‘Wear Glasses That Work’: Adjust Your Perspective and Get the Outcome You Desire
Years ago my daughter Sydney, like many teenagers, had her share of struggles with self-esteem. Compounding this struggle was the fact she had lost her hearing at an early age. It often made it difficult for her to communicate and served as fodder for the kind of teasing such challenges incite. I had recently taken up running, and wondered if completing a marathon might be good for her. She seemed to like the idea, so we started training together. Before long, however, she began to struggle. Between the early mornings and constant grind, it ended up being too much for her, and she dropped out. I was disappointed at first, but to be honest, I was also a little relieved that I could focus on my own goal of finishing the marathon in under four hours.
The race came and went. I didn’t make my goal and Sydney continued to have life struggles.
The next year I asked if she’d like to give it another shot. She agreed and we were back at it. Sydney hung in a little longer this time; but eventually, the mornings grew colder, her muscles grew sore, and she quit again. Again, I was disappointed, but I went back to my own training regimen. The race came and went. I didn’t make my goal, and Sydney continued to have struggles.
The following year I paused and reevaluated what was going on. Obviously, my good intentions weren’t working. I carefully thought about my daughter and how truly strong she was. I had seen her overcome barriers related to her hearing loss that I couldn’t imagine taking. She had an almost unbelievable combination of strength and resilience. And if that were true—and I knew it was—the problem didn’t rest with her. I realized that I had never really seen her as being capable of completing the marathon. This belief expressed itself in the way we trained in the previous two attempts. For instance (I’m almost embarrassed to admit it), because she ran slower, I would often run around her so I could focus on my own conditioning. I was actually running around her! I can’t even imagine how discouraging it must have been having someone literally run circles around you every morning during your training. I’m sure Sydney thought she was holding me back, and that made it even easier for her to quit.
When I asked Sydney to run the marathon the third time, I expressed how I absolutely knew she could do it. And this time, I believed it! Therefore, so did she. We started training again, but now I focused completely on her. Sometimes it would materialize as little things, like me carrying the water bottles for both of us so she could concentrate on her form. Or in bigger things, like running slightly behind her so that she pushed her pace. This time Sydney didn’t quit; and that, in and of itself, was a great achievement. I knew there was more: I saw my daughter as someone who had the strength to not only make it to the starting line, but to the finish line as well.
Race day came, and I knew Sydney was going to finish. My only concern at this point was making sure we finished before they took down the balloons and ended all of the hoopla at the finish line. Based on our final training runs, I suspected we would come in around the five- and-a-half-hour mark . . . maybe five hours and twenty minutes if we really pushed it.
The race began and we took off. At about mile sixteen, I actually remember telling Sydney that the race was going by too fast. She looked at me like I was crazy. What sane person running a marathon ever complains of it going by too fast? But that was my feeling, because I was so enjoying watching Sydney accomplish this amazing goal. We crossed the finish line long before the balloons came down with a time of four hours and twenty-three minutes. We were exuberant, and she was on top of the world. It was a moment I will never forget. Crossing the finish line of my first marathon was thrilling, but nothing could compare to being with my daughter in this moment as she crossed her first finish line. And to think it might not have ever happened had I continued to see Sydney through the wrong glasses.
Here’s how the “Wear Glasses That Work” pattern played out for me when it came to my daughter:
- Seeing. I chose to see Sydney as someone with the strength and capability to finish a marathon.
- Thinking. I changed my conditioning strategy from focusing on both of us to focusing on just her.
- Feeling. I had confidence in her and what she could do—confidence I knew she felt.
- Doing. We trained in such a way that we both crossed the finish line together.
Whenever I contemplate this topic, I’m reminded of the words purportedly carved on an Anglican bishop’s tombstone in Westminster Abbey:
WHEN I WAS YOUNG AND FREE AND MY IMAGINATION HAD
NO LIMITS, I DREAMED OF CHANGING THE WORLD.
AS I GREW OLDER AND WISER, I DISCOVERED THE WORLD
WOULD NOT CHANGE, SO I SHORTENED MY SIGHTS
SOMEWHAT AND DECIDED TO CHANGE ONLY MY COUNTRY.
BUT IT, TOO, SEEMED IMMOVABLE.
AS I GREW INTO MY TWILIGHT YEARS, IN ONE LAST
DESPERATE ATTEMPT, I SETTLED FOR CHANGING ONLY MY
FAMILY, THOSE CLOSEST TO ME, BUT ALAS, THEY WOULD
HAVE NONE OF IT.
AND NOW, AS I LIE ON MY DEATHBED, I SUDDENLY REALIZE:
IF I HAD ONLY CHANGED MYSELF FIRST, THEN BY EXAMPLE
I WOULD HAVE CHANGED MY FAMILY.
FROM THEIR INSPIRATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT, I WOULD THEN HAVE
BEEN ABLE TO BETTER MY COUNTRY, AND WHO KNOWS, I
MAY HAVE EVEN CHANGED THE WORLD.
We do a great disservice to ourselves when we wear the limiting lenses that are so often a part of human nature. But the good news is that changing one’s glasses is a choice, and we all have the power to do so.
FROM GET BETTER: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work by Todd Davis. Copyright 2017 by Franklin Covey Co. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster Inc.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Todd Davis, FranklinCovey’s Chief People Officer, has been entertaining and inspiring people throughout the world for more than twenty-five years, with his deep understanding of leadership, employee engagement, and talent management. He has delivered numerous keynote addresses and speeches at top industry conferences and associations, at annual corporate events, and for FranklinCovey clients, many of which are Fortune® 100 and 500 companies. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
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