Jennifer Abrams -Consultancy that informs, inspires, and empowers VOICE
October 2012

The Second Arrow

In the last few weeks when colleagues ask, "How are you?" the truth coming out of my mouth is "A bit tired." Not exhausted, but not simply weary either. I have assessed myself. It is that I am sapped physically? Mentally? Spiritually? All of the above? Yes, A, B and C. It isn't an upbeat response, but an authentic one.

I know I am not the only one who is feeling a bit drained. Personally, I could chalk it up to my travel schedule or the upcoming election rhetoric or the ebbs and flows of my consulting, but I sense it is more than that. My day-to-day work is to assist others in having hard conversations, to see beyond their generational viewpoints, to work more effectively with others and to move equity initiatives forward. And in all of those contexts, there needs to be growth. And where there is growth, there is resistance. People are anxious when being asked to act in new ways. There is a crossing of the arms. An affront to autonomy. Some are frustrated, some passive-aggressive, and others overtly angry. And it comes across to me. I feel it in my body. The energy in the room can be depleting.

My friend, Becki, tells me I am not as Buddha-like as I could be about the challenges I face. I put in my own second arrow when, in reality, one is enough. The second arrow is added when I mess around with the resistance. I relive it after the events are over. I overthink it as I drive home and as I go to sleep. I 're-wound myself' with the second arrow when I could have just dealt with the first one; which was uncomfortable enough.

Some of us add to our own struggle. We get in our own way.
How do we get out of our own way when it comes to resistance?

I am "rough drafting" it here, (and making up a new verb as I go). Here are some initial thoughts on how I talk myself into removing that 'second arrow.'

  • Becoming radically self-accepting. Not beating myself up for not being 'strong enough' to handle the resistance in the moment. Loving myself where I am and also stretching myself to sit with the energy in front of me. High fiving myself (in my mind) when I do.
  • Knowing in my gut that if the resistance is in connection to an error I made or a situation in which I 'drifted' from the 'correct' behavior, it doesn't make me a bad person in all parts of my life. I made a mistake. One mistake. Globalizing the feeling is non-productive.
  • Depersonalizing the conflict. Stop thinking that all of the conflict is about me. Michael Lewis in his Vanity Fair article about President Obama said the President commented that when others speak poorly of him he knows it isn't really all about him.
  • Being in it, but not of it – going to the balcony – watching the resistance from a tower in my mind. Seeing it is something that I am engaged with at the moment, but not swept by – keeping my distance.
  • Articulating my "seize the moment" comments aloud – having some automaticity with language that allows me to speak up makes me feel more empowered. Knowing I can stand up for myself with statements of strength when things become 'energized.'
  • Remembering to have a growth mindset. Knowing that I am always growing and that "every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one's self-esteem." (Thomas Szasz)

Sometimes it just ain't comfortable. But we don't have to make it worse.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cool Resources

Just some fun stuff I have stumbled upon, been recommended to read and share, and have really appreciated in the past few weeks...

Steven Pressfield is a big, fat wonderful 'nudge' for writers. Pressfield says about himself, "My conception of the artist's role is a combination of reverence for the unknowable nature of "where it all comes from" and a no-nonsense, blue-collar demystification of the process by which this mystery is approached. In other words, a paradox."

The End of Membership as We Know It – Sarah Sladek
Amazon says, "The era when associations could count on members joining and renewing, even with a relatively unchanging menu of membership benefits, has passed. Membership is not dead as author Sarah Sladek so eloquently argues in The End of Membership As We Know It. But you do need to change your thinking and your models to adapt to the way participation is changing as a result of the generational shifts in the workforce, social changes, and the technology-eased access to content and community."

Having just mentioned associations and membership, here is a link to the NCTE Annual Conference in Las Vegas, November 15-18 and the Conference for English Leadership, November 18-20. NCTE is where I 'got my start.'

Sam Chaltain is a DC-based writer and education activist. He works with schools, school districts, and public and private sector companies to help them create healthy, high-functioning learning environments. He has some great ideas on his blog and in his books, finds great resources and shares them on his site and is a good guy. Check out the site.

Upcoming Events

Each month I will share with you information about a few of my upcoming trainings.
If I am going to be in your area, contact me so we can say hello, hopefully in person!

November 1-4
Having Hard Conversations
Being Generationally Savvy
Creating Identity Safe Classrooms
EARCOS Leadership Conference
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

November 8
Having Hard Conversations
Association of California School Administrators
Annual Summit
San Diego, CA

November 13
Having Hard Conversations
Brant Haldiman Norfolk Catholic DSB
Brantford, Ontario, Canada

November 14-16
Co-Anchor, Quest 2012 Conference
The Quest for Increased Student Achievement and Well-Being:  Realizing Equitable, Inclusive and Engaging Schools York DSB
Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada

For additional upcoming events, please visit my Web site.

Until next time,


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© 2012 Jennifer Abrams | Email Jennifer | 4290 Wilkie Way #L, Palo Alto, CA 94306 |  (650) 858-0699