Monday, June 27, 2011

Renew Your Vows

Complacency leads to crisis. Crisis leads to clarity.

I've come face-to-face, once again, with crisis arising from complacency. Like a marriage taken for granted, small things become big when overlooked. False comfort is a relationship-destroyer. One day your spouse asks for a divorce. Blindsided in the moment, in retrospect it becomes clear: I should have seen it coming.

Human nature, I suppose. Although our situation may not be ideal, the passion is gone, and we're just "making the motions," we take comfort in the familiar. We get lulled into a false sense of security. But in doing so, the thing that gives us comfort is slowly slipping away and we don't see it until the crisis hits.

A colleague of mine is facing the potential loss of an executive position. In relating some soul-searching on the subject, her conversation could easily have been substituted for the marriage scenario I just described.

After many years, her "heart wasn't in it" like it used to be. Yet, she was completely blindsided and hurt by the board's consideration to seek new leadership after many years of what seemed to be a happy relationship.

Complacency leads to crisis. Upon further examination, "checking in" on the relationship along the way may have averted the crisis. That is the clarity that comes from the crisis.

What's important about my colleague's story is that it made me do my own soul-searching and I realized I face the same danger. I, too, have a long-term client relationship that I've been coasting along with, not checking in on the health of the relationship, "doing the motions" -- in other words, I've become complacent. The rule applies to me, too -- it is simply a matter of time before the crisis hits. No doubt, if nothing changes, I'm setting myself up to be "blindsided" (but, of course, now I can no longer make that claim).

I related this to a friend of mine, who used to be a Zen monk. He said, "That's why we would renew our vows. That's why every year there was great ritual and ceremony around renewing our vows."

I had never looked at renewing vows as a best practice in business. I always thought it was sweet for a married couple that had been together for many years, but it wasn't until now that I got it.

I have written posts about "Beginner's Mind" and include Suzuki's full quote in my blog's description. This conversation about "renewing vows" brought home to me, once again, how important it is to maintain a beginner's mind in all my affairs.

Imagine the difference if I treat my significant other as though I've met her for the first time every day. Imagine the difference if I treat my long-term clients as though I were working with them for the first time.

When we begin a relationship, all things are new and we want to make a good impression. We're full of excitement and possibility. We're willing to "go the extra mile." We constantly think of creative ideas and are eager to please.

But a relationship can't be new forever. The nature of time is that it makes new things old. While we can't control time, we can control our mind. And a great way to keep things fresh is to renew your vows.