I’ve been thinking about self-deception lately. How is that I can be rolling along without hardly a bump in the road and then land up in a pothole? This pattern seems to be a part of many of our lives. I’m curious about what’s creating this obviously not so pleasant roller coaster ride.
As I was musing about this, I saw a connection between my personal experiences and what I’ve noticed about myself and others as leaders. When everything seems to be working, whether it’s at home or work, I’m not particularly reflective about several fundamental questions such as, “ Am I feeling joy?” or “Is what I’m doing connected to why I’m here?” I seem to be under the influence of the vapors, or emotional happiness. I know that emotional happiness (rather than joy) is tricky. When I’m on the up slope of greater and greater happiness, I’m already creating the downslope of despair. Yet, follow the yellow brick road I do, without any apparent awareness that there is a consequence of this rising emotional feeling.
I suspect all this is connected to an old adage that says, “You can’t see the rocks in a lake until you lower the water level. (I’m from Louisiana where they say, “You can’t see the cypress stumps until you lower the level of the bayou”). When my lake is filled with the happiness euphoria I overlook so much. My higher energy lulls me into believing that this feeling will go on forever (it never works out that way and I’m surprised each time). A bit like my version of Lucy always pulling the football away just before Charlie Brown can kick it.
I’m noticing that the highs are changing. I remember feeling so excited when something good was happening (a new relationship or new client contract or receiving praise from someone I held in high esteem). This excitement would “lift my feet off the ground.” This high was addicting. When the crest of the hill was breached, I stayed in my high feelings for a while. I just couldn’t believe I was on the down slope again.
Today, I’m in the process of coming unhooked. At first, I was worried that I wouldn’t have any fun anymore (when I thing of that inner story I smile, because I know the price of that “fun”). This fear delayed action for some years. I just got so tired of the up and downs that I said, “The heck with the fear of no fun, I’m going to see what it would be like to step off the emotional gerbil wheel.”
The road hasn’t been without fits and starts. That’s always how it is with change. Yet, it’s worth it. My highs aren’t so high, but they are real. My feet are mostly touching the ground and I can sense the truth of my experience rather than the false story that is choreographed by the emotional high.
It’s the weekend and maybe it’s time to lower the water level in your lake. How about taking stock of the up and down cycles of your life and honestly see if it’s time to change them. If it is, talk to a friend about your decision and ask them to give you feedback when they see you moving away from reality. Your authenticity will deepen your friendship and carve a new direction for your life.