Who Raised the Bar for You?

high-jump-green-bar-web-370x229“Who raised the bar for you?” I asked.

Robert squirmed a little in his seat.  I couldn’t tell if his expression was a scowl or a pout.  So, I waited.

He sighed, and his answer began in fits and starts. “I don’t know…I guess it was my kids.”

“And how did they do that?” I prompted.

“Well, I feel a lot of pressure to succeed for them, to provide for them all the opportunities in the world and to leave something for them in the end,” he explained.

I nodded.  Not only do I hear that a lot, I’ve said it myself.  Most parents probably have at one point or another.

“Isn’t that a good thing, wanting to be the best parent and role model that you can be for your kids?” I asked.

It was his turn to nod.

I continued, “And how’s that working for you, then?”

“Mostly it does,” he said, “Except when it doesn’t.”

We both laughed.

“You see,” he went on. “Sometimes, no matter how hard I work or how badly I want to close the deal, we just come up short.  Sometimes it’s because of something we did, but usually, the inability to reach agreement on a deal is simply because the client had a change of heart or because of conditions outside of our control.”

“That’s got to be frustrating,” I interjected.

He smiled.  “It is.”

I knew this about Robert.  His personality assessment had shown a clear preference for controlling his environment and a strong prevalence toward independence and self-reliance.  These factors, in particular, drive many successful entrepreneurs, but also may create extreme levels of anxiety and irritation when external conditions force results outside of the individual’s control.  Throw in the additional pressure to excel professionally (or more to the point, financially) for his children, and for Robert, the situation was enough to nearly paralyze him.

It’s important for each of us to recognize and acknowledge those in our lives who “raise the bar” for us.  In many cases, they are some of our key motivations for improving and succeeding.  Let’s just not let our desire to “excel” for others overwhelm our ability to make the right choices, face the right hurdles, and keep moving forward even when our results fall short.

achievement 1In the end, Robert realized that his kids provided not a particular “level” of achievement, but rather an aspirational ideal, a mission per se, from which he could continuously gain motivation to be constantly improving and striving to be a better person.  If results weren’t there, from time to time, that was okay.  He’d focus in on his “purpose” and continue driving forward, controlling those things over which he could and doing his best to let go of the rest.

Will it be a smooth ride for Robert?  Probably not.  Reaching his realization is just step one….but without that step, he couldn’t even attempt to reach step two.  It’s a journey, and it’s ever stretching before him.  But at least he’s focused now…..

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