Mining for Gold
Have you felt sometimes like you were drowning? Like the whole world is just swallowing you up and you have no where to go but accept the atmosphere around you? Have you ever just taken a moment to truly just sink into the being of the world and let it envelop you to a point where you have nothing left to do but accept the fate?
You wonder to yourself, maybe if this is where I am supposed to be there is something meant here for me? What if all the bad and terrible things in your life were just good things wrapped in shit...what if you take moment to reflect on these shit gifts and look at them upside down, backward, from 20,000 feet away or under a microscope? How would they look different? Would you be able to see the gold in that shit?
Imagine once you find the gold in the shit gift, you begin to see the smallest flakes of gold in the next shit gift? What if the tiniest flecks of gold got bigger and bigger each time you were handed a new shit gift? What if....one day...you didn't get anymore shit gifts? What if all you got were gifts of gold?
And these gifts of gold multiplied every time you got one...instead of one you got two. Instead of two you got four, instead of four...you got twelve. They aren't all large gifts like a house or a car or a trip, they are gifts like a hug or a conversation with someone you haven't spoken to in years. And in that conversation you cleared up the shit because you decided to look for that small fleck of gold in that shit and it turned out to be real and not fools gold?
After all...the beauty is in the eye of the beholder?
There's nothing like an opportunity to wade through crap to get to what you really need. It feeds the soul in a positive way - looking for gold. Being a pan handler in your own life. I mined for gold the other day. I searched for it and took my time to do it. I really felt like a part of me was missing from a conversation I had. I took out my pan and sifted for gold in that conversation. I made lots of discoveries that have made me find gold in other places....
Now, in my everyday life I see a lot of change. I get to see how people experience change, how they react to new circumstances and I get to walk leaders through taking their people on the transition. I get to see what types of supports are needed or what type of communication needs to happen - help them recognize when people need extra help in the change journey. I get to interact and coach decision makers who are overwhelmed by change and there is always one piece of advice I share when they are sitting in their shit gift, "when people are faced with the unknown and get overwhelmed, they always go back to comfort and do what they know." Essentially, I just point out which shit gift they need to pan through and pray that they find that flake of gold themselves and not have me point that out too.
This is a very common reaction to change. People don't know their new role and responsibilities. Maybe the change in supervisor wasn't communicated properly or maybe the transition from the old world to the new world isn't happening fast enough for them. They move back into what is within the span of their control and they do the job that they were doing before the change. They hold onto the parts of the job that they loved doing or tasks that didn't require any thinking - monotonous tasks so they can just get through the discomfort of the new world they don't understand yet. They sit in their old pile of shit because it was warm and comfy - they didn't have to put effort in to finding the gold. It envelops them.
I was given a nice pile of my own shit that I needed to sift through. I was (and still am) in a space of realizing and remember who I am. And in this space, the holes of what was taken out still exist and I'm slowly getting faced with questions or events that make me fill them back in with light. I was given the opportunity to fill a space with light and sift through my pile of shit to figure out what my personal values were. Now you might be thinking I'm talking a pile of crap - and you don't know what I mean when I talk about a shit gifts. When I talk about this lovely rotting, smell, brown pile of rankness, I mean your reaction to something or someone. This sense of anger, frustration, emotions that make you sit in a negative space - what could be commonly referred to as being "triggered". This was the shit gift I got and it left me wondering: how can I not be living my values if I don't know what they are?
I really struggled with this - I was certain I knew what I stood for and how I was choosing to show up. This wasn't the case - I don't think I would have reacted the way that I did if I truly knew what I valued. It was becoming clear - I was overwhelmed with this change over the last few years and that I was now in a space to explore who I really am in my most authentic self. Now, instead of me coaching leaders where the flecks of gold are, I needed to pick up the pan and search for my own gold flecks. So - I did what everyone does...I went back to what I know (see how the corporate story above ties in ;-) now LOL).
Personal values just aren't words that we think are pretty or nice or what we want to be. They are things, actions or feelings that guide us in our decision making, they are reflections of our characteristics and behaviours (how we show up) and things that are important to us - aka rules to live by. At work we make teams grow through creating team values so that they can identify similarities and agree to characteristics that they will all embody to ensure they all work together cohesively....how HR of me. But when it comes to personal values - these feelings and actions that we want to embody, it seems like way more of a challenge to figure out. Over the years values can change depending on life situations or recovering from trauma - people change. And in that conversation that triggered all of this for me it really made me question everything.
