#ShowingUp with Anese Cavanaugh

Confessions of a “swimmer”…Where do you focus your attention?

I’m in the midst right now of some big stuff. Our family just relocated 4 people, a dog named Ruckus, a new job for hubby, and my business…2200 miles across the country back to the West Coast where I am again at peace with mountains, sunshine and lots of water. It’s tougher in some ways that I wouldn’t have imagined…and easier in other ways that I wouldn’t have imagined. All in all, it’s great to be back. And I find myself stepping into new things with a new perspective, ranging from leading my business, growing my business, serving our clients, and even how I parent. And in the midst, we are experiencing the interesting process of buying and selling homes in a new market, getting used to a new school system, transferring business over to CA, moving into new office space, and learning to live in temporary living space while we do all of the above. To say it’s an adventure…would be…an…understatement. It is nerve racking…And the learning is grand.

I’m a “swimmer”…I like to get things done. I like to keep moving. I get frustrated when movement is slow. This serves me 90% of the time. This tortures me the other 10. If I use this "power" intentionally – it's a strength. If I let it get the best of me, that "strength" turns into a weakness…and fast. See, so much is out of my control or influence (I can truly only influence/control myself and how I show up in it), and while I know this and have spent countless hours and episodes of making peace with this – and learning patience…I’m still a swimmer. Being a lifelong swimmer, I’ve learned to pay attention to mindset and focus. This, I’ve found is crucial, and often the difference between working WITH myself and working AGAINST myself. (For those of you who don’t know, though I suspect if you’re on my blog you know this quite well: Swimmers like to get there fast…and all those little details; fish, waves, coral, seaweed, etc. can slow down the process…yet, they’re all part of the process…AND, if we allow it….the beauty of the experience.) As a swimmer I can CHOOSE how peaceful the process is by paying attention to mindset. I can choose to sink or swim. For example…

I’m finding that if I focus my attention on the stress of what’s moving slow, or what’s out of my control…my energy tanks. I gather evidence for how challenging it all is. And my vision tunnels…I can no longer see the bright possibilities. On the other hand…when I focus on what’s great, what’s moving well, what we’ve done to get to this point, what the bigger vision is, and all that I have to be grateful for…truly focus on it, not in the “it’s the right thing to do, I shall be positive” kind of way, my energy goes up, I start to find new great things, and my vision opens up – I see clearly what needs to happen. My decisions are easier and crisper. Things get “clean.”

It may seem trivial, simple, even silly to write these personal confessions/findings on a leadership blog…but here’s the deal…all of this is a mirror for what happens in business. If I consider my family my business team, my energy and outlook rubs off on them in 2 seconds. They follow suit. I can tank our family energy in under 5 minutes flat…if I so choose. If I focus on the transition being hard, it gets harder. If I think of all the things I have to do to get to the next phase, I feel overwhelmed with what to do next. If I chunk it down, break it into small tasks, and celebrate the ones completed, my day gets easier and better. If I repeat my frustrations over and over again, I just spread bad mojo (and oddly the story gets worse each time – funny how that works!) If I look at what’s real…what’s true. The story goes away and I’m left with facts I can deal with (even if they’re frustrating.)

Clearly, where I focus my attention drives my energy, which drives my actions, which drives my results. I have influence here.

Now, this is not to say “put the Pollyanna glasses on and forget about the reality” or “focus only on the great and don’t address the tough stuff” or “ignore your feelings of frustration, sadness, etc.” – no…address all of it. Give it all a voice. Be real. Forget about this “rah rah shish com ba,” “just keep swimming, just keep swimming” stuff (Pop quiz: Who said that? “just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”) Be real. Be true. Process the emotions. Take a hot bath, grab a glass of wine and chill out at 2:30 in the afternoon. Make a list of what’s stressing you out. And then be at choice with what you want to do with it. (See blog post from 11/19.)

There are things I can’t control…for sure. But I certainly can be grateful for all that is working, the lessons I’m learning, and the opportunity to learn new ways of navigating challenge. And throughout, I can be grateful for the fact that I can just keep swimming…and enjoying the coral along the way. How about you? Are you a swimmer? How do the reflections here support you…or, if you're wanting to swim right past this post…slow you down? ;-)