The Invisible Role Model

When I train in aikido, I rarely get a chance to be with my peers. This is the downside of being an instructor; you spend more of your time teaching than you do training. Compounding my role is the fact that there are only a handful of dojos that study my style of aikido. To study with my peers, I often have to travel outside of the state.

Without having Sensei in the immediate vicinity, or even a more senior instructor close by, I’ve tried to come up with a few approaches to help ensure that I still have some focus on improving my technique, as opposed to simply sustaining it. One method that has worked well I refer to as my invisible role model. This is my take on the “What Would <insert someone’s name here> Do?” mentality. The difference is, I deliberately don’t think of any one person in particular. Instead, I hold in my mind’s eye a picture of the ideal aikido student, and I try to emulate what I think this individual might do in a given situation. Doing this, I have found, helps me set my ego aside and look at a challenge or issue objectively. It certainly doesn’t always give me answers, but it helps me think about the questions.

Over the past few weeks, I have been on leave to spend time with my newborn son. This week is my last week; come Monday, I will be back in the office. I must admit that I have some anxiety over my return. Part of this anxiety stems from my concerns of what happened while I was gone. Did I leave something undone that I should have taken care of? Did I miss something that resulted in causing other people more work? Another part stems from some of the people I work with. I am part of a great team, but there are some folks that are more challenging for me to deal with than others. How am I going to deal with these people when I return? What can I do to build stronger working relationships with these people, or affect change if that’s necessary?

As I’ve thought about these questions, and as I have tried to deal with some of this anxiety, I had a thought. Why have I not tried to apply my invisible role model to my work life? Let’s put an image of the “star” employee in my head. What would this employee do to handle some of these situations? It’s odd, but while I may not know what I would do, I sometimes can figure out what someone else should do. For example, take the question of how I might deal with some of the people I have to work with. With my ego in the equation, it is difficult for me to see how I should handle the situation. With my ego removed (or, let’s be honest, most of my ego removed), the path is much clearer to follow.

As my return to office life looms before me, I can give myself some measure of peace. I may not know exactly what’s in store when I get to my desk on Monday, but I at least have a methodology to help me figure out the right course of action for what might come my way.

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