Living on Purpose: Getting past the guilt
Vail CO, Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” “The other day I heard the song, ‘Cats in the Cradle,’ you know, the Harry Chapin song about how quickly time goes by with your kids. I realized how true it is and I’m feeling sad,” Cynthia said. “I don’t want to have any regrets.”
Cynthia has two elementary school-aged kids. She works part time, serves as the president of the parent teacher organization and does community volunteer work.
“Are you feeling regretful right now?” I asked.
“My guilt started last Thursday when I missed Paul’s 5th grade presentation,” she said. “He’s been studying dinosaurs, one of his favorite subjects. He’s was excited to give the presentation and show his T-Rex model. Paul and I had researched it and practiced his presentation so many times; I probably knew it better than he did.”
“I know how you value your family. It sounds like you had made Paul and his project your top priority,” I added.
“Well I did, until the night of the program,” Cynthia said with guilt in her voice.
“Thursday was the night of Paul’s program and the night I was to introduce the keynote speaker at our annual fundraiser. From the timing of the events, I thought I could easily make it to both. But plans don’t always work out.”
She continued, “The speaker’s flight was delayed. We had to switch the order of the program and my introduction ended up a lot later than I had hoped. I missed Paul’s presentation. I felt awful!”
“It sounds like you still feel awful … and possibly guilty,” I added. “Let’s take a broader view of your parenting. Imagine that you are a bird. Fly up to the top of a tall tree.
From this vantage point, what do you see in regards to Paul’s presentation and your involvement as a parent?”
“From here, I feel badly for missing the presentation. I see Paul is slightly disappointed, but he’s so excited about showing his dinosaur that he forgets I wasn’t there. In fact, by my helping so much with the preparation, part of me was there. He doesn’t realize this; but he knows it in his heart.”
I heard relief in her voice as she described this new perspective.
“Fly higher and describe your mothering from the top of the tallest building,” I suggested.
Cynthia continued, “I see a mother who cares very deeply for her children. Her world pivots around her top priority, her family. She contributes to her community, knowing she is setting an example to her kids of how to give to others.”
“From up here, tell me about your commitment to your children. Do you feel guilt or regret?” I asked.
Cynthia opened her eyes and said, “As a parent, I suppose I’ll always wonder if I could have done more. But from this broader perspective, I realize how vast it really is. I don’t feel guilty or have regrets.”
“When you begin to feel guilty or regretful, how can you remind yourself to look from a broader perspective?”
She thought for a minute.
“I will get a magnet shaped like a model airplane and post it on my refrigerator to remind me to take a broader look,” she responded. “I bet that my parenting isn’t the only place this idea will come in handy.”
“What if you were to look for at least five other areas in your life where a broader viewpoint may be beneficial?” I asked.
“I can already think of a couple of areas where a higher perspective will help,” Cynthia said. “It will be interesting to discover what I’ll see from ‘up there.'”
As she walked out the door, I could tell she was much lighter than when she walked in.
Coaching Challenge: Think of a frustrating situation. If you find yourself caught up in the details and drama, imagine flying up to a treetop, rooftop and from an airplane.
See the entire picture, the landscape around you, etc. What do you see? How does the frustrating situation look from this vantage point? From this perspective, come up with and commit to at least one action step. To create accountability, tell someone close to you the action step(s) you have created to move forward and when you plan to complete it.
Sheri Fisher is a Life Coach who lives in Grand Junction. Her practice, Living On Purpose, focuses on personal and professional coaching. The situations and characters in her column are fictional to maintain client confidentiality. Sheri can be reached at email@example.com or for more information, visit http://www.coachwithsheri.com.
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