I can’t get this question out of my head. And I’m grateful.
Last week, I got mad. This is not unusual. I feel my emotions deeply, and as I am learning to be more authentic and admit to myself what I am feeling, I am surprised at how often I feel anger.
I talked with a friend and told him about the situation. I asked for a sanity check. Was my anger appropriate? Or was I overreacting?
He smiled as he told me, “I think that is the appropriate reaction for what happened. But is it serving you? I don’t think it is. So you probably are overreacting.”
I chuckled ruefully, and changed very little. At least in the moment.
But that question continued to run on loop through my mind.
“Is it serving you?”
I chatted with the same friend again this week and told him how affected I had been by what he said. He was glad.
We talked about why that question is so powerful. It strips away all the shoulds. It removes all righteousness. It eliminates expectations.
We often get stuck on whether we are “right”. And when we are, we easily get annoyed when the situation doesn’t work out like we hope. At least, that is the case for me.
If I remove that consideration, and instead focus on the results of my actions—the outcome—I can achieve more and avoid emotional rollercoasters.
This reminds me of a principle from Extreme Ownership:
The only meaningful measure for a leader is whether the team succeeds or fails. For all the definitions, descriptions, and characterizations of leaders, there are only two that matter: effective and ineffective. Effective leaders lead successful teams that accomplish their mission and win. Ineffective leaders do not.
Usually, I need to avoid binary options. My OCD leads my brain to naturally think in black-and-white, and I have to fight against that.
But in this case, such a simple evaluation rubric helps.
Is what I’m doing working?
If not, change.
It’s that easy.
Or better said, it’s that straightforward.
Change is never easy. Especially when my brain is screaming at me that I am “right”.
This simple question has already helped me step out of the tar pit of toxic justification. I sincerely hope I can remember it and avoid the next one completely.
With any luck, so can you.
Is it serving you?