On Monday I joined some friends for coffee, friends who meet regularly at a time I’m usually on a plane or have some scheduled task. Since I’m not a regular member of this group, I was in for surprise.
One member, my friend Sheppard Lake, is a life coach. So at these gatherings, she regularly leads exercises designed to – well, coach us in life.
I considered excusing myself when the paper and pens were passed around. But I was intrigued enough to postpone the work I was supposed to be doing, and I stayed.
Sheppard asked us to write a letter to someone we admired, telling them what it was we loved about them. The first person who popped into my mind was none other than the CEO of an Arizona non-profit, Pam Gaber of Gabriel’s Angels. It was easy to list all of the things I admire about Pam, and I finished my letter quickly. It was fun to hear who others chose, when we read our letters aloud. Some picked famous people and one wrote a touching letter to her husband.
Then, we learned the punch line of the exercise. Sheppard dared to ask us to re-read the letters, this time substituting ourselves for the exalted one. What??
She asked me to go first. “I can’t do this,” I said, “because part of it, one word in the middle paragraph, would be a lie.”
She encouraged me to just begin. Amazingly, the truth was that many of the things I admire about Pam are qualities I at least strive to embody myself. (Okay, they are qualities I possess.) But when I got to that word in the short sentence in the middle of the page, I stopped.
“I’m in awe of your energy, organization and presence.” Which word would that be, you might ask?
“I am not organized,” I declared, oddly on the verge of tears. Immediately my friends began to give me examples of how they admired my ability to plan and organize, how methodical I was, how much I got done, and on and on. I was incredulous.
I listened, and considered the evidence they presented.
“In my own crazy way, perhaps,” I conceded. And as the words came out, I felt better.
In my own way.
Yes, while I have a nearly life-long criticism of my ability to order and structure things, the truth is that I organize things “exactly just right” for me. I have systems, processes, and order that, while mysterious to some, work for me. It’s only when I try to do what others do that I stumble.
How about you? What’s “your own way?” that serves you, and – that others even admire?
I have an idea. I think I’ll stop comparing myself to others, at least for the weekend.