"They" - mom, the nuns in Catholic school, the baseball coach and mentors at work - were on the money. They told us to steer clear of "bad influences." In proving the existence of mirror neurons researchers confirmed their wisdom. We humans are social animals who are hard-wired to affect each other in just about every way all the time.
So, as we start over again professionally, likely it will be downright necessary to evaluate which humans from the past and present we want to keep in the loop. Which to dump graciously. And who to add on. This is a process. An ongoing one. Professional networks have become turbulent.
Here are some insights about the importance of having the human support system up to date.
Few have the time to identify where we are now and where we could be heading. Therefore, most of those we had traditionally depended on will be dead weight. We have to take an inventory daily of who has made the effort to continue to know us and can be useful to our transition. Also, we have to observe who is stuck in our past.
Without meaning to, they can upset us when we can't waste that the energy. As I was ready to head west to relocate my communications boutique, a college friend sent an extended email that struck me as intrusive and condescending. Among the recommendations was, "Don't bring baggage from Connecticut." That person is toast.
Reach out in new ways. There's that cliche about the insanity of doing things the same way over and over again and expecting different results. We need new kinds of people on our networks. Therefore we have to figure out how to attract them. Usually, since we are in a change mode, we will have to do this in ways which involve exiting our comfort zone. What I have found out, for example, is that my outreach had to be more low key and from a stated position of strength.
Instead of the wild enthusiasm of youth for a brandname in a field, I format the reaching out as a quiet message, peer-to-peer, about how I could be a useful resource. Parallel is more effective that the looking-upward. Professionals are focused on improving their game. We have to make explicit how we can serve that purpose.
Leverage mindfulness. This is growing mindfulness industry which trains how to think and act in the present, not the past or future. Good for them. I hope they make lots of money. But all we have to know to free up our energy to move forward is the basic tactics. They are to get into a relaxed position. Concentrate on breathing in and breathing out, slowly. Some create a mantra, which they silently recite in their heads. Mine have included the zen one, "Clear thinking, don't know," and what my executive coach recommended, "Past - over." The centering and calm which result will attract the right kinds of people.
Lower expectations about other people. Only mom, our dog and a professional counselor might truly get what we are going through. If we expect perfect or even a little understanding from others we will not only be crushed. We will tend to transmit neediness. The bottom line is that we have to take care of our own needs during transition. That requires, of course, high self-awareness about what we do need.
Adversity tends to force us to grow up in the sense that we develop the practice of total self-caring. Otherwise we wouldn't make it through. Yesterday, on the road on the way to Arizona a series of things went wrong. I could have phoned someone on my network for emotional comfort. But that would have sent the wrong signal in our changing relationship. Instead I pulled off the road and did some breathing in, breathing out, with the mantra, "Only a setback."
Yes, starting over is an adventure. But that's probably how we will view it when we have integrated the changes. While we are in the process, we can't indulge in heady spin. Our focus must be in putting that fresh whatever together.