In our communication assessment (Talent Insights) there is a page labeled Perceptions. This page is designed to help participants remove blind spots in their communication style. It illuminates the differences between how individuals see themselves and how others see them. For example, in my report, the box at the top of the Perceptions page states, “Lindsey usually sees herself as” and it lists great characteristics that accompany my communication style such as, pioneering, competitive, confident and positive. The second box states, “Under moderate stress or fatigue, others may see Lindsey as”. This section has words that include, demanding, nervy and aggressive. Not my favorite descriptors and certainly not words I would prefer to be seen as. And in the third box, it states, “Under extreme stress or fatigue, others may see Lindsey as”, abrasive, controlling and opinionated. Obviously, these are not words that I would ever want someone to use to describe me (though I am sure at some point, someone has). While this page serves as an incredible eye opener as to how we are potentially being perceived by those around us, the biggest lesson comes when we make one final connection. If we are having a bad day or are stressed, tired or frustrated, we are likely operating out of box three. However, more often than not, we still see ourselves operating out of box one. We see our behaviors in a positive light, while those around us see our behaviors in a very different way. Self-awareness and self-regulation (two of the five dimensions of emotional intelligence) are the keys to closing the gap in this disparity. To ensure that how we see ourselves and how others see us are more closely aligned with one another.
As we stand in 2023, it’s easy to think about how fast the last few years have gone. How frantic and overwhelmed many of us have felt. How, so often, weeks and months felt like we were surviving one day simply to make it through to the next. If I am honest, many moments over the past two years have felt like that in my world. Head down, doing the work that needed to be done to keep myself afloat, both professionally and personally. The habits we once practiced so religiously felt more like a distant memory due to the constant whirlwind we found ourselves in. I know this to be true as I heard it from so many of you that I work with and coach and because I experienced it myself firsthand. Self-care, the good habits, the time and space to think, those are always the first things to go when the world gets crazy around us. They are also the things that we need the most to keep ourselves productive, healthy and showing up as the best version of ourselves.
Late summer of 2022, I had a self-awareness kickstart. It wasn’t a lightning bolt per say, but it was the beginning of a journey that would force me to ask myself if I was living my life in as much alignment with my values as I thought. I had recently been to the dentist and was reminded for the umpteenth time in my life that I needed to floss my teeth. I knew flossing was important as I made sure to floss both of my children’s teeth every night. But by the time I got myself ready for bed, I just never seemed to have the energy or willpower left to make the action happen. “But what did it really matter?”, I would tell myself. I was still brushing my teeth every night. Wasn’t that enough? (I know I am not alone in this as it is reported that only 30% of the population actually floss their teeth daily – yikes!) One night, however, that all changed. As I stood in the bathroom getting ready for bed, I saw the floss under my sink and thought, “I should really start flossing my teeth”, but I felt that all too familiar pull of my cozy bed beckoning me to it after a long day. It was in that moment that the question that has changed the trajectory of my days hit me, “What kind of person do you want to be? Do you want to be the person who flosses their teeth responsibly every night, or do you want to be the person who just thinks about the fact that they should?” The answer was a resounding, “I want to be the person who flosses!” So with that thought, I picked up the floss and every night since, I have flossed my teeth. It’s a simple task really. It takes less than 30 seconds, but every night when I look at that dental floss, it’s a decision I make to live more in alignment with the kind of person I want to be.
Over the course of the next few months, more and more areas of disparity became apparent in my life (that’s usually how self-awareness works, once you open your eyes to your blind spots, get ready to be humbled). Sure, the big values were easy to stay in alignment with: be honest, be a hard worker, be kind. At a high level, I was surely living in alignment with my values. But upon closer inspection, I began to see cracks in the smaller, subtle values and actions I operated from on a daily basis.
I am a person who values being environmentally thoughtful but was I intentionally seeking out the most environmentally friendly products or was I defaulting to what was most convenient to pick up? I am a person who believes that in order to be an effective leader, ample self-care is required. But when was the last time I prioritized my own self-care in any meaningful way? I am a person who believes staying present and engaged in the world around me is important but how much time was I spending on social media mindlessly scrolling? I am a person who values intentionally planning my days because it ensures I am more engaged and productive. But when was the last time I planned my days and weeks in the meaningful way? I am a person who values showing up as the best version of myself both personally and professionally. But how often had I lost my cool with my kids in the past few months after a long day at work? The more I paid attention to my values and the small, subtle behaviors I engaged in on a daily basis, the more opportunity I saw for real alignment.
As the end of the year drew to a close, it was easy to see what word 2023 was calling me to: alignment. I am proud to report that this focus is not a new endeavor in 2023. It is simply a continuation of the work started at the end of 2022 but with renewed focus and attention. What I have learned on my journey to date is that I feel better when I live in alignment. I perform better when I live in alignment. And I am happier when I live in alignment. Understanding the values I hold and focusing on the big decisions as well as the small actions that keep me aligned has made me more effective at work and more joyful at home.
In 2023, I encourage you to become more self-aware about your own alignment. Do you see yourself one way, but do others see you differently based on the actions you take? Is there room for more self-awareness and tightening of your values and actions? Asking myself the simple yet powerful question, who do you want to be? in everyday moments has changed the way I operate during the day and sends me to bed with clean teeth every night.
Wishing you a year of happiness, productivity and alignment.