Years ago, driving across Texas from my hometown of Rusk to Austin, I planned to have lunch with my sister, who lives in Waco.
Along the way, I got completely turned around and found myself in a small town called Mart. I was lost, late and feeling frustrated when I stopped at a gas station to call my sister (this was way before cellphones and GPS). Now, I belong to a family so big my husband refers to it as the “the herd.” And like a good herd, we stick together. I knew my sister would be supportive. But I also knew that her first reaction would probably be to laugh and I really couldn’t handle that.
The first words out of my mouth were, “Please don’t laugh, but I am lost in some town called Mart.” She couldn’t help it, she laughed. I cried and hung up.
Yep, very mature, but that is what I did.
Standing there, lost, I had some choices:
- Wait there until the gentleman who ran the small gas station where I had pulled over had the time to show me where I was on the map, where to go and get me on my way.
- Follow the clearly marked signs to Austin and ditch my sister — after all, she had laughed at me and I now felt dumb.
- I could remain lost. Just stand there and vent, rage, or cry.
- Call my sister back.
I called her.
She said she was sorry and that she knew I was upset. Then she told me I was very close and guided me to Waco.
I got lost in my career recently, too.
Not too long ago, I was really trying to up my game as a coach. I was making changes, holding retreats and following my coach’s advice, when, bam! I got lost.
I was losing money and not loving what I was doing, even though my clients were doing great things. It felt just like being in lost Mart again. I was frustrated. All the signs pointed to familiar territory, but I wanted to go a different way and take things to the next level.
Then, just like in that phone booth at that gas station, someone I trusted laughed at my struggle. When I called my coach, she thought she declined the call and put her phone in her pocket. What I heard next was a muffled discussion of my personal life and what she believed was wrong with me and my business in great detail and with much laughter.
I was annoyed and felt dumb all over again. But, just like in Mart, I realized I had choices:
- Stay lost and hurt
- Call it quits and go home
- Trust my gut and go my own way
Guess which one I chose. Well, I did indulge in option 1 for a short period of time, but then I got through that and went on to number three. Kind of like how I sat in my car for a few minutes and calmed down before I pointed my car toward Waco.
We all get lost from time to time.
Heck, I’ll probably find myself in some other version of that gas station parking lot again. It happens. The good news is, when you do find yourself in some strange parking lot, there are proven steps you can take to get you motoring on your way again.
- Find your bearings by giving yourself some time to think. Find your GPS—your Gut Positioning System. For some people, that may mean meditation, visualization or deep breaths. Oh, that is so not me! I have to walk it and talk it: I take a walk by myself—no dogs, no kids, no spouse. Then, I talk it out with a trusted friend or coach (I went and found myself a new one), sometimes quite loudly.
- Ask for help. Give up the idea that you have all the answers. This can be much harder than it sounds! But being smart would not have gotten me out of Mart. Someone else’s know-how can really get you out of a tight spot.
- Weed out the negative thoughts and plant something better. Try forgiveness. I forgave myself for getting off track and got back out on my own, training and speaking.
- Adjust your role. I had to allow someone else to guide me. Now, as a coach, I call myself a professional encourager, but sometimes I am the one who needs to ask for encouragement from someone who truly supports me.
- Sometimes you have to walk away from one thing to get someting better. I walked away from my coach the day I overheard her laughing about my situation and I went on to hold the best retreat ever. I found a new level of confidence and then the right coach to support me.
- Decide what is really important to you and make it happen. In Mart, I swallowed my pride and called my sister back because our visit was important. The day after that crossed-wires phone call, I swallowed my fears and went on to serve my deserving clients without the support of a coach whom I had once thought I needed.
After all, Mart is a nice place, but I wouldn’t want to live there.