Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Do you eat your own Dog Food?

The phrase – to ‘eat one’s own dog food’ is said to have started in Microsoft in the late 1980’s when they challenged themselves to internally promote and use their own products to demonstrate confidence in its ability.  Some may say that it’s the refined version of the saying to ‘drink one’s own Champagne’ however; I prefer the former because in my mind, to drink Champagne signals a celebration of a successful outcome when in reality, only a fool would celebrate success that was yet to be proven.

Following on from a post that I wrote back in June of this year entitled: ‘When Change can be as Good as a Rest’; my wife and I have decided to ‘eat our own dog food’ and realise an opportunity by upping sticks and relocating ourselves from the UK to France.  The move will take place in a matter of weeks.  We have rented and booked a variety of different styles of accommodation along the south coast of the country’s Languedoc region up until the end of January 2012 - with the option to extend our stay for as long as we wish for.  We’re fortunate that the UK’s membership of the European Union allows us freedom of movement to relocate to wherever in Europe that takes our fancy.  So, we’ve chosen France for a number of reasons but mostly because of the relaxed lifestyle and attitudes to the importance of ‘the family’, their first-rate healthcare system, the low crime rate (in comparison the UK) and their excellent standards of education.  And in taking advantage of this freedom of movement, our 10-year-old white Boxer dog will also be accompanying us.  She’s even got her own passport – but without the standard passport photograph!

So, as interesting and exciting as all this may be - where’s the relevance to Emotional Intelligence, Leadership or Management?

Well, if you haven’t already guessed it’s to do with the subject of ‘Change’.

We’re effectively enforcing huge change upon ourselves.  We’re seizing an opportunity that we’ve realised and we’re acting upon it.  Why?  Because we know that if we don’t attempt this now then we may at some point down the line live to regret it.  To avoid the ‘what if’s’ in years to come is something that we feel we must do.  If it doesn’t work; then we can enforce change again.  But clearly, we are not walking into this project with our eyes shut.  The realisation is both exciting and scary at the same time.  We’ve rented out our property and have made a contractual commitment to allow another family occupy our home for the next 12-months.  Although nothing is permanent; we can’t just choose to come home as soon as the going gets tough – which it inevitably will from time-to-time.

As we prepare to move through this transitional period, we have to keep focused on the anticipated challenges that change brings. I’ve been looking at work undertaken by John Fisher in relation to his model entitled The Process of Transition’ so that we know what to expect as and when things happen.  Similar to experiences encountered through the grieving process, Fisher takes the view that reaction to personal change occurs as follows:

Anxiety.  Are we anxious?  Well, yes, indeed we are!  Not knowing what the future holds is daunting.  I mentioned earlier that the ‘what if’s’ may play on our minds for eternity if we don’t take this chance – but right now, the ‘what if’s’ are: ‘What if we don’t like it?  Can’t settle?  Aren’t accepted?  Miss home and family members?  What if we soon decide that the adventure has been one huge mistake?’  The ‘what if’s’ are still there.  They’re just a different set of ‘what if’s’.  So anxiety comes into play and will do until (if ever) we make the final decision to relocate permanently or not.      

Happiness.  For happiness I guess you could read anticipation.  It’s exciting!  Our hopes and dreams may be realised and the fact that we are making concerted changes to our lives, hopefully for the better, makes us happy.  There’s obviously something wrong somewhere that has brought about this idea in the first place.  Something strong enough for us to make such a large leap of faith and set about changing our lives that brings hope and the happiness we’re seeking.

Fear.  Like anxiety can sometimes grip you when you’re least expecting it. And that emotion gets stronger each time you achieve one of your objectives to reach your goal.  For example, last week I left my permanent job in order to embark on this adventure.  It was only when I was given a leaving gift and a card signed by my friends at work did I realise how ‘real’ the situation was.  That my imminent departure was not just some desire I’d once shared with my wife whilst watching numerous television programmes about relocating to the sun, but that this was really happening!

Threat.  For threat read worry.  We’re moving into a completely new and alien environment.  Despite the UK’s close geographical proximity to France there is a vast difference in cultures and expectations.  The mindsets are worlds apart.  The threat of not being accepted or almost worse, of having to come back and not be accepted is great – even if it may be a false threat. 

Guilt.  On many levels.  Feeling pangs of guilt that we’re moving away from loved ones.  That we may be betraying our own country by going to another.  Guilt that we’re acting selfishly as adults and that our son who will soon be having his fourth birthday celebrations away from his big sister and Grandparents makes us feel guilty.

Depression.  The loss of self-identity, that we don’t belong no matter how hard we try to integrate.  The feeling that we’ve made the wrong impression.  The depressing notion that we’ll long to turn back time and wish that we had not made the move in the first place.  The list is endless.  What if we never settle?  What if we’re seeking a utopia that doesn’t exist?  How will be feel of this does not work out as planned?

Following these emotions come disillusionment, hostility and denial.  They’re all great feelings to be looking forward to right?  Only happiness seems to be the positive emotion that awaits us – the rest, I’m sure you’ll agree are pretty gloomy. 

After reading this you may well ask: ‘So why do it?’

The reason is because that without taking chances and making changes the predictability of the square root of nothing happening is high.  Life will go on and on and before you know it the opportunities are lost and one of the few things left to keep you company are the ‘what if’s’.  Let’s face it; no one ever achieved anything without taking a risk.

What changes do you want to make to your life? 

More importantly, what changes CAN you make to your life?

Despite all of the above, we live in hope that there will soon come a time when we will be ‘drinking our own Champagne’.  After all, given its origins, what better country to do it in?

Wishing you well in everything that you do and in the changes that you may make.