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We are EACH the Lead Actor in Our Play Called Life..

In my early days of learning about the concept of change management and how to support others in navigating and adopting changes that they're experiencing, a wise leader once shared this insight: "each of us is the LEAD actor in this play that we call our life."

To illustrate this for you, I want you to think about (and narrate in your mind) the first 5 minutes of your day today. It might sound something like this...

"This morning, my alarm didn't go off. I woke up an hour later than I had planned at 7am, which put the entire morning into fast forward mode as I tried to regain some time in my schedule. I jumped out of bed, took a quick shower, grabbed a cup of coffee, said goodbye to my husband and then I darted out the door for work."

Now if you flip to what the husband experienced, here's how the same morning went...

"I went for a run this morning at 5am as usual. The phone rang at 7am - it was my doctor's office calling me back on my test results. They said they were concerned and wanted to do one more test that they would like to schedule ASAP, tomorrow if possible. I made the appointment and then waited for my wife to come downstairs to share the update with her. She must have been running late this morning because by the time she reached the kitchen, she was running around full speed, didn't even seem to see me sitting at the table, grabbed her coffee and then raced out the door as she said that she'd see me later tonight."

Same morning. Both told from the first person (me/I) experience and neither are incorrect; however, they offer two VERY different perspectives on the first hours of the same day.

I share this "lead actor" concept often when coaching others. It especially comes up when we talk about presence and self-awareness in day-to-day life. It illustrates that we all think about and act upon life based on our first-person experience of it. We don't need to change that; however, there is added perspective that we can gain when we reflect on the same event/situation, etc. by looking at it from another person's point of view.

In a corporate world, examining a situation or an upcoming change from a variety of perspectives (the person impacted by the change, their manager, their peers, etc.), provides us with greater clarity around how others might be feeling and what needs to be addressed from a communications standpoint about the changes that are occurring.

In our personal lives, this reflection may provide useful clues and information about why conversations don't go well, what kicked off an argument or misunderstanding or how others around us might be feeling.

I'll share an additional explanation and some words of caution now - while we can reflect and try to understand or figure out the perspectives and reactions of others around us, we will still likely see what happened through our own personal lens. Here's an example:

  • If the wife is running late and gets VERY stressed out or triggered when this happens, she will go into autopilot and might not be very aware of things or people around her in the moment. However, if the husband is more easy going and go with the flow, being a few minutes late will not phase him one bit; he might still feel calm despite running late.

  • Given the above, the husband won't understand why his wife seems to be freaking out and rushing around on her way to work, not to mention he felt completely ignored by her as she rushed out the door.

I've seen many graphics depicting the fact that what we know about other people (even those whom we are close to) is a VERY SMALL piece of who they are and what they are dealing with day to day. And from the bits that we DO know, we make assumptions about them or worse yet, judge them based on the lens that we're viewing them or something they did/said through.

How would our actions and words change if we were to pause for a moment and realize that there's far more that we DON'T know than what we do about a person or situation?

Here are some sample situations that you can reflect on to explore this concept further. As you think about each of these, try to answer the questions with this in mind: the answer is RARELY, if ever, about you, though our minds being the "lead actor" will assume that it is.

  • What MIGHT be causing a friend or family member to be more quiet than usual?

  • Why MIGHT a person be distracted and have accidentally cut you off in traffic?

  • Why MIGHT a person overreact to something that happened or was said to them?

Bottom line: We are not the lead actor in everyone else's plays. With this realization in mind, how does it change YOUR thinking and perceptions about situations in your daily life and career when you open up your perspective to consider how others experienced the exact same day, situation, event, etc.?

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