By Lori Milner
“If a problem can’t be solved within the frame it was conceived, the solution lies in reframing the problem.” — Brian McGreevy
I started my career at an advertising agency at the age of 21 as an account executive. I was privileged to work on a luxury car brand as part of my first portfolio. A few months into my role, an international client was visiting from Germany and the agency needed to present some work rather urgently one Friday afternoon. My boss was unavailable so I took it upon myself to go through to the client’s office and present to this executive. The following day I get called into my MD’s office and asked me to explain why this client is so furious.
In his view, he felt that his status and stature would require an “equal” level represented from the agency, not a junior. Now with the beauty of hindsight, I can see his point of view and I should have sourced someone senior in the agency to accompany me to the meeting. However, at the tender age of 21, I took this as a huge blow and all kinds of insecurities came up. I created limiting beliefs that I cannot be taken seriously, I am not enough, I made a fool of myself and I shamed the agency. This was always at the back of my mind and often felt intimidated when having to face highly senior people even years after this incident.
Shifting from victim to owner
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow” – Albert Einstein
Many years later, I was reflecting on this episode and decided to reframe the memory and ascribe a different meaning to it in order to let it go. I could see the passion, eagerness and courage of a young adult who wanted to show up for her company. I recognised the boldness to walk into a boardroom and confidently present the work to an international executive. However, the only element I was lacking was experience. I had no idea how company politics was played and that I would offend this client. My intentions were so pure.
Reflecting on the memory now, I smile and I honour those traits. It empowers me in my work today because I still have all those values – courage, passion and the determination to keep showing up and serving. But now – I have the gift of experience to guide me.
Now it’s your turn…
Think back to a moment in your past where just reliving the memory makes you cringe. Something you did in pure ignorance or naiveite but with the best intentions.
The difference between that memory being a lesson of strength or one of shame is the meaning you ascribe it. Consider these questions:
With the experience and knowledge you have now, how can you give it a different meaning?
What can you take away from the experience?
What was the lesson for you?
Without this experience, how would you be different today?
Can you laugh at yourself or acknowledge that you did the best with what you had?
“You can’t move forward if you’re still hanging on” – Sue Fitzmaurice
Life happens for us, not to us. When you can remove the emotion from the memory, it becomes wisdom. Imagine that scene on a movie screen and observe it with complete objectivity. Be an outsider looking in and find the lessons, I would even call them gifts. When you change the meaning of your past, it loses the grip it has over you. Once you can let go, you are free to live in the present and show up to the person you want to be, not who you think you should be.
Here’s to owning your past,