What if no one knows what they're doing
Do you need a guidebook? Do you feel that somehow, someone should have been able to prepare you for your current situation?
There are so many things in life that we just need to learn how to navigate on our own and sometimes it is really messy. We figured out how to pass a college class even though we didn’t realize we were going to have to rely solely on the syllabus and not on friendly, constant reminders from our teachers. We learn how to navigate relationships. We learn how to manage a full patient load. We learn how to balance work and life and pay our bills. Some of us have to learn how to parent, navigate the corporate ladder, or start a business.
This constant “figuring out” is really obvious when I think about the stages I’ve had to figure out with my kids: how to juggle being at work and still contributing to the class party, how to not miss the registration for little league (I learned that one the hard way), how to navigate grade after grade, how to deal with their disappointments and hurts and mistakes.
Oh, the mistakes.
We figure it out eventually, but it can be painful.
And how do you respond when you see the people you love trying to figure things out? How do you feel and act when you see your best friend, or sibling, or child trying hard to figure out something in their life?
Are you pissed? Do you hurry them along?
Do you think they should do it better, or faster?
Do you get mad if they get frustrated, or when they are impatient because they are letting the other stressors of life get in the way of working through it?
I’m guessing the answer is no. If it’s someone you love, you are probably compassionate and understanding.
You can relate to the struggle of not knowing what to do but showing up and trying anyway.
So what does this have to do with nursing, or work, or feeling better?
It has everything to do with it.
What if NO One actually knows what they are doing? What if we are all figuring it out day by day?
I realized this when my kids went to college. I knew how to be a marching band mom and lacrosse mom. I knew (by then) how to juggle work and kids. I even figured out how to get them both through the college application process (that was definitely messy).
But then they were in college. I didn’t really know what to do. I didn’t know how to manage not being involved in their day to day lives. I wasn’t used to not having them around, to having a more quiet house that stayed clean (Ok – it stayed cleaner, clean may be a stretch).
And as I watched myself go through this, it occurred to me that my own mother probably has no idea of how to be a mom to someone with college age children. That she too was still figuring it out. That there were times she may do it imperfectly.
The more I go through in life (read: the older I get), the more I realize that it’s impossible for everyone to know what they're doing, all the time. Once we figure it out, things change and we have to figure it out again.
This is a life changing mindset.
I have felt compassion grow where irritation would have tried to spring up in the past.
What if your coworkers are actually doing the best they can (even if you don’t feel like it’s enough)? What if they are using all the resources they have in their current situation to figure out their own lives? What if they aren’t just being lazy, or toxic, or petty, or irritating?
What if they ARE actually working to their max potential?
What if some of the people you deal with at work have a different experience of life, that their potential and your potential are not the same. Some of them may not have had the opportunity to develop the same coping skills, their intellect may have a different capacity, their time management skills may be slower.
What if they are actually doing their best? Is it possible that this could be true?
Try and sit in that space for a minute.
What if their actions aren’t about you at all? What if you are just part of their messy and imperfect process as they figure it out?
What if compassion and a little understanding could overtake the weeds of irritation?
Now THAT’S about you.
It’s not a secret that compassion feels better than irritation. Could you try and take those same feelings of patience and understanding that you have four your loved ones and apply it to the people around you at work? What if instead of assuming the worst we assumed the best? How would that feel?
We don’t know the stories of those around us. We don’t know their stressors, their childhood traumas, their current home situations, their underlying health issues. So instead of assuming they are doing something hurtful or toxic, what if we assumed they are still figuring it out.
And give them some space to do so.
And allow them to be frustrated.
While you’re at it, see how it feels to apply this same understanding to yourself. You are still trying to navigate how to work with people who are at all different places. You might mess it up sometimes but that’s ok.
I know that this approach has gotten me through some very difficult situations at work and in my personal relationships.
If you want to have some of the same peace in your life, I would give it a try.
I will support you while you figure it out- I am still figuring it out too.
But I’m not unhappy throughout the process, that’s the best part.
You don't have to figure it out alone. If you need some individualized help, some strategies (and understanding) just for you, reach out and let's figure it out together.