Have you ever found yourself with a case of “head fog?”
This is my coined term for when your brain feels like a mushy, foggy muck and you’re completely overwhelmed and incapable of taking the next step? Not a fun feeling, is it? That’s where I found myself the other day, so I did what I always do and I called Robb, a former colleague who also moonlights as my unpaid life coach. I refer to him as “Obi Wan Kenobi,” as he has this rare skill of being able to pinpoint with laser beam precision exactly what the problem is in any given situation.
If you don’t have a Robb in your life, my advice is to find one fast.
The issue was my husband and I want to relocate to Austin from Houston, but was convinced my employer wouldn’t consider a flexible work arrangement. So in my spare time I had been brainstorming other options like move to Austin with no job, or go to work with my friend Deborah, who has a successful PR business and wants me to start a new venture with her. The list went on and on. Each option was fraught with fear for different reasons and the night before I called Robb I ended up in a self-induced tailspin where my husband and I had a huge blow out after I told him I couldn’t move because this was too stressful. Help!
Robb: “What is the biggest unknown?”
Me: “Whether work will let me relocate.”
Robb: “Right, young padawan. So, you have to ask them the question.”
Me: “They will never say yes.”
Robb: “How do you know that?”
The trouble is I didn’t.
What’s even more interesting is why I didn’t think to ask the question in the first place.
I’m not a wallflower. I’ve always been bold. I’ve never hesitated to ask for what I wanted in the past. At age 23 when I had only one year into my job at ExxonMobil I asked for a transfer to London and I got it. No one could believe it. Three years ago I marched into my manager’s office and asked for a sabbatical to become a yoga teacher and climb Kilimanjaro, and I got it. I look back on both of those experiences as the most pivotal and interesting in my life. Yes, the asking was risky but the reward was huge.
You don’t ask, you don’t get. That much I know. What was so different about this situation?
I thought about it and then I realized, nothing. Absolutely nothing. Except my confidence. I didn’t believe I was worth it. I had changed career a year and a half ago by moving from risk management to leadership development; the career transition had been extremely difficult at times and my confidence had been knocked along the way.
Sound familiar? What life changes have thrown you for a loop?
I hadn’t realized just how low my confidence had gotten until this light bulb went off. Even if I did ask, I was also worried sick about what I would do with myself if the answer was no. I had actually written down in a spreadsheet a list of fears and had even sorted them by “fear type” (I used to be an auditor early in my career, old habits die hard…), so I started to rattle them off to Robb: it included things such as if I move without a job I’ll end up bored, be completely dependent on my husband for income, our marriage will suffer, I don’t know enough to work with Deborah and start a business, I’ll let her down…it went on and on…
Robb: “Ok, so you’ve mentioned the fears. Where are the opportunities? Have you even considered that it might work?”
Robb: “Do you realize what you’re doing? You’re feeding your fears. Reinforce your dreams, not your fears.”
Damn, he’s good. It was at that point I realized the mind gremlins had gotten a hold of me.
After our chat, I set a meeting up with my boss to talk about flexible working. To make a long story short, as often happens in life, it was a complete non-event.
The only drama in the situation was in my head.
Not only was he completely approachable about the entire concept, here’s the kicker, my company (a traditional oil and gas major) just put out a new policy on it! The policy reads like a dream and advocates the use of flexible working as much as possible given the strong business case. It’s better for morale, it’s better for productivity, the list goes on and on. My manager has asked me to put together a flexible proposal which I am now currently working on.
And to think, I wasn’t even going to ask the question...
Like I said before, everyone needs a Robb in their life.
So here is what I want to know, what questions are you not asking because you think you’re not worth it?
What do you REALLY know about your companies stance on agile working? What do you really know about the things you are creating in your head? It may be worth taking a look…