Once I kind of came to this realization, I did what any normal ;-) person would do - I hopped online and bought a deck of cards that has one value per card and a deck of "getting to know you questions" (I used that deck to test my top values to validate if they were the right ones). I started off by reading each of the values cards to see all the words to choose from (there's even blanks if you want to add your own) and then I took a mini break. I stepped away to allow for reflection. Then this next part is the fastest and hardest part. I went through the deck quickly and placed them in three piles: resonates, heck no and potential. Once the first sorting was complete, I went through the potentials right away and put them in the resonates and heck no piles. The key here is to do it based on gut feeling - if you give yourself time think at this stage you're never going to get through the deck and you'll second guess yourself.
Now that the cards were in two piles I put the heck no pile back in the box. No sense in rehashing what you said no to. I ended up with 24 cards in my resonates pile. This next part worked for me and it may work for you, it may not. I laid all 24 cards face up in a square so I can see them all at once. I re-read each card and looked for words I felt were similar. I didn't bother to look up dictionary definitions but really just went for my own personal definition to see which word meant more to me. The ones that didn't want I flipped over. For words left, I sat with them to determine what it meant to me - and if I didn't have a strong emotional reaction to it - flipped it over. I did this till I had ten cards:
autonomy - challenge - courage - creativity - curiosity - hope - humorous - patience - respect - trust
I then took the top ten and the other 14, resorted them so that they were separated but I could still see the words and I left them on my counter for a week. Every day I would look at them and see if the top ten still felt like the best choice. I only switched out one card by the end of the week and put the other 14 away.
Over the last *cough* month+ I have been reflecting on situations to see what value it aligns with - like evidence to validate my choice. I narrowed it down even further into my top three:
Patience: I realized I am so thankful and grateful to people who were so patient with me over the last few years (or over my life). The ones who showed up for me when I was not at my best and stuck around while I wandered through darkness. They checked in on me and allowed me to have space for discovery - for curiosity. It isn’t even patience for these big life events, even patience when I’m trying to decide if I like something or want to go somewhere. Patience when I evaluate options to make the best choice…like my personal values. I figured this one out while I was shopping for a new mascara - the sales lady was so patient with me as I couldn't verbalize what I wanted but took me through choices, waiting through my thinking out loud, readjusted her approach and we came out with the best option for me. It made me realize how grateful I am for people who are patient with me, pretty sure she thought I was crazy as I expressed gratitude for her help that was really an expression of gratitude for that realization and all the people in my life who are patient with me.
Courage: for showing up, for being my/your authentic self in a world full of filters and anonymous and real life judgement. Taking the first step and leading through adversity. The ability to just not give a fuck and let the boss person flag fly. I am trying to bring this person forward when I leave my house everyday (and even when I'm home alone) and I admire the people who I can see showing up like this. This moment came to me twice: once when I was chatting with a friend and I just noticed this energy of boss woman kicking ass and how much I admire her for it and the other was saying good bye to a coworker who flew this flag so high I glommed onto them like a bug to a blue light - their energy is infectious.
Autonomy: I've really realized over the last month that I really value the ability to be independent from someone. I'm not talking about romantic relationships - but the ability to be ones own person. Make decisions for you and be able to stand on your own two feet. When I first saw this card in the deck I wondered why it was there, but I get it now. As I reflect on my last ten years of life, I am starting to really step into this space of autonomy and I have never felt more free. No more people pleasing and putting other's comfort and values over my own. I am my own person.
No one values card I chose is more important than the others - but right now those three are flying the highest. They are helping re-shape the person I am becoming.
Now, I was feeling good about my new values as I finished the exercise but something was still bugging me. There's still some gold left in this pile of shit, I just knew it! So, in true HR fashion, I didn't really have any measures to show this change I felt. Until...I remembered my favourite personality test - strength deployment inventory (SDI). It's this great test that gives you so much information. They arrange a list of words, called your motives (different than values because these are the things that support you in living your values), in a diamond - the top being what is most like you and the bottom being what is least like you. It then assigns a colour profile to describe traits based on how your motives were placed and another colour profile that shows how you react when your motives are in conflict - I love this test! Well, I took it in 2016 and had a chance to take it again in 2022.
I was able to have measures now to see how much I changed - I got to rediscover how my motives formed the diamond. Out of 28 motives, only three remained on the same line from 2016. Some motives even had a four line change. It really blew my mind to see the difference! When I saw the ranking of the motives it all made sense. I reflected on what life was like in 2016 vs today and how the motives were placed. It felt really good to visually see this and to be able to put logic/a form of measurement behind everything now - it all just kind of fell into place.
The world just kind of felt right after that moment. I feel like this shit gift doesn't exist anymore. Through this mining experience I found 11 pieces of gold. In the past month I have been carrying these cards around with me and using them as a reminder when I'm in conversations that go south or I get triggered. I find the right piece of gold and it multiplies, I am definitely feeling richer now than I was a month, a year, ten years ago!
And if you need a little piece of value gold, let's talk...maybe I can lend you my cards ;-)