“It’s not the load the breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.”
— Lena Horn, American jazz singer and civil rights activist
“You’re a “moving away from” kind of person, aren’t you?”
Some years ago, I attended a management development seminar. I cringed when the facilitator said we would explore the next concept through role playing. I wasn’t the only one who cringed. Most rolled their eyes, except for a couple “keeners” in the group who rubbed their hands together gleefully and squealed, “Pick me! Pick me!”
We were seated at a large, boardroom table where we took turns being the manager and trying to resolve a conflict between two different divisions of the company. The facilitator and several of our peers watched and audited our performance.
Following the exercise, the facilitator talked about a concept she called “Moving Away From/Drawn Toward.” She explained that some people are motivated by reward — they are the “Drawn Toward” group. These goal-focused individuals will set their sights on what they want — promotion, raise, or recognition — and move relentlessly toward the achievement of that goal. The “Moving Away From” group is focused on what they don’t want, and typically, that’s conflict or confrontation. She singled me out as a “Moving Away From” person and explained that it’s a fear-based approach to management.
Shackled by low self-esteem, I took it as another “grow a backbone” comment — akin to the type my father used to make when I was a boy. On the ride home, I began to realize the facilitator was right —my entire strategy for coping with work and life had been centred on moving away from, and this realization made me immensely sad.
Now, to be honest, there are times when avoidance is a good strategy. Avoiding might take the form of diplomatically skirting an issue until a better time or withdrawing from a threatening situation. I was aware enough to realize my moving away from strategy was not serving my best interest. But after years of running away, how could I possibly turn around, and start moving in the direction of what I did want in my life?
I started by listing all the things in my life that had me feeling frustrated and fearful — the things I didn’t want or was afraid to face. For you, these items could include a stressful job, your children’s behaviour, regret, guilt, or conflict in your relationships.
Next, I made a list of all the positives. For each situation on my list, I found everything I could think of that was positive in the situation. For example, a stressful job may also bring the benefits of income, creative challenge, or personal growth. It could be a stepping stone to new and better opportunities. At the very least, it could bring you the valuable insight that this isn’t what you want to be doing with your life.
I chose to maintain a positive attitude. This didn’t mean I pasted a smile on my face. It did mean that I worked at feeling grateful for what I already had and for what I believed would come. I shifted my focus from feelings of lack to feelings of gratitude and abundance. I began to believe in myself, in the future, and the possibility of change.
I worked hard to ensure my thoughts, feelings, and behaviour were all in alignment with my goals and not my fears. Over time, I began to think, feel, and act differently.
“I do know this,” wrote Norma Johnston, American best-selling author and motivator. “It’s the things we run from that hurt us the most.”
If you’re a “moving away from” person, you’ve probably spent a lot more time focusing on what you don’t want and have a clear picture of it in your mind. If you’re ever going to live a truly empowered life, you will need to embrace a new approach, as focusing on what you don’t want will simply bring more of it into your life.
Murray Furher is a self-esteem expert.