Managing Yourself – The Context

goldfishRoughly 30,000 years ago something changed in the life expectancy of human beings such that, for the first time, young people benefited from the calming influence of grandparents. Roughly 50 years ago, our society began the radical transformation that has resulted in many people being raised in single family homes, not only without the calming influence that the older generation has exerted on young people for generations but in many cases, without even the stability of a two-parent household. As our society has developed into the mobile, insular society we live in today, many of the traditional supports available for people have fallen away. This is not just in the area of families but in people’s professional lives as well. Companies that previously could be counted on for life-time employment including a structure that provided a full-time manager have either dramatically scaled back their support for employees or gone out of business. A career that included mentors and training and development opportunities is a thing of the past for many.

As the old supports have fallen away, new tools have begun to take their place. Many have embraced the notion of a “Free Agent Nation”, a workforce that is self-aware, self-supporting and self-directed has replaced a workforce that was loyal, hard-working and willing to wait for promised promotions. Young professionals that would previously have been mentored, and coached by their managers, now pay third parties to play that role. The whole field of paid coaches has exploded in a relatively short period of time, starting with life coaches. The field has now splintered into niches in which coaches specialize. Coaches who specialize in career transitions are available for those who are looking for the next step in their careers whether it’s their current field or a transition into a whole new field. Leadership coaches take the place of the manager who is now too busy to coach their people to their next level. Life coaches work with individuals whose lives need to be brought into better balance, to…the list goes on.

Many people who in years past could have relied on the guidance of their parents and grandparents for help in navigating through the various stages in their lives no longer have that option either because they live too far away or because the world they are operating in bears so little resemblance to the world their parents or grandparents lived in that their counsel has little relevance to the reality of today. So who does this lifelong learner turn to for answers? In many cases, the answer is the individual cobbles together a compendium of tools to reach for when the need arises.

One of my children was telling me that Justin Beiber, in an early interview at the ripe old age of 16, told an interviewer that he had reached the top “all by himself”. What Justin was far too young to appreciate at that time was the support that had come to him from many different directions. No one gets “to the top” by themselves so even though I have no insights into the particulars of Justin Beiber’s story, I don’t need them to understand that there were people along the way that made the success Justin enjoyed at an early age, possible. This does not take anything away from Justin’s efforts to achieve success. As certain as I am that he had help, I am equally certain that there was something about Justin that enticed those other people to provide what they did.

My goal for this Managing Yourself blog is to have it be a place where people find support for moving them to their next level of discovery about themselves. Managing your self is a lifelong imperative. Those who do not manage themselves are destined to be less than their potential. We all know people who refuse to manage themselves. They show up in different guises: the person who refuses to control their impulses and “speaks their mind” in the interest of being “honest”, when in reality all they’ve done is leave a trail of dead bodies in their wake (speaking figuratively of course); the person who self-destructs refusing to see the emotional carnage they leave behind with the people who love them; the bully who sets out to prove to all (most especially themselves) that they are important and leaves a trail of victims in his/her wake; the victim who refuses to accept any responsibility for their situation and looks for a target, any target except themselves, to assign blame; the “know-it-all” who can tell you exactly what to do in any situation in life, just ask them and we could keep going. We all know these people because they are us and we each take our turn in the various roles. How do we navigate through life with the ever-present change and the unpredictability without losing our center? How can we deal with all the uncertainty without giving in to fear? What does it take to manage oneself in such a way that life for ourselves and those around us is an enjoyable, rewarding experience? Good question. Hopefully you will find some answers here.