The List

The-List

We get up each morning with the known before us – or as I call it “The List.” There is one at home.  There is one at the office.  There is one that includes responsibilities to other people and commitments. There is the one full of dreams to get to one day.

We move from task to task, interaction to interaction, and before you realize it, another month has gone by.  If we pause to look up, it just may occur to us at the point of crisis that we’re actually on a journey, and that journey does have an end point.  Many people come to me in those moments: when transition has been forced upon them by a job lost; when bereft of fulfillment, they seek to figure out how to make contributions with their lives; when they face retirement and it’s as petrifying as writer’s block; or when they realize their leadership teams are so mired, they are paralyzed.

In those times, when life either stops us in our tracks or a change is so dramatic that it requires assessment and redirection, we meet ourselves in the mirror.  We must look at not only that we’ve been living by “The List,” but our real ah-ha’s come when we examine what is ON “The List.” Many years ago, I had one of those ah-ha’s in the midst of an intense time at work.  I recognized that when my team was taking their time to come and seek my counsel, I might very well be looking at them, but my hands were still on the keyboard responding to that email.  I wasn’t honoring that they were trusting me as the person to whom they wanted to address their issues.  I wasn’t thinking about how much courage it might have taken for them to come to me and expose they were stuck on how to move forward in their responsibilities.  I wasn’t respecting that they may be seeking my advice on issues outside of the office. Forget my role as a leader. I wasn’t authentically present for them as human beings.

One day, when a particularly distraught team member stopped by, I focused completely on the individual and spent a long time addressing what was causing so much pain for this person.  We connected.  We problem-solved. We shared.  We built an even stronger relationship.  I was present.  I was interested.  I showed a willingness to put my team first.  I was who I should have been as a leader, and more importantly, as a caring human being.  What I was astounded to find was that at the end of the day, “The List” was completed and more, despite this being an intense period of work. For me, that was a life changer.  I realized in that moment that the real work each day was what was presented to me, not “The List.”  I recognized that in any moment whether at home, at work, on business travel, or somewhere about town; “The Real List” of work that was to be done could appear. My job was to be aware of that and to be open to addressing “The Real Work” at any moment.  The rest of it?…. It gets handled.

For those of you who are so goal-oriented that you started perspiring nervously just reading this, it’s time to practice letting go.  Yes, set those targets.  Yes, keep your teams focused on moving forward.  However, we are on a far more important journey as human beings than completing “The List.”  One day, there is going to be no more time to work on “The List.”  In THAT transition moment, our attention is going to turn to “The Real List.”  Where our regrets, pain, and desire for more time will focus is on anything we left unattended to on “The Real List.”

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