Getting “Too” Acclimated To Your Environment

Thursday, July 18, 2013

As many of you know I moved out to Virginia’s horse and wine country last summer.  I’ve lived in the suburbs and exurbs most of my life but never this far outside of a big city on so much property.  Along with living on so much land comes living with things that, well, live on the land – things like big birds I’ve never seen before roaming through my backyard, big bugs that are unidentifiable, and a long black garter snake that made a home for himself right near our garden.  One year ago, I would never have tolerated one little stinkbug in my house and now, after a year of living out here, having stinkbugs around isn’t such a big deal  – it’s almost impossible to keep things like ladybugs and stinkbugs out!  A snake in the backyard…?  One year ago that would have been UNACCEPTABLE; however, I have begun to expect to see him sunbathing in the grass each day, and am even grateful that he has kept other (still unwelcomed) creatures, like mice and other rodents, out of my house.  I realize how things I once would not have tolerated in my experience have become not only tolerable but the norm.

This got me thinking about the way some of us live and work.  I coach a number of clients who work in highly stressful and intense environments.  Outsiders looking in would think that the way these leaders work and spend their time is crazy.  Even when these leaders step back and look at their lives they, too, think it’s crazy, but they have grown accustomed to it.  In one of these organizations, I’ve been coaching a leader who was fairly new to her role and the company when we began working together.  After a year in the senior leadership role, she became concerned that she was getting too acclimated to the high pace and highly intense nature of the culture.  Things that she saw as intolerable the year before were suddenly not so bad – they were the norm.  That is, until the “norm” started to take a toll on her health. Suddenly she realized that becoming acclimated to the high stress culture was not something she wanted to tolerate any longer.

I think this is something for all of us to think about.  Are there things that we’re becoming acclimated to that really are not in our best interest, but have become “okay” because we’ve gotten used to them?    Clearly my example of growing accustomed to living with all the critters of the country is not as serious as becoming numb to the dangers of working in an environment that is too stressful and begins to impact your health; however, the analogy still stands.  A few weeks ago I was picking strawberries out of my garden and somehow a cicada ended up crawling up the back of my shirt.  I knew it was a cicada (we’ve been overrun with them) so I didn’t even react.  After thinking it through perhaps I should have reacted, because one day the thing crawling up my back may not be a cicada but something else…

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