I was on my way this morning – VERY early – to NYC to meet up with a coaching company I have worked with for many years and the majority of the coaches who were going to be there were ones I did not know well.
As I dragged myself on to the train, I thought, “Why am I doing this? It’s really expensive. To be in New York City and to be away from my business. Heck, it is expensive to be away from my family. And we’re going to do a TEAM building?’ (the rare cynical voice in my head said) ‘A TEAM BUILDING?! Those things are usually cheesy and pointless.’ (Mind you, for my job I have been known to LEAD team buildings for companies.)
I was feeling uncomfortable. My emotions were a mix of anxiety, dread, and annoyance. I don’t like feeling uncomfortable. Then I remembered all those hours I spent over the past weekend learning how to teach other people meditation. I tried to just be with the emotions. Mostly, I just ignored them and pushed myself to keep walking and be on time.
As we were led around the gorgeous New York city offices that one coach had generously invited us to for lunch, I started to soften. ‘This is pretty neat. Maybe you were just feeling those things because it’s been so long since you were in a group of peers,’ the voice said.
It’s true. COVID affected a lot of us socially. Anxiety disorders around the world went up 25.6%. Normally I am in charge of a meeting/workshop/session. The nerves for those events are different. I get more of an adrenaline rush. I get to put on my bossy pants. This time I was on an uneven footing as I felt like a bit of the odd person out.
As we sat down to lunch, we went around the room to do introductions. Even though I teach people how to present themselves powerfully, I have a tendency to HATE introductions. I feel like I always say the wrong thing. I’m normally repressing the high school Shannon who was coached to put forth her resume for interviews, so I tend to not say enough or say too much.
So, I decided to work on listening. You know, that thing we coaches are supposed to do so well? (Or as my husband said, ‘Isn’t that all you do all day? Just LISTEN to people?’) As I listened, I was amazed by the strengths of the people around the room. One coach was working on her PhD dissertation and we spontaneously, and without permission, coached her. One coach told a touching story of what it was like to be raised in a foreign country. One coach said she asks herself every day, ‘What did you do to take a chance today?’ (Thanks Kelly Beischel PhD, RN, CAPP, APPC) What a beautiful question! I realized that coming back to the city where I lived for 11 years, which brings back a variety of emotions and sitting with the discomfort, was how I took a chance today.
And for what it’s worth, the team building was AMAZING (Thanks to Ilene Schaffer, MA, PCC and Senia Maymin). Cooking with these lovely humans was such a life-giving experience. I learned something new and grew my confidence as a cook. While part of me wanted to be back in my home watching trashy reality television, it just goes to show that we are very bad at predicting what will make us happy. Other people make you happier, even if you’re an introvert.
So, don’t listen to your emotions. Take a good hard look at them if they are going to keep you from doing something adventurous. And after the last few years, connecting with others is a gift I won’t soon take for granted.
(Thanks for your generosity Leah Smart and all those who joined today Niels Gott Alex Jack Venessa Marie Perry, PhD, MPH Kimberly Dotson Brown, SPHR, SHRM-SCP. It was really wonderful to be in your presence. Big thanks to Kathryn Britton whose comment about successful academics who write 30 minutes per day inspired me to write this post!)