“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m beginning to realize how many of my bad moods are self-inflicted. How many of my moments of anger, frustration, or despair are actually in my control (although they feel totally out of my control). How true it is, in each moment, that I have a choice as to how I respond to a situation or a person – what I choose to do, how I choose to feel, who I choose to be.

In the moment, it feels out of control. In the moment, it feels like my emotions are ruling me. But I have a choice and I have control over the part of my mind with which I can exercise that choice.

Case in point: A few weeks ago my business partner and I were heading for a client’s office, where we were to facilitate a full-day program. We checked the address in our calendar and headed early to Starbucks so we’d have extra time to enjoy our morning coffee. As we sat with the coffee, it started to lightly rain, and as thunderstorms were predicted for the day, we decided to make our way to our client’s office, to be there even earlier than usual. We crossed the street, found the building, headed up to the fourth floor (while wondering why there were only four floors as we were supposedly leading the program in the eighth floor conference room). We got off the elevator, found their office, rang the bell for someone to let us in, and waited. And waited. And waited. And then I checked the reminder email that our client had sent to all the attendees late the night before with the room change, to double-check the room…and realized the address of the office was different. We were in the wrong office!

With a panic we ran to the elevator (as I Hop-Stopped directions to the right address), threw away the rest of our coffees, lugged our suitcases down the broken escalator to the Metro, and made our way to the right office. We got off at the stop, Googled the address again to be certain, and ran (again lugging our suitcases) the five-or-so blocks to the building. We got there only ten minutes later than we would ordinarily have shown up for a program.

My partner and I were flustered and furious (someone had put the wrong address in our calendar to begin with), but then I realized I had a choice, and we were actually lucky. We had set out earlier than we usually do. We had interrupted our leisurely cup of coffee to head to the office building. We had Hop Stop and Google to help us. The two buildings were relatively close to each other. We were on our client’s email from the night before (she told us she added us at the last minute, with a “Why not?”) and therefore had the right address. If we were going to show up at the wrong building, we could not have done it in an easier, more correctable way. And now we would build a process within our company that this type of mistake would never happen again.

I had the choice, and this time I made the choice, to actually be grateful for the craziness of the morning. It was as if we were protected from the worst that could have happened, and taught a lesson at the same time. I made the choice not to cause my own bad day – my own shadow – by standing in my sunshine. I chose to see what was working and what was good, and to enjoy all that the day had to offer. (I still wanted the rest of my coffee though!)

Get out of your own way and get out of your own shadow. Choose sunlight.

Where have you been standing in your own sunshine?
Please leave a comment.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For help in getting out of the shadows, contact Robyn at rmcleod@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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