(I’m loving that it’s a New Year, but I assume you’ve done all of your celebrating, so I’m just going to jump right in.)
So, where were we? Ah, right, mixed messages in your brain about who you are.
Let me give you a current example. The question I’ve gotten more than any other question in the past two weeks is this very harmless, very innocent one: How was your holiday?
But every time I get asked this, I have a choice to make: am I really going to answer this question with the thoughts in my head right now, or am I going to tell another version that is more consistent with who I am and who I want to be?
Here is the first answer: “Well, I have two children, ages 1 and 3, who have zero impulse control. My husband and I spent most of our time chasing them around at other people’s houses, shooing them away from things that are really, really shiny and tempting, like ornaments, Christmas lights, and presents. All we wanted to do was sit down for 5 minutes and relax and get to be part of grown-up conversations we could hear happening all around us. We all ate way too much butter and sugar, and my kids got a lot of things they don’t need. So now, there are toys all over our basement, many of which they probably won’t even play with because they will lose half the pieces. All I want to do is recreate the Christmas magic I remember as a kid, but I just wind up frustrated and exhausted and desperate for January 1.”
Here is the second answer: “Really nice! The kids had a great time with their cousins. My husband and I got to spend time with each of our families. We’re so lucky that everyone is healthy, and that we could all get together, eat really good food, and share rituals—like gift-giving—that we enjoy. It was a reminder of how fortunate we are.”
Neither answer is a lie, yet they are completely different. The first comes from the thoughts of the moment (the small picture), and the second comes from the way best-self-Judi thinks of the holidays (thebig picture) The thing about big picture reflections is that it is really, really hard to channel them when you are in the middle of the small picture. There isn’t space to breathe and find the big message when you’re stuck in the small. But if you don’t, you wind up perpetually in the small picture, and all of your messages come from there.
That’s a problem, because the messages that inspire you and motivate your people need to come from the big picture—from the stuff that you know is true. So. . .¬† I know that I am exponentially blessed and lucky to have these amazing, healthy, gorgeous children, who are just little forces of joy. (Focus on the joy, right?) I 100 percent believe this—in the big picture. I love to tell stories, in the big picture. I love challenges, in the big picture. I love clients, in the big picture. I love being healthy, in the big picture. In the small picture, I want to eat cookies, be left alone, sleep, and look at pretty blogs.
It’s sort of like if you ask me how it’s going during the last 15 seconds of a two-minute interval of sprinting. I will only grunt, growl, wheeze, and maybe hit you. Instead, ask me two weeks later, after I’ve shaved 30 seconds off my 5K time. Then, I’ve got a message for you about why intervals are awesome speed-builders.
So, is it a lie?
I started thinking about the way we have to toggle back and forth between our thoughts of the moment and our best self thoughts last week, when I revised the “about” page on my web site. I took on this task in the middle of holiday-week-small-picture-syndrome. So everything I wrote felt ridiculous, fraudulent even. My story felt like a lie. It was so utterly positive and happy, and I was in no way feeling positive or happy. Yet, I know that overall, I am a positive and happy person, with a positive and happy message about telling stories, living your bliss, and being your best self. But if I had waited until I “believed” it again . . . well, my bio page would still not be updated.
I used to think you had to wait for inspiration to write the good stuff. It sounds romantic, doesn’t it? The problem is, it’s crap. You have to create the big picture, right now, with your words. The rest of you will get on board.
We learn a lot from the short-terms struggles, and plenty of people have brilliant brands based on self-deprecation, or poking fun at the little picture (Louis C.K. comes to mind). The little picture is great material—for standup comedy, or for figuring crap out. But your messaging needs to stay big. How else are you going to move your people from their little picture to their big picture?
And as for “authenticity”: It’s just an overused word. Let’s all agree to stop using it. (I’m probably the worst offender, I know.) As long as you show up for the big picture most of the time, you’re not lying. But don’t wait for it to tap you on the shoulder and say, “hey, lighten up!”
Just show up. Put it forward, and show up.
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