Make sure to notice the extraordinary, even though it may seem ordinary

What's the big deal about getting low on dog food? Sometimes the extraordinary things are right in front of us, looking ordinary. When managing yourself and others, be sure to recognize and appreciate the triumphs, which can be too easily forgotten.

Grace is getting low on dog food. That might not seem like a very important thing. Well, we all know she has to eat, but you know what I mean. It probably doesn’t seem like a particularly noteworthy topic on a business blog.

This past winter I was going through a rough spot with Grace and her food. The dog chiropractor we were seeing had urged me to think about changing to a more nutritional diet. That set me off on a journey that I never imagined. It was a very frustrating, but extremely educational, interesting, and rewarding, process for me. (Grace probably wouldn’t have called it interesting, but I know her system is much happier now!)

Grace is like “Mikey” — remember, years ago, that little boy in the cereal commercial who “would eat anything.” Turns out even though she likes most any food, not all foods like her. I spent untold hours researching and reading literature on how dog foods were made, what foods were good for dogs, and tried (unsuccessfully) to analyze the issues we encountered. I reached out to friends and experts who knew more than I did on the topic. I explored a lot of food options. First, I tried three brands of high-quality manufactured foods: all made her sick in some way. Then I switched to homemade food, which she loved. But even some of that didn’t settle well with her system or I might still be going through the effort to cook up turkey and carrot muffins for her, despite not really wanting to spend time in the kitchen for my own meal preparation.

You may recall, that at my wit’s end of what to feed Grace, we headed off to a holistic vet who provided much appreciated answers about her food tolerance. That put us on solid ground with healthy food choices and for the past three months, meal time is easy again. I feel good about the quality of food that Grace is eating. Her system is happy. And I don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen preparing it. It was a real accomplishment, as I achieved all the things I wanted when I started with the transition that took three months to work through. It was not an easy path, but we stuck with it without giving in or giving up.

So now that I need to restock her food, I have almost forgotten how much effort it took to get to this point.

During the course of any day, it’s all too common to become only focused on our current issues and problems. We forget what we have already accomplished, what we have achieved, even if those items are seemingly simple. Time helps us forget how arduous and challenging the obstacles were that we faced. This narrow focus on problems impacts our mood, and therefore our ability to be as effective as we can be. Giving too much energy to the negative areas of our life will hinder the amount of happiness we feel. If we’re only thinking of all the problems we have, without appreciating what we have achieved, that’s a drag on our mental state.

This is especially relevant when managing others. Yes, we need to be honest about performance issues and provide accurate feedback when mistakes occur or improvements are warranted. But we also need to be sure that we acknowledge the times when a person has made changes or completed acceptable work. If we are constantly projecting dissatisfaction about someone’s performance, it impacts their ability to move beyond that.

So today, I am appreciating how easy it is for me to go pick up more dog food. That’s because I know how hard it was for me to arrive at a point where it’s such a simple thing to do.

What extraordinary things can you see today, by just taking stock of the ordinary things around you?

P.S. Check out my guest blog post over at Charney Coaching and Consulting; Renee and Michael are awesome people and talented consultants and I was honored they asked me to contribute to their successful blog.

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  1. Laurie Bartolo on April 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    This is a great post Robin and an important reminder for managers who are increasingly under pressure to produce great results every day with fewer resources. It’s also great advice for self-motivation…as busy as people are these days, it’s too easy to look at what we haven’t yet accomplished instead of those things that we already have done. We all seem to want the world around us to slow down, but that is not going to happen, so it’s up to us to take a moment to reflect on our achievements and blessings. Thanks for the reminder! (P.S., I enjoyed your guest post on the other blog!)

    • Robin on April 19, 2012 at 8:33 pm

      Thanks, Laurie! As you know, I always appreciate your HR perspective. I agree with you that recognizing what we’ve done is important for our own self-motivation as well as a good management practice. And thanks for reading my other post!

  2. LeeAnn on April 22, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Hey Robin – great post and reminder! Negative thinking can have such a huge impact on our lives – and exhibits itself in so many ways. I have had a particular messy transaction hanging over my head and, last week, through a series of events, I got out of it in a positive way. This weekend, every time I started to get stressed about my upcoming week, I reminded myself that at least I don’t have to deal with that one particular transaction any more. It helped tremendously with my mood and enjoyment of the weekend. Hugs to you and Grace and so glad that her new food is working well!

    • Robin on April 23, 2012 at 9:14 am

      Ahhh, I love that feeling of having something difficult behind me and it sounds like you handled it with grace. And yes, I am SO glad that the new food is working. Thanks so much. Enjoy your week with that transaction behind you. (And a few people have asked me if Grace now has more food, she does! Stocked up this weekend so off to a good week here, too, ha!)

  3. Lionel Lloyd on April 30, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Sometimes at work I try to emphasize on what people do right instead of harping on the negatives. You are correct, if I only just criticize my workers then they feel they are doing nothing right, and it gives them a low mental state, and that leads to poor productivity.

    • Robin on May 2, 2012 at 8:36 pm

      You have a great sense of how to inspire, Lionel. Often I see managers who feel that giving only feedback about improvement areas will help the person learn. But it becomes too overwhelming when you’re constantly trying to change as oppose to feel good about something that you’ve accomplished. Change is hard and requires lots of patience.

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