Have you ever felt like just when you are making headway with something you feel strongly about suddenly you hit obstacles? Somehow, all at once things get tough? You get sick right before you have something big due? A whole lot of little things that never happen, all happen at once just when you are on the cusp of something you have been working hard towards?
I have just had exactly that experience!
After over 20 years of working in contested estates matters I am repeatedly frustrated at how the traditional legal approach seems only to result in breakdown of family relationships and big chunks of hard earned inheritances lost in legal fees. I have become quite passionate about finding a better way to help grieving families navigate this difficult path with less pain.
Part of my plan for 2018 has been to learn from family lawyers who are using a collaborative practice model to help couples divorce amicably without going to court; and to learn from non-lawyers how to help families find their own agreements with or without lawyers involved.
Taking myself out of my “lawyering” comfort zone and learning quite “foreign” skills has only made me even more hopeful for the possibilities in the contested estates space.
But days out from undertaking the mediation accreditation assessment – this is what I faced:
- Round two of a throat lurgy – that had me gargling betadine and swallowing every over-the-counter medicine and natural supplement known to man!
- I had not one, but two, tricky work situations arise that had me lying awake into the wee hours of the morning (when I am not one to stress over work files like that!)
- My one and only work colleague then got hit with her own lurgy that had her sidelined for 2 (of our 3) working days, which meant that the time I had set aside to study dissolved, seeing me studying until past midnight.
- Then on the Saturday morning before heading in for the assessment (after just 5hours of sleep), my son Zigi decided that this was the morning to be my shadow – following my every move (and by that I mean EVERY move – he supervised me in the shower (and the toilet!), oversaw what I was eating for breakfast, chose my outfit for the day and then took to “brushing” my hair). It took everything in me to keep myself calm!
It was as if everything was conspiring against me.
It was after the fourth obstacle came, that I realised that what was happening to me this week has happened to me almost every time before I have had a breakthrough on something significant. And that realisation just gave me the internal fortitude to press on toward the goal as calmly as I could.
Someone once told me that a rock sculptor taps away at the rock, over and over until finally the rock splits and chips away to reveal the intended form. In the same way sometimes we need to tap away seemingly without making headway, until finally we get a breakthrough – the rock splits and we can see where to move next.
So this week I thought I would write about what I have found helpful when chipping away at some of the obstacles I have faced:
1. Resistance can test your resolve
I am pretty sure most of us prefer the feeling of clear water sailing – where we put the spinnaker up and feel the wind in our hair as we navigate to our destination. The thing is, it is just unrealistic to expect that this is how our journey will be from the moment we step on board and decide our course.
We will meet resistance. We will get frustrated. We will hit storms, that will test us. We will need to learn to change tac, when the winds change. We will need to master the art of navigating buoys, and harbours full of other boats, and know how not to crash into our moorings when we finally arrive at our destination.
Resistance is what will test our resolve to see the journey through.
So don’t curse those who resist you. Instead listen, learn and adapt. You will understand even more clearly why you have chosen your course.
2. Dealing with the Naysayers
Be prepared for the people who tell you it can’t be done. The ones who will tell you that you have bitten off more than you can chew. Those who will inform you that they have tried and failed and so will you.
Be prepared to be told that your plans are not realistic or that they are not achievable.
But don’t just dismiss every naysayer that crosses your path. Keep asking questions of them – what did they do? why did that fail? what do they see are the obstacles? You will soon discern whether they are just being negative, or if they might have a valuable insight to share. You never know, their experience might just help you succeed.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Mahatma Gandhi
3. Learning from our “failures”
We have all heard the statistics quoted about how many times famous inventors “failed” before finally succeeding! These inventors didn’t just keep trying the same thing over and over hoping in vain that by sheer luck it would work the 100th time! They took each “failure” and reflected on what could be done better next time. They made an adjustment and tried again, tweaking over and over again until finally they found a new way that worked. We need to do the same every time we “fail”. If we keep tweaking, we too will end up inventing our success.
4. Don’t look backwards
While we need to learn from our failures, staying focussed on the past is not productive. What has happened in the past, does not have to define what happens in the future. Sure, past events in your life can shape you, but only if you allow them to. My advice is to only ever take a backwards glance to see how far you’ve come – otherwise keep yourself focussed on the now and the future.
5. Don’t look sideways
I am no hiker, but I love to walk, even better if amongst nature! I love to stop and catch my breath and take in the scenery around me. So, when I say don’t look sideways, by all means stop and enjoy the scenery, but keep climbing your mountain. When things get tough, don’t look over at other mountains or others walking a different track and think about abandoning the one you are on. Get to the top of your mountain first. From there you will get your bearings. You might then see other mountains you want to climb next, but get the experience of reaching your summit first.
6. Assessing the cost
Sometimes the cost of pursuing your dream will seem too much. It will cost you money, it will cost you time, you may even have to consider sacrificing things that have made your personal or business life comfortable. At times, when we are confronted with these costs, we baulk and wonder if it will be worth it.
The picture that comes to my mind when talking about cost, is that of the woman who broke open the most precious perfume she owned to pour it over the dusty (and quite likely smelly) feet of Jesus, days before he would be crucified. The Pharisees (the priests of the day) all scoffed at her wasting her resource, yet this woman had greater insight than they did. She sensed what was coming and poured out her all.
At times we will need to assess how much we are willing to pay to see our dream to reality.
7. Taking the leap
Not all of us are adrenaline junkies (I am certainly not!) but we all know the feeling of our stomach lurching when we are taken out of our comfort zone physically. I know from experience that the worst part of abseiling down a cliff face is tipping over the cliff edge. The worst part of skydiving is the terror of jumping out of the plane. The scariest part of the rollercoaster ride, is the first downhill drop.
Taking a leap from one thing to the next is a pretty scary thing to do. Free-falling goes against the security we feel in the forces of gravity that ground us. The adrenaline almost hums in our ears as we feel terror and exhilaration all at once. Gravity will of course take effect and we will land. It may not be with all the grace and style we might hope for, but once we land, we will be in our new place, ready to do the next new thing.
8. Keeping the faith
With all the things that can seemingly conspire to keep us from going on, I encourage you not to give up. Keep the faith. Press on. Lean into the wind and continue. Because things that are worth doing never come easy.
“I wonder how many times people give up just before a breakthrough – when they are on the very brink of success.” Joyce Meyer
So if you are feeling the frustrations of things just not going your way, stop for a minute and refocus. Don’t give up – you might just be on the cusp of breaking through!