Recently, I had the pleasure and honor of participating on a panel as part of a middle manager career development academy. The role of the panel was to answer any and all questions from the participants; and questions centered around career paths, life choices, impacting events, and so on. There were three of us on the panel, each coming to our current position through very different career paths and each being in much different stages in our careers. This is my second time participating in such a group conversation for an academy class, and it is always a great experience…and a thought provoking one.
What continues to strike me as life and career questions get asked and answered, is that two things remain constant for all of us, no matter what we do or how our persona is evolving: “Life is” and “people are.” Sounds trite, right? A bit cryptic and overly simplistic, maybe? Perhaps, but for me they remain inescapable constants, things completely outside our control, with which all of us must deal from birth to death.
If we are alive, life happens to us and around us, and only stops at death. Life is not necessarily even keeled, predictable, or fair, and generally remains outside of our control as individuals. Therefore, we have to cope with it, because it is the very vehicle on which our own being must depend, and which keeps us moving forward and experiencing ourselves. It is….Life. To not cope, to rail against it, is to create unresolvable angst and pain, which leads inevitably to death.
People are all around us and make up a large part of our environments and our lives. Some people are good, others bad. Some help us grow and some scare us and hurt us. Some love us and others don’t. Some make no impact at all. Some we know as part of our lives and many, many others we don’t. People are inescapable because even if you found your own deserted part of earth with no other people, someone somewhere is doing something to affect your environment – good or bad. And, of course, those of us in public service have made a choice to be involved with and to serve people as a chosen part of our own ethos.
So, what’s the point of all this? Many of the group questions to the panel came down to how do you respond when this life action happens or that person creates an obstacle or opportunity? The questions and the answers constantly underscored my firm belief that we need to come to terms with both of the above mentioned uncontrollable constants and move on with our own lives. Accepting those constants, we need to decide what kind of human being we will be and how we will raise our families and contribute (or not) to the world. We make choices about things we can control and we develop the very best skills and perspectives we can to meet life head on, open our lives to the good people, and protect ourselves and loved ones from the others. We learn all we can about alternatives and options so we can make informed choices when life and people hand us an opportunity or throw us an obstacle.
Bottomline: Lamenting the last unexpected event life has thrown our way or wallowing in anger when people are rude, hurtful, or just plain stupid leads us nowhere. Accept the constants, prepare ourselves for the opportunities, and figure out through our own choices and actions how we live the life we want with the people we love. Leave the world, if not a better place, at least unharmed by our short time here. It is so simple…and yet so complicated.