By now, the snow is melting in Korea. The athletes have gone home and the newscasters are reporting on other events. Like the Olympic flame, a number of stories burned bright during the Peyongchang Olympics, but for me, there’s one report that is still glowing. It’s about how Canadian figure skaters, Tessa and Scott, chose to “skate blind” when they chose to set aside preconceived notions. As a result, they made Olympic history by winning a gold medal in ice dancing at The Olympics in Peyongchang.
In The golden plan of skating blind pays off for Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, Tessa and Scott, in agreement with their support team, blocked out all reports of the marks from their rivals, the French team. They took Kurt Browning‘s advice and decided to control what they could control – their four minutes on the ice. As a result they limited their self-doubts about whether they could beat the French team’s score. Instead, they focused on doing what they had trained for and what they loved. They skated to the best of their abilities, irrespective of what went on before. It was golden advice for the duo.
Preconceived notions and your new career
Are you about to start a new career? Do you feel as if you’re about to step onto a career minefield that is littered with things you’ve heard about the job, management or organization?
Although “Josh” was excited that he was finally called for an interview in his chosen career, he expressed concern about what he had heard about the prospective organization. When I asked him about it, he said, “They say that there’s a high turn-over in this position.” I reminded him that group dynamics change as people move in and out of an organization. People’s experiences can vary based upon how they are. I suggested that he keep and open mind at the interview and not let the stress of “what if?” get to him. By staying open-minded and open-hearted, this job could be a good career fit for him. Well, it’s been approximately five years since we had that conversation. Fortunately, he didn’t let those preconceived notions (driven by the experiences of others), prevent him from accepting a job at an organization at which he now loves working.
You’re often advised to speak with people who work in a company/field in which you’re interested, in order to get a sense of the company values and what it’s like to work there. The image you form is in part, painted by the people you interview. Like a photographer exposing a negative to the light, you begin to develop a picture of the prospective position. But is the picture fully exposed? The facts you’ve gathered may not be accurate. Consider the source: you may be speaking to people who are “againsters” or “Negative Nellies”, or just had an argument with their superior. Perhaps they’ve had a disappointing or frustrating day.
If you are information gathering, it is wise to speak to a number of different people. This information gathering process is not dissimilar to the process you go through when you read online reviews for a resort, a product, or a restaurant. You’ll get rave reviews (are they being paid?), as well as real stinkers (is it just them or did they really have that bad of an experience?). There’s an art to weighing the total and forming making an informed opinion. Sometimes, being willing to wait and see how it all turns out, works, as in Josh’s case.
The gift in not knowing how it’s supposed to be done
There are times when you don’t have preconceived notions about how it’s supposed to be done, you can go on to achieve great things. Like Cliff Young. At age 61, Cliff decided that since he had some time on his hands, he’d enter the 1983 Australian Ultra Marathon. On race day, Cliff showed up in his farming work clothes, ready to run this five-day, 875 kilometre race. To say that he caused quite a stir, is an understatement. He didn’t have a coach, so he was unaware of the racing protocol: run eighteen hours and sleep six hours. Instead, Cliff just kept running in his steady, shuffling manner. Laughter turned to disbelief when he passed his competitors with the “Cliff Young Shuffle.” Not only did he come in first, but he also broke the previous record.
Sometimes, there’s a gift in not knowing how things are supposed to be done. When you don’t know, you do things in a manner that is unique to you. It’s the ultimate in thinking outside of the box.
Preconceived notions and stress
Let’s go back to Josh. Imagine what could have happened if he believed all the negative reports he heard about the organization he was interviewing for. He may have chosen to skip the interview altogether. Another possibility is that he could start mulling over (and over and over) the negative things he heard. Without conscious care to notice how he is thinking and feeling, he could slip into a vortex that leaves him stressed. This could impact how he does at the interview. It adds more stress to an already stressful situation.
When you are stressed, it’s like looking through the broad end of a funnel; your vision is restricted. Turn the funnel around and what do you see? Suddenly, the world opens up. You’ll be seeing more and doing more thanks to a simple shift in perception. Learn to transform your stress so that you won’t miss out on opportunities and information that is often right in front of you. Gain the wisdom to make more informed decisions that allow you to know when preconceived notions are advantageous and when they’re not.
What you can do
- Focus on what you can be responsible for – your emotions.
- Stay open to possibilities.
- Be willing to experiment. Sometimes not knowing how is beneficial.
- Recognize that different people have different experiences. Group dynamics change.
- Stress affects interpersonal relationships. Transform your stress in order to be at your best. (I can help with a variety of coaching services.)