This post is part of our Monthly-ish Tips series.

Note to readers: I appreciate your ongoing patience and understanding with the disruption to my weekly Tuesday cadence in the last few months. Signs are promising for a return to more regular publications very soon!

What a rollercoaster. And by that, I’m referring to last week. And last month. And 2020 as a whole. I’ve recently found myself needing a little extra help with managing the ups and downs, so I dug back into my missives from the last seven months and unearthed three reminders that quickly stood out. They’re all in the realm of “personal mastery,” which I’ve long said is the foundation of relationship mastery. I’m sharing them here in case they’re helpful to you, too.

Reminder #1: Gratitude is important, right alongside feeling the crappier emotions.

I’ve honestly been really annoyed lately by others’ (exclusive) declarations of gratitude and silver linings, not because I don’t feel any of that myself, but because it’s only part of the picture for me. This year I have been more present than ever to the phenomenon of “both/and.”  Of late, I feel both hopeful and discouraged, energized and exhausted, purposeful and scattered. At the same time.

In April, I shared Ninja tips for self-management and self-care, and referenced how I was learning about the “ambiguous loss” and “disaster fatigue” that we were all experiencing. (No change there.) Additional perspective arrived in my inbox just last month, when the Ten Percent Happier newsletter featured an article by mindfulness expert Sharon Salzberg, who challenged the purported wisdom that a positive attitude, and focusing our minds on positive thoughts, makes things all feel fine. “It’s not because of our attitude that times like these are uncomfortable or heartbreaking. Some things just hurt,” she wisely says.

So I am reminding myself to regularly “feel all the feels,” as one of my mentors says, and process them accordingly. That means I’m still making my daily gratitude list, but don’t be surprised if you get a “both/and” kind of answer when you ask me how I am.

Reminder #2: Learning is both inspiring and tiring.

Speaking of “both/and” …

My team and I have been high on a learning curve since March, that pivotal time when our tried-and-true approach to providing services for our clients was completely upended by forces 100% outside of our control. The case for change was amplified in May when the longstanding racial inequities in the U.S. came front and center in a way that was new for some (mostly White) people, including me, which compelled me to revisit all our curricula and learning methods to (1) be more inclusive and (2) take the trust conversation to a whole new level.

Basically, any semblance of a “groove” that I was once in with my work for many years has been absent for many months. And while there are thankfully some new grooves forming, they are incomplete and shallow.

A quick Google search reveals countless articles on why we should “never stop learning.” It sounds so inspiring and easy. But then there are the challenges associated with trying new things, along with the sneaky and insidious forces at play that keep us stuck in old patterns (like the ones I wrote about in September that had me avoiding the very insights I had paid someone to offer about creating more inclusive learning programs).

So, I’m also reminding myself that learning, while easy to idealize, requires large doses of grace and good humor.

Reminder #3: It’s OK to be messy while sorting stuff out.

Speaking of grace, one thing I hate about the whole “learning new things” thing is being anything but graceful in the process. There’s little that’s worse for a recovering perfectionist than feeling like a klutz.

In July, I wrote about five trust lessons that I found in my internal churn, one of which was that messy is OK when you’re working through stuff. Messy is not the same as sloppy. Messy simply means there are things I don’t have figured out yet and I am working it out as I go, as responsibly as I can. Messy can build intimacy, quickly and profoundly. Messy creates opportunity for true collaboration. Messy is real.

My final note to self for now, therefore, is to make the most of messy.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).