Over the last few months, my family has had some difficult things happening in our lives. I spent some time with each of my nieces and nephews during the events of our summer. My niece is nine years old and we were hanging out. Our conversation turned to some of the events of the summer and how we were each handling them. Some of her fourth grade angst was about being separated from her mom, dad, and brothers. There was a little bit of anxiety about being away from the others at different times and having to face life on her own. A lot of stuff was happening all at one time and most of us were a bit overwhelmed so it made sense that her little world was being rocked a bit. I have a special nickname for her, for now we will just say “roo.” I made a deal with her that I would get her a necklace with a purple stone (that is a special color for the two of us) and when she was feeling a little nervous she could just hold it and think about her Roo Powers. We talked about how her name is a combination of people in our family that are special to us and we went through each of her initials to show how the foundation of who she is comes from all of these amazing people in her name…and our family. She was special because she gets to carry on the name and the power of ALL of those people – those are roo powers.
She brought up being scared about not with family all of the time. We decided that being scared was really a kind of an emotion. We talked about how emotions can get a little overwhelming and it gets hard to think, and to breathe when we get emotional and nervous.
Hmmmm…. here’s me trying to think about how we are going to approach this little dilemma. I was getting a little nervous about how I could help a nine year old with some big concepts of separation, being anxious, scared, and that it is really ok. We have to feel some of this stuff to help us get through life. These emotions and fears hit us all from time to time. How to approach this existential angst and emotions and pull them back to Roo Powers? We were having milkshakes.
Uncle: What happens when you drink your milkshake too fast?
Roo: You get a brain freeze.
U: Does that hurt?
R: Yeah (the look she gave me was more of the DUH answer than the word)
U: So what do you do then?
R: You stop drinking your milkshake.
U: All of it? You just throw it away?
R: No, you just wait a minute.
U: Oh, so you just wait for the headache to go away? To take a rest?
U: Then do you drink the rest of it a little slower so you don’t get another brain freeze?
R: Yeah you have to slow down.
Wait for it…
So emotions feel like a brain freeze from drinking your milkshake too fast. The milk shake tastes good and you want to finish it, but drinking it too fast didn’t feel so good. That’s what emotions and fear feels like, it is a big brain freeze. So maybe what we should do when we start to feel scared or anxious is just stop for a minute. Wait. Think about our Roo Powers and that we are pretty strong on the inside. I talked to her about just holding her necklace while she waited for the metaphorical brain freeze to go way (I did not use the word metaphorical, by the way). She thought about it for a little bit and decided that she could buy this. This might just work.
Then after the brain freeze goes away we just slow down a little and know that our emotions are just getting in our way. Our mom, dad, and family have always been there for us in the morning, after school, when we get home from our friends’ house. It is ok to miss them. You are supposed to miss them, that’s how we know that we love them and want to be with them. A little bit of missing them helps us realize they are important to us. So that emotion of missing those people (not really an emotion…but just go with me here) helps us know things are normal. She told me it made sense and that she thought she could try all of this. I checked in with her after the next day, and she told me her roo powers were helping and she had a better day.
What’s your Roo?
As leaders, there are times that we are tested and all sorts of emotions and anxiety can sneak up on us. We might have times when the imposter syndrome sneaks in and we are just wondering when “these people will figure out that we don’t really deserve this position.” Ethical dilemmas and times when we are tested to do the right thing, be consistent, and maintain our credibility and consistency will push your roo all over the ROOm.
When we get a bit overwhelmed, we have to stop and wait for a minute. We have to let the brain freeze pass by and allow us to think clearly again. We have to take some deep breaths and step away from the milkshake and get some perspective. Calling on our own internal fortitude is how we can realize our own potential and ability. The ability to make a decision – Perhaps the decision is to change course or to explain our approach with a bit more clarity. But, the ability is there. Emotions, anxiety and fear can get the best of all of us from time to time. Fear can be a good thing, it might cause you to hesitate and rethink your work. It might cause you to re-evaluate your values and how those are helping or hurting your work.
What are your ROO POWERS? Whose name do you carry? What do you do when you get a brain freeze? And finally…what is your favorite milkshake flavor?