If you could go back in time and change one personal behavior that affected your relationships with others, what would it be? For me, I wish I’d given more wiggle room to my family, friends and fellow workers.
Over my lifetime, I’ve expected others to grant me all kinds of wiggle room. In fact, if a discerning detective followed me around, her profile sheet would show all the time I’ve frittered away, the ill-advised choices I’ve made and the fruitless efforts I’ve taken to disguise my failures as victories.
Yet, I always expected my children to toe the line and perform great feats with no lapses. When they slacked off, I was all over them with fear-provoking facial frowns and a list of corrective measures to put them back on track.
Likewise, when I thought my friends’ behavior had not measured up to the magnitude of our relationship, I would chastise them through “character-building sarcasm.”
And I saved the most egregious expectations for employees. Gifted people would be doing great work. Passion would be in the air. Jobs would be getting done. Still, I would surmise that someone must have been slacking off, not working to capacity. Would a truly dedicated employee squander his whole lunch break actually eating lunch? Should weekends consist of two full days in a row without accomplishing any work?
I wish I hadn’t wrapped people up so tightly with my expectations, and had given them as much wiggle room as I graciously bestowed upon myself. I could have encouraged my friends to bask in that luxurious spare time that caused them to be late for dinner. When my kids spilled ice cream on their Sunday clothes, I could have made them laugh instead of fret. And, if an employee’s favorite team was playing at home, I could have made him feel guiltless when he called in with a mild case of the flu.
Of course, none of us can go back and alter the past, but the joy of life is we can begin to change our behaviors at any time we choose. So, as of today, I will not wrap people up so tightly. I declare more wiggle room for everyone.
Update, July 27, 2016
This is one success story in favor of journaling and self-reflection. Since I wrote this in March of 2012, I have provided more wiggle room to friends and colleagues. Letting go of self-proclaimed power has allowed greater serenity to enter my daily thoughts and actions. And that’s a good thing.