This Is The Way: Learning The Things That Matter and Things That Don't
Learn how to shape Your Way by paying attention to what truly matters (and letting go of the rest!).
My husband and I drove from Edmonton to Vancouver in 2017.
We took my old 2002 beige Impala, which has low mileage, fake wood panelling, and a chesterfield-like interior. It is affectionately called Betty, after the indomitable Betty White. Betty is a big car, best suited to easy driving, little acceleration, and very large parking spots.
Neither my husband nor I had ever driven in Vancouver so we relied on Google maps to get us around. One of the evenings we went out to a relatively fancy seafood restaurant that had been recommended to us. After a bit of maneuvering through one-way streets with unfamiliar parking signs, we found a stall and went in to enjoy our meal.
We had seen the storm clouds rolling in on the drive over (as is common in Vancouver) so we were not surprised when we stepped out of the restaurant to a downpour of rain. We were surprised when we went to find the car and it was nowhere to be seen.
I remember standing in my dress, holding the umbrella, in the pouring rain and chuckling to myself for the split-second thought that our car had been stolen. Betty, though a beautiful old car, would not be the choice of a would-be thief. My husband spoke to a shop owner across the street from the restaurant and they helpfully informed him that Betty had been towed because of a parking violation. Turns out our car was facing the wrong direction and that was… bad.
I sat in the back seat of the cab as we made our way back to the hotel, watching the rain come down on the busy streets. I glanced over at Dana as he searched his phone for how to get Betty back, clearly frustrated.
At that moment I made the conscious decision to not let this unfortunate turn of events be a big deal.
It was annoying, yes. It was several hundred dollars between the impound fee and the cab rides. It was an hour or two of time. But did it really matter in the long run? Nope.
It was a minor blip in an otherwise great trip and not worth any further thought once it was dealt with.
So I shrugged and said as much to Dana. He went and picked up Betty and it was done. No big deal!
This is the way
There was a time in my life when I would not have handled the car disappearing situation in that way. I might have felt upset about the cost and the inconvenience. I would never have been mean or said anything rude to my husband, but perhaps I would have had a tone of annoyance. It might have been something that impacted the trip negatively in my mind because it was not part of THE PLAN.
It was something that would have offended what my husband affectionately (and sometimes with exasperation) calls my sense of order.
For those of you who have watched The Mandalorian via the Star Wars universe, you will remember the catchphrase: “This is the way”. The Mandalorians have a very particular way of living. While I am no space warrior and am ok to remove my helmet (on occasion), I often think of it as a fitting description of how I experience the world.
In my mind, there is a way of doing things, a way of behaving, and a way things should unfold. This is the Ashley Way. When something doesn’t fit within the Ashley Way, it offends my sense of order.
My sense of order is very structured (shocking I know 😉). I prefer plans and find it difficult to be spontaneous. I often choose what I will eat before I go to a restaurant and plan all my outfits before I go on a trip. Clutter makes me anxious. I am a rule follower (with the caveat that the rules have to fit within my moral code).
But I also try to be a loyal, reliable, and trustworthy friend. I do what I say I will do, and do it well. I try to be kind, polite, and conscientious in all my interactions. I’m good at strategic planning and execution, and organizing events and vacations. I have a nice home and I take good care of my possessions.
The Ashley Way, while imperfect, isn’t so bad. 😊
There are things that matter and things that don’t
In the past, I would go so far as to say that I was inflexible. I had a hard time quickly adjusting when a plan changed suddenly or a problem popped up and what I imagined happening was no longer the case. It would make me irritable or upset. When things happened outside of the Ashley Way, it felt like my brain would short-circuit and I struggled to process.
But over the years I have mellowed out and have become more adaptable.
It’s easier for me to accept change without it completely throwing me off. I am still slow to process, but I am able to take a step back from my knee-jerk reaction and analyze my feelings with more clarity. I now take a moment to decide if whatever has happened is worthy of my attention and energy, or something to let go of.
I have integrated into the Ashley Way, the motto:
There are things that matter and things that don’t.
Most of the time, the thing/change/challenge that has annoyed or upset me is something that doesn’t matter.
Or at least, it’s something that doesn’t matter to me.
Shape Your Way: Do you pay attention to what matters to you?
This change in my Way has been from all the many gifts of time, age, and experience, but most of all, reflection. I have written at length on reflection:
- How To Do an Annual Reflection to Get The Most Out Of The Year Ahead
- How a Daily Reflection Practice Cultivates Self-Awareness and Joy
- How to Manage Perfectionism with A Daily Reflection Practice
- Know Yourself, Manage Better: Part 1 – Daily Self-Reflection
- Work-Life Balance is a Myth, Aim for This Instead
Understanding myself and my Way has come from paying attention to what I pay attention to.
There is always so much happening around us, both in the day-to-day and in the greater world. There is the constant noise of half a dozen social media platforms, newsletters and websites, family drama and the mundane tasks of living. Not to mention another half dozen streaming services, sports teams and the many other things that call out for your attention.
From organizational psychologist Adam Grant:
“Your scarcest resource is not your time. It’s your attention. Your best work flows from paying undivided attention to the projects that matter to you. Your deepest connections come from listening with rapt attention to the people who matter to you.”
Notice the emphasis on what matters to you.
You can’t change what you don’t notice. You can’t improve or adjust what you don’t know about. You can’t enjoy the things that matter to you if you don’t pay attention to them. And really,(my fav variation of my motto when I am feeling particularly saucy), sometimes it’s more: “I only have so many f*&$s to give and this is not worth one of them”.
It is with clarity on what matters to me that I have fashioned the Ashley Way from being fairly inflexible into a way of being that (generally) brings me happiness and joy.
In the same way a team culture exists whether you cultivate it or not, Your Way exists already.
A good leader can help shape a team culture to be healthy and thriving, or leave it to develop in whatever way it will (often poorly). You can help shape Your Way to be the person you want to be, or leave it to be pulled in directions that you may come to regret.
Some questions to consider to help shape Your Way:
- How would you describe Your Way?
- Is it what you want it to be?
- What would you change?
- Are you paying attention to what matters to you?
- Are you giving your energy and attention to things that are worthy of them?
Keeping to Your Way takes work that is never done
The Ashley Way is always evolving. It’s a work in progress as I try to be the person I want to be, which also changes over time. It’s from reflecting on the greatest hardships of my life that my motto of, “There are things that matter and things that don’t”, came from.
The silver linings of hard things are the perspective changes they provide.
Generally speaking, if no one is going to die, get sick, or hurt in any way… it doesn’t really matter.😅
All that said, something can not matter in the grand scheme of things but still hurt. None of this is to suggest that you can just “stay positive” or “think happy thoughts” and all will be well. You are allowed to (and should) experience your feelings.
You will still get annoyed, angry, frustrated, stung, and all the many emotions we experience as humans. Life is full of hardships, big and small.
The work, and by extension Your Way, are what you do with those hardships and feelings once you have experienced them.
- Can you take a breath and let them go?
- Can you look at them from them a new perspective?
- Can you not let them colour your day, your week, or even your life?
Sometimes the answer to these will be yes, sometimes no, and that’s ok. All you can do is just keep working on reflecting, noticing, and paying attention to what you pay attention to.
This is the Way, for all of us.
If you feel tired and overwhelmed and know that a week off over the holidays is not going to be enough to set you up for the new year, book a free consultation. Together we can figure out a strategy to set your new year up for success.
Productivity consultant, writer, speaker, serial entrepreneur, chaos calmer, introvert, cat-lady. Lover of books, fitness, old fashioned’s, basketball, and video games.
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