The first day of the year is a good time to ruminate on life changing.
For over 30 years I went to work as a dentist, and knew with a pretty high degree of certainty what my day would look and feel like. I felt ready and capable to meet pretty well any challenge that I might face. A few months ago I started a new job, and those feelings of security, predictability and comfort flew right out of the window. Every day in my new job as a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island is an adventure; and I say that with equal measures of affection and terror.
For the first few weeks in my new position, I had no idea what I was doing: I’m still not sure most of the time. If I were flying, the seat of my pants would have worn out long ago. The job description – if there is one (I haven’t found it yet) – would make interesting reading. I have always been a big fan of avoiding stagnation, and of introducing new challenges to one’s life, but I always imagined doing it in a gentle, incremental way. Going suddenly from decay to debate; from replacing fillings to resisting filibusters; from poking around premolars to promoting plebiscites is a larger leap than I had in mind.
Your shields drop the moment you let a glimpse of a potential different future into your mind. It seems like a unconsidered off-the-cuff thought sans consequence, but the thought opens you to possibilities that did not exist the moment before the thought existed.
What is incredibly slippery about this moment is the complex, nuanced, and instant mental math performed that precedes the shields-down situation. When you are indirectly asked to lower your shields, you immediately parse, place a value, and aggregate your opinions on the following:
- Am I happy with my job?
- Do I like my manager? My team?
- Is this project I’m working on fulfilling?
- Am I learning?
- Am I respected?
- Am I growing?
- Do I feel fairly compensated?
- Is this company/team going anywhere?
- Do I believe in the vision?
- Do I trust the leaders?
Now, each human has a different prioritized subset of this list that they rank and value differently. Growth is paramount for some, truth for others. Whatever unique blend is important, you use that blend and ask yourself one final question as you consider lowering your shields. What has happened recently or in the past that either supports or detracts from what I value?