With a breath of kindness...
Lower your energy and your expectations, please.
There’s so much being written today about being authentic. I think it’s terrific. But I’m not certain it would have been good advice for me earlier in my career.
Career advice #1: Thanks to many caring mentors, I learned early on that “controlling my energy” would be important to my career success. The advice was thoughtfully worded each time, but the overarching message was the same. “We love your energy and your passion, Dawn. You’ll need to step it back, control, [fill in a lowering adverb here] your energy so you don’t scare people. Not everyone here has the same energy as you do.”
I appreciated this feedback and took it to heart. I worked hard to adapt my behavior to my work environments. I even bought a special pen (Learn more.) to remind me to focus and adjust my energy level at work. I am thankful to have built up the agility and adaptability to tailor my style to many different personalities, environments, and situations. I am grateful, too, that I do not need to constantly monitor my energy this career season.
Career advice #2: This advice also came early in my career. I was leading a team with significantly more work experience than I had. A coach was helping me and advised, “Dawn, not everyone has the same level of expectations that you have. You need to lower your expectations.”
I immediately began wrestling with this piece of advice. I then asked a mentor for help.
“Joe, I received some advice that my expectations are too high and that it is important to realize that not everyone’s expectations will match mine.” My brow was furrowed and I continued, “It’s not sitting well with me. What’s your take on that advice?”
This mentor never minced words and did not sugar coat anything. I wanted someone to shoot straight with me and he always did.
Joe paused and then answered, “High expectations are only a problem if you expect more of others than you expect of yourself.” Timeless wisdom.
My advice to all of us is to listen carefully to feedback from caring colleagues, friends and mentors. Take it all in and create a data pool. Then swim into the mess and – when the time is right – swim out and take with you what is worth keeping.
“Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person — having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”
― Dinah Maria Mulock Craik, A Life for a Life
So, lower your energy when the situation calls for it. And keep your expectations high.
What’s the best career advice you’ve received? What is some you kindly “blew away”?
I look forward to hearing from you.