Seth Godin wrote a recent post called “Possession Aggression.” It’s a short post but basically he says that it’s hard to give something substantial away but it’s even harder to take something away from someone else. The person, department or organization starts building their world around their stuff and it gets incorporated into how they view the world. I actually think that this is where silos start getting erected. Accounting handles those reports, lay off! Human Resources sets up the company picnic, hands off! Thanksgiving is always at Mom’s house, back off!
Why does it become a personal affront when we try to change? Even if the organization, the department or the extended family would be much better off with a change in who handled the stuff. After all, it is just dinner. A report. A picnic. Suddenly paranoia sets in. Didn’t they like the way “we” handled it. Maybe we didn’t serve enough gravy. They didn’t like the way the report looked. The picnic was boring. Turn off your dictator and get off the paranoia train; easier said than done. We all just want to keep our stuff and for everyone else to keep their paws off.
So here are some steps to letting go of our stuff:
1. Detach. Take a step back. Take a few slow deep breaths. And detach. Get some perspective on the situation. Sometimes our emotions go on overload and we can’t seem to get off the paranoia train. Get off at the next station. Give yourself some space and silence. When someone has just absconded with your favorite project, decided they would take over the retirement party or delegated making the apple pies to your cousin (even though everyone knows your apple pies are the best); it’s important to take a step back and detach.
2. Reframe. Once your heart rate has returned to normal and you can gain a little clarity, reframe the issue. Stand in their shoes. Especially the cousin who may have never made pies before. Did he ask to make the pies? Is this a stretch goal for him? Did he just finish a baking school course and wants to test out his skills? We can get caught up in being the victim and lose our perspective. Put on a different pair of glasses and reframe.
3. Awfulizing. I just learned this word from Michael Segovia who is a tremendous Myers-Briggs facilitator for CPP. I can fall victim to awfulizing. I can turn my stubbed toe into an amputation in the blink of an eye. So if my boss’ door is closed all morning, I’ve gone to the mail room to get a box for all my personal effects because I must be getting fired today. Try to stay focused on the facts. My boss’ door is closed. Stop. There are millions of doors that are closed. Chill. Out.
4. Check in. Check in with whomever you believe to be the absconder of your stuff. Find out their perspective. “Hey Suzie, I just found out you’re responsible for Joe’s retirement party. Let me know if you need any help.” You might find out she didn’t even know. You might find out she’s terrified. You might find out she’s excited by the challenge and would love your input. You won’t know unless you check in.
5. Clutter check. Most of our plates have been too full since…well…graduation. We all hold on tightly to our stuff. It’s time to check the clutter in our life. So many of us feel that our value is measured by the amount of balls we can juggle in the air at once. If we are in a circus, that is true. In life, we are not. Take an inventory of what is important and on track with your values. Let the rest go. Dump the stuff that is cluttering your mind and life. And, most importantly, don’t take on new stuff that doesn’t align with your values. So if there is a new project that someone “volentold” you for, that isn’t an absolute yes…it’s a no. Stay away from new stuff that isn’t your passion. And you won’t be inadvertently taking someone else’s stuff.
6. Examine fear. When you do the clutter check there is likely to be fear that bubbles up…rather grips you. If you let go, how will they do it without me. Everyone is so dependent on you, that they can’t possibly do it on their own. I can remember leaving one HR job for another some 15 years ago. I felt sure the place would fall apart without me. Employees wouldn’t get paid. Benefits would fall through the cracks. I would let people down. They were fine. We all survived. The bad news is that we are dispensable. The good news is that we are dispensable. Let go of the fear.
Possession is 9/10th’s of the law. Perhaps this why we guard our stuff with such fervor. It’s amazing how it can weigh us all down; whether literally with physical possessions or figuratively with obligations on our time. It might be time to cull out the stuff that is holding you back.