Tag Archives: limitations

When I follow the rules, things should work, right?

I’ve had a few incidents recently where I found myself frustrated with how things work. They had a similar theme – I thought I was following the rules to get things done and it didn’t work! Because this is not infrequent, and I hear the same from others, I’ve been reflecting on what I can do to reduce my own frustration. While what triggered this post is more about business, the same challenges exist and are maybe more important to pay attention to in relationships with people important to us.

To put this in context, I’m a bit of a detail person – not that I love details that much, but I can’t seem to ignore them, especially when it seems to me that if I don’t  take care of them, someone else might be affected or there would be consequences to me. I have come to understand that we don’t all see the same thing. My brain that recognizes detail is my own quirky blessing/annoyance (equal parts of both!). My natural temperament most enjoys ignoring the detail and letting things unfold as they may, but my brain wants to follow the rules. Others have their own particular blend of skills, preferences and capacities.

Here are some basic principles that I’m trying to put into practice:

  1. Remember that all of us are following values that matter to us. Just because I value service to others and put it into play by paying attention to details, doesn’t mean that someone else who misses the detail or communicates it in a way I don’t understand, doesn’t care. Yes I can call them (hopefully with my inside voice!) all kinds of unkind names, but I can also assume that they don’t see things in the same way I do, don’t have the same priorities, don’t have the same information at hand, are having their own bad day, or lack the resources to cover the bases that affect the particular issue I’m facing.
  2. We all have our own internalized “rules” that tell us what is nice, kind, respectful, funny, helpful, etcetera. If I follow my rules and someone else takes it wrong, feels hurt or angry, reacts to what they assume about me, I have a choice. I can make my own assumptions about them, react and escalate the conflict. Or, I can back up a bit and assume a misunderstanding, try to find out what went wrong, ask some genuinely curious questions, and maybe improve the situation.
  3. All of us have the natural limitations of how our brains organize information and rules. This also applies to information that ends up on our computers and other electronic devices. As much as it might be nice, there is no universal standard of how to do things right. My failure to understand how someone organizes their thinking, is my problem and one I’m usually able to solve, even if it takes some time and effort. If I don’t get someone’s logic, chances are they don’t get mine either. Who’s to say which of us is right?
  4. Yes it is entirely possible to come to the conclusion that those who don’t see things the way I do are just wrong (or lazy, or immoral, or flawed in some way).  But, you know, if I conclude that, I’m less happy and peaceful than I’d like to be. Can we assume at the outset that we just have different influences (capacity, experience, temperament, upbringing, culture, and biology – basically both nature and nurture)? I might actually have the opportunity to add positively to those influences if I’m willing to be respectful, or add negatively to those influences if I let myself become disrespectful or abusive.
  5. Curiosity is a wonderful tool to work through differences in communication, processes, and lack of understanding. Genuine curiosity means being able to step back for a moment and ask respectfully for clarification, maybe look for an example, and consider different ways of communicating. Some people communicate better in written form, or visually, or in spoken words. Try to be creative in how you illustrate your concerns. If you are building a piece of furniture and the tool at hand doesn’t fit, it is always easier to find a better tool than it is to fix what you broke by forcing a square peg into a round hole.

My bottom line here is that there always is a choice about how we deal with interactions or processes that seem to go wrong. I choose to believe that if I assume the best of others, we can work towards resolve our differences. While I don’t know for sure that I’ll get what I want in any given situation, I do know for sure that positive assumptions, slowing down the process and not getting caught up in needing to be right, is more rewarding to my soul.


Since my last post (has it really been a few months?), I continue to work away at de-cluttering, a task that raises more questions than solutions. A conversation this morning about life stresses seemed to echo my own challenges with … Continue reading

On winning bronze………….

Watching the Olympics this week has provided me inspiration to write again but don’t worry, this isn’t another armchair analysis of what Canada should or not feel, be doing or not, for and about our national athletes. Others are better or maybe just more prolific at that! What captures my interest is the whole question of whether winning bronze, struggling to stay in the middle of the field, coming in dead last or crashing, being struck by illness or injury, are worthwhile endeavors when you can’t, won’t or shouldn’t take the gold medal.

Enough of the sports analogy……….now I’m talking about life on your own individual level. Lately I’m noticing a theme in conversations with clients, friends and family around goals that aren’t being met. In relationships, it may be goals for your partner, something they really ought to become that bears little resemblance to who they really are right now. Individually, it may be around definitions of yourself that you keep struggling to accomplish, a story of your life that you wish to tell, but have yet to realize. From some folks, I’m hearing of holding back from embracing the reality of today, holding out for the day that perceived obstacles disappear. From others, it’s more about not wanting to look foolish by trying for something they fear they might not accomplish or believing that certain aspirations are only for those brighter, wealthier, thinner, taller, luckier, braver, more accomplished or experienced, more connected, abler………….. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Are any of those limitations familiar?

The other day, I was having a conversation with a friend about a trip I was in the midst of planning, and found myself getting stuck around a part of the itinerary because I was caught up in what I should do as opposed to what I wanted to do. My very wise friend asked why I should, and very kindly refrained from laughing as I got very perplexed trying to justify some very odd and faulty reasoning. This wasn’t a huge life decision, but I know such reasoning affects me sometimes in both the minutiae of daily life and really significant choices. Here is my biggest limitation……….. trying to manage others’ perceptions of me. Fortunately, I have a few people in my life who I trust to hear my quandaries with patience and wisdom, and help me challenge that limitation. Perhaps you have some people like that in your life.

So my question for you today is whether you refrain from really living in the life you have now, or reaching for something more, because of limitations you perceive, some mythical panel of judges who will reduce you to tears by their criticisms or fail you by their bias or cast you out of the ring for daring to show up without some exhaustive list of pre-requisites? If so, try asking these questions:

  • What’s the worst that can happen? (and how long will that last?)
  • Who says?
  • How do you know that?
  • If you try and fail, is there a great story in that?
  • As opposed to what you may believe about yourself, what do you want to believe about yourself?
  • What else were you going to do with your time, money, effort, heart?
  • When will you be ready, the conditions just perfect and success guaranteed?

So whether you go for the gold, strive for bronze or really just want a participation medal for living engaged in your own life, what most likely stands in your way is the perception of limitations. It truly is within your grasp to challenge those limitations, work around them and find a way to pursue your own unique aspirations.