May 1, 2004
Honor Your Past
By Feona Sharhran Huff
Lorita Williams of Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, has experienced her share of racism during a 25-year career in corporate America. Yet, as she encountered a manager’s racist behavior, it was her faith as a Christian Scientist that got her through it all. “It helped me to see the situation for what it truly was — an act of ignorance or fear. Instead of responding by getting offended, swearing, getting angry, you rise above it and use it as an opportunity to educate and enlighten,” Williams says.
As a result of how she conducted herself throughout the entire process — discussing the situation with the offender, alerting HR to the problem, and separating the behavior from the person — the manager was removed from his position, and Williams was given a promotion. “What I learned is that it’s a repeatable process, and if done well, it gives you credibility and confidence,” she says. “I continued to push for justice, but I never let it interfere with what I was paid to do.”
By recognizing the value of handling adversity with integrity, Williams honored her past accomplishment — one of six strategies Audra Bohannon and Verna Ford discuss in Illuminating the Spirit: A Guided Journal for Inviting Energy & Change into Your Life (PMG Press; $24). And doing this, says Bohannon, positions you for living the life of your dreams.
Here are some other ways to honor and leverage your past accomplishments:
Take inventory of your accomplishments, and recognize that they are important and real. Think back to all the things you’ve succeeded at, notes Bohannon, like taking on a significant promotion at work, as she did. “I asked, ‘Can I really pull this off?’ But then I told myself that if I could go to school full time and work full time then I could do this.”
Be clear on how you were able to achieve your accomplishments. For Williams, her behavior entailed goal setting. “I kept starting and stopping [undergraduate college] until I realized I had to break it down into components,” she says. First, she went through a 10-month certificate program; next, she went on to earn her associate’s degree; and finally, she was awarded a bachelor’s degree and graduated with honors. Once you have set the goal and accomplished it, reward yourself along the way.
Leverage your past accomplishments for present-day success. “If you ever feel yourself getting stuck, you can say, ‘Let me see what I’ve done similar before,'” says Bohannon. “Take that as a skill and use it to help support what you want to do now.” For example, if you’re laid off from a job, step back and assess your skills. That’s what Williams did when she was laid off from IBM over a year ago. After seeking counsel from a career consulting agency, she realized her strong suit is as a change agent, a person who takes a company out of a slump and makes it grow. Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking for help to recognize what your strengths are.