You do not have to be good

Yesterday a friend of 9 years confessed to me she hasn’t been feeling productive lately. She wanted to spend some time on a personal project, but between her day job and other things, she had been feeling like her life has been a constant cycle of routines. In return, she felt demotivated and disillusioned.

E is always so driven, perpetually positive, and is never in short of words and action of motivating people — especially with her job as an organisational coach. To me, she sounds like someone who is always often on top of things. It might not have been an exaggeration to say that I look up to her very highly. So it has been quite a surprise to me when she mentioned she hasn’t been feeling like she has achieved much these days.

In the framework of Fisher and Sharp’s feedback dispensal, I believe there are three kinds of friends when it comes to crisis management:

  • Validation and reassurance: those who you could talk it out with and receives reassurance in return that everything is going to be fine
  • Advice and coaching: those who you could talk it out with, and lay down the next steps together
  • Evaluation: those who you seek for feedback in ranking or comparison in relation to others

Now, I admit that I am not good with purely reassurance. I did, however, told her her feelings are entirely valid and that all her achievements — however minuscule — are worthy of being celebrated of. But the thing about pure reassurance and no moving forward plan is that there is a risk of discontentment relapse. I know this because as an overachiever and only child who always had this belief I could not afford to fail, I feel this all the time. So I feel it is unfair for me to let this happen to a good friend as well.

What I proposed to her was — with what I know and do best (citation needed) with my years of project managing experience — is, exactly that, help manage her personal project. I understand that every one of us makes​ progress in our work every single day. The reason why we haven’t felt much accomplished is — one, we tend to want to see the results right away and overlook the fact that Rome isn’t built in a day, and two, we didn’t track our wins.

So, two things to do to start to help her feeling more accomplished:

  • break down the tasks into smaller goals
  • track them!

I happen to have a Notion personal account that enables me to add another team member. So I will sit down with her and break down her tasks, schedule things, provide feedback, follow-up, etc. among other things. Be her accountability buddy to help her achieve things!

Let’s see how that goes.

With the weekend looming just around the corner, I do hope that we get to take a break and be less harsh on ourselves a bit. Here is Mary Oliver in 2001, reading her poem “Wild Geese.”

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves

Have a good weekend.

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