Thinking about Leveling Up?
A dear friend is sleeping soundly in my guest room. Last time she was here was about six months ago and only days before she embarked on a six-month trip through Asia armed with only her backpack, a yoga mat, her cell phone, her courage and occasional met ups with friends.
Just days before she left the States, I sat with her as she reorganized her pack in preparation. The mix of emotions, both anxiety and excitement, was palpable. She is a goal oriented, driven person who is most comfortable with a plan of her choosing. She holds several degrees and has expectations around what her life “should” look like. This journey was outside her thinking brain expectation, but felt important for her growth path.
I knew that in that moment I could have said, “Let’s just have some cookies and tea and forget this whole solo travel idea”. To avoid the discomfort, she may have temporarily reconsidered her plan. But my role was simply to hold space for her to feel all she was feeling, invite her to explore any thoughts she was having and help her embrace discomfort as the gateway to self-discovery.
She walked out the door the next morning anxious, tentative and excited. Last night she walked in confident, accomplished, calm and peaceful. Her growth was the direct result of listening to her feelings not her thoughts, choosing to be okay within the discomfort, and embracing uncertainty as adventure!
We talked into the evening about her adventure. Not so much the sights and sounds, but the emotional challenges and successes. The self-discovery. And the losses and gains that come from spending six months connecting with your authentic self. She met up with friends along the way and those times taught her even more about herself. From her new vantage point, she was able to learn about what she wants and she doesn’t want. What feels right and doesn’t feel right. Her new, more self-aware lens helped her become more comfortable with the uncomfortable. From this new perspective she could see more clearly how long-term patterns and behaviors that formerly brought comfort may now be holding her back.
As we talked, I couldn’t help but to reflect on how her exotic experience transfers to our everyday experiences when we choose to level up. Especially in the moments when it is hard to tell the difference between anxiety and excitement, discomfort and adventure. Even in the moments when you wish for the relief of someone, anyone, saying, “I think it is best if you just forget this whole plan”.
Have you experienced this kind of moment?
When you were on the brink of something new? Something you wanted and intended. But the required growth and change felt uncomfortable? When your patterns and behaviors become clear through the mirror of another? And suddenly the urge to quell the discomfort feels almost stronger than the desire to move forward?
How to keep moving forward!
I see this in my coaching work all the time. Most recently it shows up with people who are transitioning from being a “do-er” (a manager of people and tasks) to a leader that inspires, motivates and empowers. It is the ultimate in leveling up.
Most often the questions I hear are:
- Who am I to be doing this?
- How does my value get measured?
- Am I _____enough for this role? (you fill in the blank)
I was reminded of this by a client recently when she was facilitating her first team development session since we began working together. She was practicing her new coaching skills. Her team really showed up and revealed some things she wasn’t expecting. In that moment she felt vulnerable and uncertain of her ability to lead through discomfort. She began to revert to old controlling behaviors. Then she took a breath and shared her uncertainty of how to proceed. And her team took care of her. Trust was built. She felt the connection. And the session progressed in powerful ways she couldn’t have anticipated.
I thought of another client who is exploring the power of the pause. She is playing with becoming comfortable letting go of her need to fill in the gaps or silent space in meetings. And demonstrate her value to herself and her peers. Learning that the silent space is as productive as the talking and ultimately empowers others to contribute and collaborate. A peer recently gave her this feedback, “You seem less burdened now. And that makes everyone more comfortable. Your give less input but when you do, it is so much more valuable”.
Last year a new client came to me eager and anxious to find a new job. Despite a great resume, she wasn’t having any successful interviews. When we dove into the anxiety, we discovered a great deal of grief and resentment about leaving the company she loved. She was leaving to escape the anger she was feeling. The company was going through change, and many of her peers had left. Her sadness and fear was manifesting in anger and resentment toward the new comers. As she learned about herself within the discomfort, she ultimately gained new perspective and has decided to remain. She reaches out from time to time to report how happy she has become with herself within the new environment.
In each of the situations, the person was in the process of leveling up – intentionally choosing to operate at a higher level. But no matter how much we seek change, and no matter how successful we are at getting it, if we don’t participate in reflection throughout the process, our old patterns, behaviors and prospective come right along with us. It is the old adage, “Wherever you go, there you are”.
The shift for these people was that they chose not to white knuckle it alone. They did not try to navigate and differentiate between excitement and anxiety just by gritting their teeth and pushing through. Instead they engaged with the most powerful teacher of all, creating space, empathy for self, self-awareness and reflection. And did it with the support of a non-judgmental partner, a skilled coach.
As a leadership coach and consultant, my most important role is to hold space in discomfort. Someone once said to me, “The benefit of working with you is not that you have stood in the fire, but you are willing to stand in it with me”.
A Coaches Role:
- Honoring your desire to level up. Especially when you can’t.
- Holding space for you to question, feel and explore.
- Be steady as you choose whether or not to stay in the discomfort.
- Teach you tools you can access over and over to self-assess if you are on your right path.
- Support and processing when, like the woman in the last example, you want to cut and run, just to escape discomfort.
- Notice and provide feedback as you expand and grow.
- Facilitate the uncovering of your own questions and exploration of the answers that lead to your own authentic, clear and honest path.
My friend certainly didn’t find all her answers on her trip. I’m certain she even uncovered more questions. But she was able to determine whose questions those really are and she clearly is more skilled at holding her own space to find her own true answers.
Thinking about Leveling Up?
Are you ready to go to the next level without taking a six-month exotic trip? To do it right from where you are today?
You don’t have to white knuckle it!