So the last decade of my life, and in particular the last five, have been beyond educational and jam-packed with growth. Some was growth I wanted and some, not so much. But the end result is I am exactly where I am supposed to be. All of it got me right here.
In 2009 my company went through leadership training. The goal was to make us better leaders and we did an exercise to uncover what was holding us back from being a successful leader. From that I created the following list of where I felt I fell short as a successful leader:
I’d be a successful leader except…
- I’m afraid others will think my ideas/goals are stupid/not worthwhile
- I am doing only safe things. I am sticking with only what I feel I am good at
- I’m not always being honest with myself about what I want
- I’m not challenging myself as much as I could
- I’m playing it safe
Once that list was created, I slowly but surely changed those behaviors in a drastic way. In my job I became exceptionally outspoken and even more direct than I thought possible. That evolution for me was life changing and once I had proven to myself that I didn’t have to be afraid to express and be myself, it began to create pressure in other parts of my life. What I discovered, is that once you become aware you aren’t being authentically you and decide to change that, you really can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Being authentic means that the barriers and blocks that you’ve accepted in your life previously, are no longer acceptable. You can’t be direct and open in one part of your life and then stuff it back in the box in other parts of your life, it just doesn’t work at least not for long. I think that growth was a significant piece of the undoing of my marriage. There were many signs before that made me realize that that union wasn’t going to be forever. It became clear to me that I was not being true to myself in that relationship and that there was really no room for it there. It was only a matter of time before it was really over. But, when it was over and I no longer had to tap down my “me”, it freed up energy I could use elsewhere to bloom and grow. That list of items where I felt like I wasn’t being as successful leader were turned into:
I am a successful human being because…
- I’m not afraid of what others will think of my ideas and I will share them without being afraid of the response
- I take risks and go outside of my comfort zone. I try new things even if I am not instantly good at them.
- I am honest with myself about what I want
- I continuously challenge myself
- I do not play it safe
And I would also add to that list:
- I trust my gut and my brains to come up with a good solution
- I understand that success is not instant and takes time to cultivate and grow and I appreciate the process along the way
- I am as compassionate to myself as I am to others
- I make sure my soul is fed before feeding others
- I thank people who help me whether it be in deed, word or gesture
- I actively listen to others with my ears, eyes, brain and heart
- I communicate with others by not getting caught up in “the story”/drama of a problem, I ask if they want a solution or just an ear
- I can’t understand what it’s like to live in someone else shoes, but I respect others point of view and emotions and always try to find common ground
- I thank others for their attempts, efforts, and successes and let them know how much I value and appreciate their work and energy
- I thank myself for my attempts, efforts, and successes and let myself know how much I value and appreciate my work and energy
Looking back on all of this I was a bit of a zombie in my life. I was waiting, playing it safe and making so many trade-offs mostly for a sense of security and denying my true feeling and passions. I no longer believe in that sense of security and not because I am trying to be a fatalist or feel burnt by experiences in my life. but because I trust my ability to be flexible and to change and because I understand that nothing is permanent. Instead of that being scary, it’s exciting, it means that my life has room for growth, joy, challenges and excitement. I will never be caught off guard by change because I already know it is all always changing.
I encourage you to write-up your own set of rules to live by, to be strong by. Write them in present tense and don’t allow in any excuses. Write it in the strongest of terms. This list doesn’t mean that you live them perfectly everyday, but you try to. It is your own benchmark for behavior and your life. This is a list for you to see how strong you are and remind yourself of your value, outside of the needs and commitments to others. Fortify and bolster yourself up, no one else can do it better than you can.