By Grant Schwalbe
We’ve all been there at one point or another. We’ve had our idea shot down, we’ve been moved to a station or a shift we didn’t like, or we’ve been labeled as something we aren’t. If you haven’t been there yet…just wait you will.
What are you going to do about it? Are you going to be a pushover and take it? Are you going to rebel? Are you going to mope about it for the next 15 years and ruin your career? Or are you going to move on and focus on something else, like being great?
We discussed this in a group at the firehouse the other day. I was with a group of front line officer and we were talking about what we do when one of our guys gets in this bad place. One answer was “I will give them 5 minutes to be upset and then it’s time to move on.” Is this realistic? I know I want more than 5 minutes if I’m the one that is upset.
On another occasion (outside of the fire service) I heard a wife say to her husband “How long are you going to be upset about this? Let me know because I will come back then.” That phrase, while harsh, stuck with me.
The truth is we can be upset for however long we’d like, but what really changes in the time between initially being upset and the move on point? I believe most of the time the only thing that has really changed is that we let go and chose to move on. So the question becomes “How do we learn to move on quickly and not let disappointment or anger ruin our spirit?”
I think there are 3 things we need to look at:
- Your motivation
- Your follow-through
- Your circle of influence
What motivates you as a firefighter? Is it a paycheck and a nice schedule? Is it the desire to be with a fun crew? Do you prefer to be left alone at work to do your own thing? Do you want to be good at the job and make a difference? Do you want to share the trade of firefighting with others? Do you want your department to be better, more progressive and more efficient?
If you look at the incident that triggered your anger and your motivation leading up to that, did you get off your original path? Sometimes this is the case. Occasionally all of us are motivated by selfish reasons. Often it’s at time like this that we don’t get our way because it’s not what’s best for the organization. Other times you may just be misunderstood. Your motivation is true but others might feel threatened by what you do and try to tear you down. Make sure you come from a humble position and desire to get better in order to better serve the organization, the citizens and the fire service.
How was your follow through? We all have great ideas to fix the world’s problems. Did you give your ideas and solutions to someone else and expect them to do all the work? Or did you give an honest effort and follow up your solution with a finished “turn-key” option? I heard that on average every person has six “million-dollar” ideas in their lifetime. It’s those that follow-through that turn out the millionaires.
Another area that may be to blame is the “Circle of Influence”. This is the area, people and decisions that you actually have control of. We often overestimate our “Circle of Influence”. If you are a firefighter it may only be yourself (and to a limited degree your crew.) If you are a Lieutenant your circle is larger and includes your crew and maybe others at your station. If you are the Chief you have yet a large circle.
A large majority of the time when I have gotten upset, I later realize that I am outside of my “Circle of Influence”. It may be a suggestion for an SOG changes, a recommendation for a large equipment purchase or a change to the deployment of personnel. All of which is decided at a higher level than I am at. This can be difficult to comprehend, especially if your department has committees and routinely takes input from those on the streets. Often times those outside of our circle have different priorities or see a different (sometimes bigger picture) than we do at the time. Ultimately when the decision is outside of your circle and you may need to redirect your energy into that which you do have control over.
So now that you are closer to understanding your source of frustration, what are you going to do about it? You need to do what you want others around you to do… move on. We need to minimize our upset time and minimize how we disrupt others with our attitude. We all want to fix things. It’s in our nature. The best answer that I have is to focus on what you can control, let go what you cannot control, get back to having fun and spend time improving yourself and your crew.
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church….a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”― Charles R. Swindoll
GRANT SCHWALBE is a 25-year veteran of the fire service and a lieutenant/paramedic on Engine 43 for Estero (FL) Fire Rescue. He is an instructor for When Things Go Bad, Inc. and the Fort Myers Fire Academy, and a hands-on instructor at FDIC International.
Originally ran on the Fire Engineering community site in 2014.