Walking The Line

“I know what got me here, is not going to get me where I want to go.”  Powerful self-awareness in a leader’s reflections recently.

Walking the line between the limits of the past to his left, and the possibilities of the future to his right, this leader wasn’t yet fully convinced that a change was worth what it was going to take to create it.

Successful in his career, established in life personally, does it even make any sense to rattle the cage?

We’ve all been there, looking out into a vision of what else could be possible for our lives, but facing the reality of our day to day with a thud – competing priorities, challenging personalities and deadline pressure.

Seeking comfort in the habits and familiar routine we’ve created.

Why make any kind of change when the status quo, while not necessarily fulfilling, ticks more than it’s fair share of boxes and keeps everyone comfortably at arms-length.

As his coach, it’s not my job to convince him to change, only to help loosen the grip of his protective ego a little.  Long enough for him to explore what he really wants; if he wants to broaden his vision and step onto a bigger path, and all importantly why it would be worth it for him.

Why, when so much effort has gone into setting things up the way they are, would anyone want to take the uncomfortable and unsettling journey into the unknown?

It’s a line we can play on for years, decades. 
Telling ourselves we’ll go there one day.

When our identity, or our success strategy, reaches its limit, what once was exciting and worth the chase, feels much less motivating and often lacking in meaning.  It’s at this time we face a fork in the road.

Who do I want to be?
What do I want my life to be about?
What needs to change?  How do I change?
Is it possible for me?

It begins with a niggle in the back of our mind that we tolerate or drown out for a while.  Inevitably, it gets louder.  We are then faced with upping the dose on how we choose to ignore it – working even harder, partying even harder.  Or we stop running, turn and face ourselves, and choose the wrestle.

Tony Robbins, life coach to the rich and famous, love him or hate him, knows what makes human beings tick.  He explains that we are more motivated away from pain than we are toward pleasure, but many of us aren’t motivated to make a change because we invest so heavily in numbing the pain.

It’s a line we can play on for years, even decades.  Telling ourselves we’ll go there one day.  When there’s time, a pressing need, or when we really have to.  Until then, we’ll keep doing what we’ve always done, living into our predictable future.  Familiar, comfortable, easy to navigate, but quietly unfulfilling.

So, what causes a shift?  What nudges a leader to a point in his or her life where they are willing to ask of themselves, out loud, the big questions?

Save a tragedy, a crisis or illness, the difference between stepping onto the unknown path and continuing to choose the familiar is courage.

  • The courage to stop and feel the impact of continuing to interact in our lives and relationships the same way

  • The courage to listen to the voice within that wants to be more, give more, create more

  • The courage to challenge our limiting beliefs (that feel like truths) about others and how they should be

  • The courage to stop, breathe and listen to how our unconscious thoughts and behaviour impact our lives and the depth of connection and trust we have with others.

Until we allow ourselves to acknowledge and feel the cost of continuing to choose the safe, arms-length, slightly shut-down way of life, we’ll keep making promises to ourselves and continue breaking them.

We’ll lean out and try to control, rather than lean in and learn to meaningfully connect and co-create.

We’ll continue to want other people to change, convincing ourselves they are the problem, while the opportunity of unlocking their potential from walking a mile in their shoes passes us by.

While it takes great drive and initiative, motivation and results focus (to state it very simply) to carve out a successful career, it can leave men and women on the other side of that push asking themselves new and sometimes surprising questions.

The line we walk between continuing to choose the past, and allowing ourselves to dive into our future is a huge risk.  We could walk that line forever, convincing ourselves every day we’ll make a change.

But, as we wake up and face the world each day, we get to choose which side of the line we’ll walk.

The same as yesterday?  The same approach, the same thinking, the same reacting, the same separateness?

Or something new?

A new way of thinking.  A new way of listening.

A new way of driving the kids to school or walking in the door tonight.  A new way of asking what your team needs from you.  A new way of expressing what you need from them.  A new way of helping others get results.

What side of the line will you choose today?