Meadow, Director of Engineering at a consumer software company, was talking with Victor, Vice President of Engineering at a software-as-a-service company. Despite the apparent disparity in titles, each was responsible for about 500 software engineers and related personnel. And, each enjoyed an afternoon constitutional.
“I used to know how aligned I was, and how to course correct,” Meadow told Victor. “Lately, though, I’m having difficulties with both.”
“That’s tough,” Victor commiserated. “And frustrating, I bet.”
Meadow vigorously nodded her head in agreement.
“A few years ago, I had the same problem,” Victor continued. “Then, I stumbled across a process that solved my problem. Interested in hearing about it?”
“Oh please yes,” Meadow answered with passion.
Calamities are signs something is off
“I was having one of those days,” Victor related. “Everything that could go wrong was. By the time I got to my car, I almost cringed when I pressed the starter. Miraculously, it started right up. Thanking the fates for one thing going right, I backed out of the garage and headed for work.
“Just as I was pulling onto the expressway, though, my gas gauge started chiming. I was in such a rush leaving that I hadn’t noticed it was almost empty. So, I took the next exit, filled up, and got back on. A mile later, the tire pressure alarm started going off. Again, I pulled off, found a filling station, filled the tires with air, and started back to the expressway. That’s when I realized I had left my briefcase at home, with all my notes for the day’s meetings. So, I headed back home and picked it up. Everything went smoothly after that. It seems I had exhausted my supply of troubles,” he finished wryly.
“That sounds horrible,” Meadow said. “I’m glad your day finally started going well.”
“I’ve had bad days before, but nothing like that. It was so extreme that I figured the universe was trying to tell me something. So, when I went for my afternoon walk, I noodled on what the message might be. Eventually, I realized that a signal had preceded each thing that had gone wrong.”
“Everything? Even what went wrong before you got in your car?”
“Everything. Right before I stumbled over my dog’s bone, I had heard him drop it at my feet. When my whites came out of the laundry pale green, I remembered catching a flash of green as I tossed them in on my way to have breakfast. And so on.”
“Green laundry? You really did have a rough day.”
“So, every calamity had been preceded by a signal. Some you heeded, some you didn’t.”
“Exactly. So, I started wondering whether a warning signal maybe preceded each thing that went wrong in my life. That led me to wonder what signals might warn me that my alignment was off.”
Every calamity is presaged by a signal
“How did you make that leap?”
“it occurred to me that each calamity, as you put it, had been caused by me being off somehow. Usually, I fill up my car on my way home, so that I don’t go to work smelling like gasoline. That previous night, though, I’d been so exhausted that I decided to wait until morning.”
“And by the time you got to your car that next morning, all these calamities had you so off balance you didn’t remember.”
“Yeah. I missed that green sock hiding in the whites because I was texting my brother at the same time. I never multitask. But, he had been pinging me so often that I decided to answer him and let him know when I could call him back and answer all his questions.”
“Okay. Something unusual had signaled every mishap. Each of these happened only because you were off your game. Then, when you reflected on all this on your walk, you equated being off your game to being out of alignment?”
“Exactly. They seemed the same to me.”
Meadow reflected on that, then said, “This makes sense to me. If you had been fully in alignment with yourself, you wouldn’t have let yourself get so exhausted that you didn’t want to get gas on the way home, you would have turned the ringer off on your phone so your brother’s pestering wouldn’t interrupt your morning, and so on. So, then, maybe there were earlier signals you missed flagging your earlier moments of misalignment.”
Your particular signals spring from your particular beliefs
“How did you find them? Those earlier signals?”
“I asked myself what my base beliefs are. If I feel misaligned, I must be out of sync with one or more of those.”
“That seems reasonable. If you’re going against your guiding principles, you will feel out of alignment.”
“Then, I asked myself how I knew whether I was in alignment with each belief. What might be triggering that sense of being off? There must be something I was picking up on.”
“Like the gas gauge in your car had been getting closer and closer to empty. Then, when it reached a critical level of empty, it started chiming.”
“Yeah. Just like that. So, that got me started. Then, though, I realized I was framing everything in terms of things being off. So, I decided to flip everything.”
“Instead of measuring how much you are failing, you measure how successful you are being. I like it.”
Measure your alignment by measuring your signals
“I still don’t know how to measure my alignment,” Meadow said. “But, now I have a plan for regaining that ability. First, identify my base beliefs. Then, ask myself how I know whether I’m aligned with each of those. That will give me a set of measures I can use. That should also give me an idea of how to course correct.”
“It may,” Victor agreed. “If it doesn’t, I’ll happily tell you how I found those details for myself.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, and thank you. I’m probably interested in hearing your process even if I find my own process first. I’d ask now, but I want to try it on my own first. Plus, we’re almost made it around the park.”
“Indeed, we have. See you again next week!”
“Absolutely! I’m curious what I’ll have to tell you.”