I’m a StepMom. Or S’Mom as my girls call me and in the almost six years we have been a family they have both taught me and challenged me, in very good ways. Piper is our 12 year old and she just spent about 10 days with us and is now off to camp. After a somewhat challenging outing where she displayed what I call a ‘fun-sucking’ attitude she asked me, “do you ever get mad Tanya?” My husband nearly spit up on himself and I laughed out loud. And of course I get mad, although I don’t get really mad that often anymore. I get ticked off or irritated but not too often will you see me lose my temper, and if I do its usually because I’ve let things pile up or haven’t taken great care of myself which lands in the pool of little patience with a deep end of self pity.
What she doesn’t know is that I have spent a lot of my life mad. And it took some personal work to break that all down and use that fuel for good. But here is what’s really interesting, she wasn’t being disrespectful, she believes I’m always happy. Wow, what a great thing for a kid to perceive about their parent? I have spent considerable time thinking about this over the last few days. I even double checked that perception with my 14 year old niece who confirmed, ‘yes Auntie’, smiling knowingly, ‘you always seem happy.’
Now, of course, we need to temper that with what anyone remembers about any person or anything, but the truth must be that to these young beings I seem pretty joyful pretty much all the time. What an achievement!
The rest of the truth is that I’m not happy or joyful all the time, but I am joyful a lot, more than I have been in a long while. Part of that is the leap I took 368 days ago when I quit my federal pensioned job to work on things and with people I felt passionate about – 371 days ago I wrote my first blog. It has been a whirlwind year, it has been full of awesome.
By December I was no longer having ‘what have I done’ moments or days and by last Friday I had encountered more skill testing questions in one year than I had in the previous five. So, yes Piper sees me as happy, a lot. And I am happy, a lot. I’m happy because I’m being used and I’m being challenged and I am free. I work best with autonomy and freedom, working in a government position doesn’t afford you much of either for lots of good reasons. So what a gift Miss Piper gave me, again. What an absolute compliment. Which ironically, brought me more joy.
If we take this example and apply it to the workplace; what would happen if people perceived you as never getting mad? Would they think you were soft? A push over? Not smart? To qualify this, not giddy or silly, just happy, calm, peaceful, content and pleased with all the things that surround you. What’s the possibility that they want to know a bit more about this so called happiness, so they could understand it and maybe get some of their own? Could it be contagious? Imagine the impact of contented, peaceful, happy people in the workplace? Would it positively affect your productivity? Would it reduce your sick time? Would it increase camaraderie and team work?
Being a leader who doesn’t get mad often may just give you the emotional space to be contagious. It’s not really about being happy all the time, its about being satisfied and fulfilled with where you are, what you are doing, how you are doing it and who you are portraying to those around you. As Joyce Meyer says “are you preaching better than you’re acting?”
What I also told Piper is that I’ve learned that happiness, like anger, is a choice. I can be mad, I can hate, I can carry it around with me or I can get over it and find my next pocket of happy. From my experience, it’s a heavy load, and as I get older, lighter loads are always better.