I had a humiliating experience on Election Day. I was soundly rejected. Even though I saw it coming, and prepared myself for the sting, it stung.
When I pulled together a bag of clothes that morning to donate to the Hurricane Sandy relief effort, I found myself making a second, separate, special pile to take to a consignment shop. Correction: no piles were created in this process. I lovingly laundered and rehung these "too good to just give away" items, and carefully placed them in my car's trunk.
I worked against my habit of reliving the memories each garment evoked. "Bye bye," I said to the blue and black striped sweater set I wore when I facilitated my very first teambuilding event as an independent contractor. To the 35th high-school reunion sweater, with an edgy, artsy, asymmetrical gold-zippered collar, "hasta la vista, baby." And those white jeans, worn once, to a music festival in Vermont where my husband had been invited to play guitar..."happy trails to you!" Each item was timeless in style, and in excellent condition. No snags, no spots, and they still fit, thank you very much. A case could be made to keep them, and yet, I was severing the emotional connection. I was proud.
As I drove, I gave myself a little lecturette. "Lynnie, just remember that these clothes are special to you, but not to these resale shop girls. It is possible that they may not accept a few of your beautiful things. Don't get offended. You kind of went crazy fifteen years ago, when you schlepped all those dresses to that snotty little consignment shop in Houston and they only took three items. You're not the First Lady donating her ball gowns. Be sweet, my sweet. Detach, detach from the outcome."
In less time than it took to fill out my address on a registration form, the pierced, impossibly petite teenager behind the counter had assessed and rejected my offerings. Not one or two, mind you--but every, e-v-e-r-y single item. Not one was worthy of hanging on the racks of this establishment. Detach, I thought, detach, but of course I had to know why. As she explained her reasoning, I asked if I could just donate them. "Sure, you can leave them," she said, avoiding my eye contact. "No, I'm taking them back," I retorted, suddenly ashamed, then incensed. I was aflame with a new mission: I would find a shop worthy of my treasures. I marched out, arms loaded, and as I struggled to open the trunk, another wave of shame hit. I realized I had left the donation bag of clothes at home.
Let's pause for the coachable moment. For some of us reflective types, the trip from thinking to doing is a million miles, with plenty of detours. When such a coachee moves from simply having a goal to acting on it, they have lofty, often unspoken expectations attached. If their initial action does not produce the intended fruit, it is easy for them to get distracted or disconnected from the goal completely.
When a coachee makes a bold move, takes a risk, or tries something new, chances are 50/50 that they will be met with instant success. By asking the question "How is what's happening different from what you expected to happen?," you make space for them to voice the frustration they feel when those first steps aren't slam/dunky. We often delay action because we don't want to be disappointed. Talking through the disappointment can help a coachee reconnect to their goal more quickly.
In my silly little story, I expected that my beloved old duds would be received with appreciation and respect. I expected to feel good about finally letting them go. I expected to walk out of there motivated to return with more. Those expectations were not met, and I lost sight of my goal. What was my goal, my original goal? Was it to make a quick $50 from selling old clothes? No. Was it to get approval from a consignment clerk? No. Was it to weed out my closet to make room for new purchases? No. My original goal was to donate clothing to a worthy cause. After a little pouting and another coaching session with myself, I drove my memories to Matthew 25 Ministries. My expectation, my hope, is that my "too good to just give away" clothes will soon be spotted on the Staten Island Ferry, enjoying a whole new chapter with a woman doing the same.
And, yes, in case you are wondering...I do think my attachment to my clothes is probably more of a therapy issue than a coachable one!