and what is not because we cannot own it all. For those of us with responsibility in our top 5 on the Strengths Finder 2.0, this can be a challenge. Being responsible and following through and doing things the right way are very high on our priority lists. And this is a good thing. It’s an admirable thing. However, it can also be to our detriment because if we think we own it all and that it’s all important then nothing is actually important. Additionally, two people can’t own the same thing, so if we “own” it all, the person doing the doing is often the person doing the learning. So in doing all of the doing, we may be taking ownership from others and therefore learning from other people as well. I’m confident that this is not our intention. We are educators after all – growing others is our jam. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t quite matter if it wasn’t our intention because it’s our impact on others that truly matters.

I’ve been in a few sticky situations over the past week which has me reflecting on some key points related to own it or don’t.

1. Own How You Show Up

One of the most important things we can own is how we show up for other people. Our vibe. Our energy. Our words. I’m pretty tired and run down this week, so I’m not “firing from all cylinders.” A teacher kindly thanked me for bringing donuts to a meeting today and in my response to her, I called her by the wrong name. CRINGE. I know and have correctly used this teacher’s name in the past, but I made a mistake. A colleague kindly corrected me who was seated next to me. I apologized to the teacher in front of everyone seated at our table. She said it was OK, and I said that it was not OK, that I do know her name, and that I was very very sorry for my mistake. She was gracious and later teased me about it, and we shared a hug. But this was an opportunity to own a mistake in front of others and to apologize. I felt small and sweaty when it happened, but the best thing I could do was make it right and make it right in front of other people, so they could see how I respond when I make mistakes. That feels important in the classroom too. It’s important to be human and respond to mistakes in ways that are constructive and that center the humanity of other people. We can’t own it all, but we should always own our energy and words.

2. Own How You Respond to Adversity

I think the universe must have sensed that I needed some humble pie this week because I ate it in another situation. A person from another department sent an email to me with some frustrations and copied our supervisors. If I’m being transparent here, the email felt unfair and was connected to something I wasn’t working on, but the person’s perception was that this was my issue. When I got this email, it upset me. I paused because I’m confident that if I had fired off what I really wanted to say, it would not have been a response that I would be proud of later nor would it have been helpful. I reflected upon how to best respond in a way that was helpful. I reflected upon how to get this person what they needed and responded accordingly. Two escalated people cannot deescalate a situation and that was what was needed in that moment.

3. Think about It and Move On

In the situation I reference above, I spent some time trying to figure out how to prevent this from occurring again. And while there are some minor pivots in practice that I can make which could help, I’ve come to conclusion that this is not feedback that I’m going to own. Sometimes, I think we spend too much time reflecting on feedback that feedback givers haven’t spent much time on at all. I don’t want to lose five hours of my thought life on something that someone spent less than five minutes thinking about before reaching out to me. Not all feedback is good feedback. And not all things are for us to own EVEN when other people want us to own it. The key to keeping our heads and hearts clear is understanding the difference.

Much of my exhaustion this week is self-imposed. I’ve overcommitted myself. I’ve overextended myself. I’ve not kept boundaries in place to protect my own heart and wellbeing.

I love what James Clear says about boundaries. “I’d estimate at least half of my frustrations with others are actually frustrations with myself for failing to set clear boundaries and stand by them.

Not all feedback is good feedback. Not all work is ours to own. Let’s own how we show up and respond. Let’s listen for good feedback, reflect, and get better. Forget the rest. Give it a rest. It’s time to rest. Enjoy some peace this weekend. You deserve it.

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