Curiosity

This week I´ve been lucky enough to enjoy a bit of social life, say hello to a bunch of people I hadn´t seen for some time, and even get to meet new people. New people! And in person! So much fun. After over two years of working from home and rarely going out for one reason or another, it felt like such a treat.

I had forgotten that feeling of curiosity I get when I introduce myself to someone I don´t know and start a conversation. Everything is new, so I´m starting from scratch, without expectations, and I let myself get surprised by the other person, as I begin to discover some of the “pieces” of their jigsaw.

white puzzle pieces on blue surface

Because that´s what each of us is, a unique and special jigsaw, made up of a gazillion pieces. Unfortunately, sometimes, once we get to see a couple of a person´s pieces, we tend to assume that we know their entire jigsaw, and without realizing it, we fill in the blanks based on our own experience, bringing in our prejudice, our beliefs, our values… And that´s when we fall into the trap of judging and criticizing.

But the thing is, the other person´s jigsaw is not the same as ours, even if, looking from the outside, they may look a bit alike. Each person experiences the world in a different way, has a different history and life trajectory than the rest, and the pieces from one jigsaw won´t fit in the other.

So, how do we fix this? With an attitude of curiosity, towards others and also towards ourselves. If we don´t assume we already know, we will seek to understand, and we will investigate. And the more we discover, the better we will understand ourselves and each other.

The antidote for criticism is curiosity.

Sir John Whitmore

Presence

Today I´m bringing you a quote I came across this week, taken from a book on team management called Software for your head .I have to admit that I haven´t read the book itself, even though it looks really interesting, and at least the title is very much aligned with the spirit of this blog 🙂

Whether the members of a team are dispersed across the world or crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in rows of cubicles, distance is always the central issue among collaborators. The remedy for distance is presence. Of course, it is easier to spot distance-related difficulties in a geographically dispersed team, and people are more likely to attribute team problems to miles rather than minds; regardless of geography, the primary task with any team is that of surmounting distance. The distance that must be surmounted, though, is the psychological distance (or the "headgap") between people rather than the amount of physical space between their bodies..

Jim & Michelle McCarthy – Software for your head

The book was written over twenty years ago, and if this paragraph was probably already true back then, I would say it´s even more so nowadays, both inside and outside the workplace environment. We live so distracted in our life in general, our attention is usually so disperse, that we find it difficult to be truly present with the person in front of us at any given moment. We are often there without really being there. Or we´re only half there, devoting just a small piece of our attention to the other person. And the worst part is that we´re now in the habit of living like that, we consider it normal, and we use all kinds of excuses to justify it.

But when we make the effort to be truly present, leaving all distractions aside for a little while, the difference doesn´t go unnoticed. Connections become deeper, shared moments become more valuable. And if we are at the workplace, communication likely becomes more efficient, greatly helping to get the work done.

So wherever we are, let´s remember that the best present we can give others is our presence, our full attention, during the time we spend with them. Family, friends, work colleagues, whoever it may be. And then distance no longer matters.

Untranslatable sentences: spread too thin

These last two weeks have been a bit crazy for me: tasks and meetings at work were getting on top of each other, with some of them planned and some unplanned, and to be honest, I was mad busy.

And as it usually happens, it was not a case of me being very busy with one particular thing; instead, I had to take care l of multiple things at once, so I spent my days in a state of alertness, splitting my attention (or rather, dispersing it), and constantly switching between tasks.

Does it sound familiar?

Thankfully it was only for the two weeks, and now there´s a quieter period coming up. Otherwise, I would have found it exhausting.

And all of this reminds me of another one of those expressions that I really like but find impossible to translate, or at least I´m not able to translate in an elegant way, from English into Spanish: to be spread too thin. I´m not sure whether the phrase originated here, but I remember reading something very similar in The Lord of the Rings, in words said by Bilbo Baggins:

"I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread."

I think all of us may have felt this way at some point in our lives. And what can we do? Well, a few things come to mind:

  • Become aware of what´s happening to us, and recognize how that´s affecting us physically, mentally and emotionally. This is the first step: once we know it, we can do something about it.
  • Reduce as much as possible (or even better, eliminate) multitasking, that is, this doing several things a the same time. In a future post, I´ll take the time to explain why multitasking doesn´t work, but just for you to know, it doesn´t work, even if we get the impression that it does 🙂
  • Rest and take care of ourselves as much as we can during this time: sleep time, good diet, a bit of exercise and fresh air... (please note that I´m not counting watching Netflix, or scrolling through social media in our smartphone "to unwind", in my opinion that doesn´t work either, it´s not relaxing)
  • Whatever we cannot avoid, let´s take it in the easiest possible way. This may seem paradoxical, but if you think it through, if we take the pressure that´s already there and add another layer to it with our own worries, stress levels are not going to decrease, quite the opposite, they will increase. Patience and good humour will make it all more bearable.
  • And also very important, though we may not always think of it: whatever we can avoid... let´s avoid it! Here I like using the four Ds that David Allen lists in his book Getting Things Done:
    • Do it (if it takes you less than two minutes),
    • Defer it (schedule it for later),
    • Delegate it (get somebody else to do it), or
    • Delete it (it´s not the end of the world if it doesn´t get done).

Do you agree with these strategies? What others can you think of? How do you deal with this feeling of being "stretched too thin"?

Reminder

Quite often it happens that, without realizing it, we set too high standards for ourselves, and then we self criticize for not reaching those standards… We let our personal saboteur (that little mental voice that keeps annoying us non-stop) take control and beat us up, not recognizing our true value. And that way, we become our own worst enemy.

For those moments, I bring you this reminder from my upstairs corridor:

Always remember, you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, & twice as beautiful as you´d ever imagined.

What goes through your head as you read this line? Do you believe it? What else do you need in order to believe it? If you were reading it out loud to your friend and they didn´t believe it, what would you say to them?

What if you could be your own best friend?