I’ve found 2 use cases for the “how’s it going” question. The first use case involves an asker who is moving at speed. This is just the workplace hallway equivalent of “what’s up?” No response beyond a smile or some equivalent greeting is expected or required.
The more interesting use case is when the asker actually pauses to hear what you have to say. The general expectation is to hear that it is either a good/bad/“crazy” day.
And, this typical answer points to something fascinating about our default setting – our need to label and judge things.
The challenge with labeling days is that we never know if a good day is a good day. A day that seems good may be a disaster a few months later. And, a day that we thought was bad may seem like a blessing in retrospect.
Work relationships function similarly. It is always tempting to start out with a sweeping first impression judgment of your new manager or colleague. But, in truth, we never really know until we’ve been in the trenches with the person. Folks you never thought you’d like may end up shining in tough situations and vice versa.
So, my takeaway over the years has been to delay the labeling process – both with events and people (this is harder) – as it is just a waste of time. My best response to the “how’s it going” question is, thus, to respond with – “It’s going.” I don’t know if it is going good or bad. But, the best I can do is to keep plugging away with my best effort.
In the long run, things have a way of working themselves out. Doing the work will help that process. Labeling decidedly does not.
One of the biggest changes in my attempts to change my own behavior in the past 2 years or so has been in the realm of observing vs. judging.
As an example, let me pick on a current trend – I haven’t been meditating in the last week and a half. I generally do so first thing in the morning but, due to a combination of a cold and a couple of disruptions, I’ve been waking up later than usual. In some ways, the core issue is disruption in the morning routine. The usual instinct would be to ask “judging” questions and attempt to use a firm hand – e.g. force myself to get back to routine tomorrow.
However, the approach I take instead is to just observe. In observing, I find myself asking learning questions, e.g, “why is this happening?”, “what are the consequences of this trend?” and even “how long will this continue?” I am my own guinea pig. :-) In addition to this, I also take note of a weekly count of meditation sessions during my week review time on Saturday.
Over time, I’ve built confidence in the fact that observing coupled with the act of measuring consistently tends to bring the changes I want to bring. And, this happens because I take off the pressure that judgment brings.
An example of this approach has been exercise – over 60 weeks that I have data for in the current system (I have some old data too elsewhere), my average exercise sessions in a week has gradually increased with time. It currently stands at 5.2 which means roughly 4 x 25 min sessions and 1.5 days of walking 10,000 steps at least. This is better than it was last year and the improvement has come from the same observe and measure process. Similarly, my average meditation count for 60 weeks is 1.7. However, if I take a 1 year look at this, we’re at 2.7 (3 is the target).
As with all meaningful life learnings, the guiding principles are consistent. In this case, it is playing the long game and focusing on learning questions versus judging questions.
It is just the applications that are different.