I was stuck. I didn’t know what I should do. On one hand, there seemed a clear course of action that I should take. I have always considered myself an advocate, and there was certainly an issue on the table that was worth fighting for. Yet, on the other hand, there was something that didn’t feel right about this. I had this nagging feeling that I might be doing more harm than good, and that perhaps there was another way of tackling this problem that might yield more effective results.
Or was that a cop-out? Was I just rationalizing so that I could avoid a struggle? After all, how many worthwhile causes were won without some personal sacrifice on the part of those fighting for the cause? Was I just being a wimp?
But at the same time, I’ve seen people completely ignored and written off as crazy when they take on a battle only to have someone else come along and attack the same problem with a grace and skill that wins people over and achieves the desired outcome.
What to do?
I’m fortunate to have a very smart friend with whom I was sharing my woes who, instead of telling me what to do, asked me a question.
“What would a leader do in this situation?”
I didn’t even have to pause to answer this question. My choice became crystal-clear. And I haven’t had a moment of doubt since.
The problem was, I’d become hung up on a label that limited me. Now, it’s not that being an advocate is a bad thing. In fact, it’s still something I strive hard to be. But when I got stuck, it was like being hit by a lightning bolt to try on another label that describes another characteristic that is part of the person I want to be.
This experience has made me think about how I might be able to support others in finding the answers to their own struggles by connecting them with the kind of person they want to be.
When someone is fighting because he wants to be strong, what would happen if I asked them what a kind person would do in this situation?
When someone is reacting because they want to be heard, what would happen if I asked them how a thoughtful person might respond?
What labels have you seen drive the behaviour of others that, while on one hand are very valid, on the other, are restricting their possibilities?
What labels may be doing this to you?