“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” – Benjamin Franklin
When she was 4 years old, my daughter begged me for a Barbie, the iconic plastic doll of childhood. Now fast forward a few years: the once beloved Barbies are now relegated to a cardboard box destined for some other child’s home. The dolls aren’t as interesting as they used to be; my daughter now has other interests that trump Barbie.
So, what about own Barbies? What do we do as leaders with outmoded practices, beliefs that no longer serve us, habits that keep us stuck? How do you know you’ve outgrown something?
Perhaps there’s a sense of unease, a frustration, a nagging sense that something isn’t working. Perhaps you are suddenly aware of feedback from others, or you’re noticing that you’re just not getting the results you used to. Maybe you’re bored. Or suddenly everything feels hot and irritating, like you put on a scratchy woolen sweater in the sauna.
I like to think about these experiences or frustrations as signs of change: what is irritating to you is actually a indicator of what is wanting to be discarded. Like a snake shedding its skin, effective leaders learn to interpret the experience of frustration as a signal of what needs to grow.
If you sense there’s a belief, a habit, or a practice you’re outgrowing, try this:
1) Notice it: What’s the experience you’re having? Name the frustration, and any physical sensations or emotions that accompany it. What’s no longer working?
2) Look underneath: What’s the request, the need, the longing, underneath the frustration? Often this can be as simple as turning around the frustration to its opposite (procrastination –> decision-making), or to the value underneath (perfectionism –> excellence/quality). How can you honor the underlying need or value in a new way? (For resources to help with this step, download my e-workbook “Unfold Your Personal Road Map” by signing up in the box in the upper right hand corner.)
3) Honor the intent: We can’t discard what we don’t own. What’s the underlying wisdom in the belief, practice or habit you’ve been using? If there was noble intent behind what you’ve believed or done to date, what is it? How can that inform you?
4) Take action: What’s the change that is trying to emerge? What’s one concrete step you can take towards it?
In the comments below, I would love to hear from you on this topic. What’s one belief, habit or practice you’ve recently outgrown as a leader? How do you know when you’ve outgrown something as a leader?
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Photo credit: Pixabay
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2012 and has been updated for content and relevancy.