This past Thursday we began a new Leadershift course with 29 students scattered across the country. As Mike opened the first lesson, he asked a potent question:
“What would you do if you knew you would not fail?”
This isn’t an unheard-of question. In fact, maybe you’ve been asked it before. But have you ever truly thought about your answer? Our students gave some inspiring responses as they contemplated this question:
“Professional music producer.”
“I’d open my own shop.”
“Professional rally car driver.”
“I’d start a business.”
And of course, we got the clever answer of “I’d buy a Powerball ticket.” I would too if I knew I wouldn’t fail.
This wasn’t a conversation to convince our students they were in the wrong profession; rather, it was to get the wheels turning in each student’s head to realize that there was more drive, desire, and determination within each of them than they may have realized. It was a question to spark the conversation of intentionality.
See, growth isn’t automatic. It won’t just happen to you. Physical growth, sure. But personal growth? It’s an unnatural process that requires intention. It requires a long-term commitment to grow. As Mike says, “There is no way to continue growing without taking on the persona of a lifelong grower.” Here at Leadershift, we recognize that great leadership cannot happen without growth, and growth cannot happen without intention. You can’t depend on past experiences to help you grow. Your past will only get you so far.
So, what are some growth activities that can help you identify growth both in yourself and in those around you? Our students had some great insight:
“To simply put into play what your motives are and what your future actions are. You have to start somewhere. The only way to the top is to start at the bottom.”
“A change in attitude.”
“Putting myself in uncomfortable situations that require a level of courage.”
“Reflecting on the discomfort. Asking others to debrief with you.”
The list goes on, and we could easily take time to dissect each of these answers, but the one that stood out to me was the call to discomfort. Mike words it this way, “Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.”
It’s okay if a part of your soul just shriveled up a little. No one likes to surrender their security. Vulnerability and uncertainty are not pleasant, but they are often necessary. As one of our students on the 12:30pm call stated, “You’ll never win if you’re scared to lose.” As a woman who is prone to fear, this struck a chord in me. I’m never going to succeed if I allow the fears in my mind hold me back from the opportunities ahead.
Conquering all your fears isn’t the answer. And that just isn’t realistic. What is realistic is looking at your fear, acknowledging that you’re scared, and doing it afraid, anyway- whatever “it” might be for you. You don’t have to conquer your fear, but you also can’t let it stop you. In fact, I’d argue that greater growth occurs when someone pushes through and does something they are fearful of, than when someone else does the same thing and fear is not a factor for them.
When I personally answered the question at the beginning of the lesson, “What would I do if I knew I would not fail?”, my answer was that I would write a book and start a non-profit. Friends, I’ve been dreaming of these two things for quite a long time. It’s probably the fear of inadequacy that holds me back from writing a book. I have so many things I want to write about, but a voice in my head keeps telling me to wait because, “I’m not done growing yet and there might be other things I need to learn before I’m ready to write.” As I type this out, I realize that this is a lousy excuse, because the fact of the matter is, I never plan to stop growing. I am a lifelong learner, and if I’m using this as my excuse, I will never write a book.
In the first Leadershift lesson, Mike discussed eight different misconceptions that are a hinderance to growth. I could create a whole blog post about these eight misconceptions, and perhaps I will, but today I am going to hone in on the two that were way too relatable to me: the inspiration gap and the perfection gap. This is the, “we are waiting on a feeling to move us to action” excuse, and the “I have to find the best way to start” excuse. There are a lot of things in my life that I have begun, but when I began losing the inspiration and motivation, I stopped. I often believe the lie that if I’m not 1000% inspired and excited about something all of the time, it’s not right for me. (My husband is very thankful that mindset doesn’t carry over into our marriage.) In the same way, if I am not all geared up for something, if I’m lacking the creative energy I need to begin a project, I won’t even begin. Like with this book I’ve been saying I’m going to write for the past almost 4 years, I can’t wait for motivation to strike me like lightening, and it isn’t something that will come if I just surround myself with enough cheerleaders. Outward encouragement can be helpful, but I have to find that inward spur.
I think what this all boils down to is this: There will always be excuses to not do something. It isn’t difficult to find a reason to post-pone what’s hard and uncomfortable. Growth requires identifying the excuses, debunking them, and then charging ahead- despite fear, despite the feeling of inadequacy or being ill-prepared, and despite the temporary lack of security you may experience.
This won’t happen without intentionality. Make the intentional choices today to expand your capacity, broaden your perspective, and influence others. Look at the experiences that have led you to this point in your life and evaluate them. Everyone has experiences, but you will find that it is evaluated experience that is the best teacher.
What direction do you want to go?
How far do you want to go?
Only you can answer those questions, and maybe your answers will seem daunting. Do it afraid anyway.
So here’s to growth. Our growth.