Over the last few weeks I’ve been engaged in an exercise of cataloguing my life. I’ve been sifting my experiences and creating a chronology. By examining the choices made and actions taken over the course of a lifetime it is possible to root out some of the underlying beliefs and patterns that, unbeknown to us, drive us in the direction of, or away from, our goals.
Its a more in-depth version of an exercise I take people through at my ‘Where Next’ events on 3rd and it pays big dividends. In this blog I am disclosing elements of my own story in ways that I hope will be helpful to you as you navigate through your own business careers.
As I sit here and write this I have complete confidence in myself and my ability to produce whatever outcomes I want from my life. This confidence comes, in part, from mastery of what I do; the result of nearly a decade of work I’ve done with Business owners and directors. But my level of self assuredness is a result of my own personal transformation over the last five years.
But it wasn’t always like this.
In common with many people I spent much of my life fighting an internal battle between my desire to follow my dreams and the internal narrative that continually undermined my self belief.
If you were to leaf through the pages of my story you’d find what appears to be a truly successful and full life. My career took me to the very upper echelons of the corporate world and afforded me opportunities to lead others and hold high levels of influence. In my personal life I spent time immersed in danger sports, travelled extensively, acquired skills and knowledge, and experienced the full spectrum of friendships and relationships. I’ve been very fortunate to have experienced so much success and variety.
But if you want to understand the true experience of an individual you have to see that life from their perspective and not from your own vantage point. The patterns that have been uncovered by the exercise are now obvious to me, but they weren’t at the time.
The periods of my life in which I experienced the highest levels of happiness and wellbeing were always the result of some breakthrough or personal insight that effortlessly allowed me to make changes in my life, even when that change introduced risk or uncertainty to me.
But I can also point you to the chapters where I paid the price of being trapped by a lack of belief in myself, that would not have been apparent to anyone at the time. These are the chapters where life felt like wading through treacle and they came with a heavy price. The lost opportunities to stretch myself and grow as a person, the pursuit of money and status over my wellbeing and the relationships, professional and personal, that were wasted and lost, along the way.
There were certain characteristics in my behaviour that appeared when I let my internal self- talk run the show. I refer to them as the four horseman of my personal apocalypse. I’m sharing them with you in the hope that maybe you might begin to see similarity or contrast with your own story. My horsemen were these:
Dogmatism – My own personal strategy for dealing with a lack of self belief was to dogmatically cling to my position and argue with anyone who challenged me, using whatever means I had at my disposal, to be right. I stuck to my beliefs, simply because they kept me safe. With the benefit of hindsight there were times when I was right and times when I was wrong. This inflexibility meant that I was not open to new ideas and possibilities that a more open world view could have accommodated. It cost me good relationships with my working colleagues and many missed opportunities.
Delay – 95% of the time I am ultra decisive and happy to go with my gut on big decisions and then just get on with it. But I often became a victim of delay when it came to difficult conversations and when asking for what I want. When I am moving forward with purpose these two things do not create barriers to me. But as I look back across my entire career there were many incidences where I put up with a whole ton of shit that a conversation would have effortlessly resolved. Similarly, I would put the lost revenue from failing to ask for the sale in my early coaching days, in the many hundreds of thousands.
Distraction – I am a master at distracting myself with comfortable activities. I could even delude myself that the trivia I attended to, in order to avoid doing the important/difficult stuff, was vital. I consumed hours and hours attending to transaction level stuff while I was being paid to Direct (the clue was in the job title).
Disarray –“My brain doesn’t work so good in structures and systems. I’m more of a free thinker”. This is just one of the excuses I used for the state of disarray and overwhelm I often got myself into. I can live comfortably with a high degree of chaos and disorganisation but sometimes it consumed me. Then, all of my energy and time got used trying to fight my way back to a sense of control. This chaos has cost me weeks of wasted time and lots of duplicated effort over the years.
Taming the horsemen
So what are the behaviours you begin to exhibit when you fall out of contact with who you are at your best, or when you lose the sense of purpose that propels you forward?
Are they similar to mine or completely different? What has been the cost to your wellbeing and your bank balance?
As it turns out taming my horsemen has not been difficult when I have had the right level of support around me, especially someone who has the skill to call me out on my own conduct and point me back to who I am at my best.
I still experience negative thinking about myself and, every now and then, I notice these behaviours re-emerging. Do you want to know what I do about it?
The key difference now is that I know who I truly am, warts and all, and I know with absolute clarity where my value lies. This self awareness has proven to hold value beyond measure. But my thinking still catches me out from time to time and, on occasions, the horsemen may run free for a while. But just being aware that, in any moment, my thinking is not reality is enough to allow me to round the horses up before too much damage gets done. This ‘knowing’ allows me to create space to mediate my response effectively, rather than dive in and make a bad situation worse. I am able to distinguish what elements of my thinking are useful to me and what can be set aside. Its a fast, flexible and enjoyable place from which to build a future.
This is the level of personal freedom and awareness I seek to move my commercial clients towards.
Imagine that you were able to stride forward in the direction of what you truly want (and that is rarely the first thing you think it is), unimpeded by the limitations of self belief or lack of confidence, and trusting that you will cope with whatever emerges as you move forward.
What could you achieve from this position?