Executive coach and founder of Leadership in Motion, LeeAnn Mallorie, supports people in creating more ease and effectiveness in life and work, with a focus on mind-body awareness and practices for creating small changes that make a big impact.
What do you care about SO much that you’d be willing to get the heck out of your own way in order to do it? In the last few months, as I grappled with this question in my own life, I started to notice a pattern among my favorite (read: most awesome, engaged, and high-potential) clients. While a good number of them knew what the world was asking of them at this time — a big, audacious dream that they were uniquely built for, that could have a massive positive impact on the world around them — a good number of them were also waiting for the right moment to begin.
The problem with waiting is that the right moment never comes.
Yes, yes we’ve all heard this cliché before. But I’m not interested in the theory. I’d like to tell you how it works. I can actually prove that its true — and that it’s worth it for you to take stock of the ways it may be impacting YOUR life. Right now.
The fact is that no amount of waiting, studying, thinking about it, preparing, or learning will EVER get you ready enough to begin. Here’s why: It is indeed the challenge itself that calls forward the part of you that is finally capable of meeting it. If we’re climbing a mountain, it’s the mountain itself that makes the man. Or woman.
Every. Single. Time.
If there were a way to factually assess at the start of a journey whether you were truly cut out for it, the answer would come up NO every time. You’re not. Yet. And if waiting until you are ready is the reason you haven’t started, well you’re going to be waiting for a very long time.
It just doesn’t work that way. It’s an incredibly compelling self-fulfilling prophecy loop that even the most passionate leader can stay stuck in for years. What’s more — and here’s the lesser known fact — the more fearful parts of you are actually BUILT to make sure you STAY in that loop at all costs. No matter what.
Yes. As long as you are too overwhelmed, too sick, too tired, too under-qualified, too lacking of confidence, too much the victim, too insecure, too uncertain, too unclear, too over-committed, too (fill in the blank), then you don’t actually have to finally face your fear and take the next step forward.
So — and here’s the kicker — your EGO will do whatever it takes to make sure that you are.
In other words, some part of you is always actively engaged in creating your own personal hell, so that you have a very good reason not to begin.
Here’s an example:
A new connection was explaining that since her organization had entered a period of rapid growth, she had let all of her self-care practices fall by the wayside. And she wasn’t happy about it. For her, serving as a role model of well-balanced and healthy leadership was truly important. But it was all she could do to keep up with the demands of her day-to-day work.
Knowing that I’m an expert in women’s leadership and resilience, she was poised to ask my advice about how to make herself do all the healthy stuff she knew she needed to do, in order to thrive.
To her surprise, I threw her for a loop by asking:
“If you had all of that in place — if work were going well and you felt healthy and balanced in your personal life, and it was easy to keep it all in place, then what would you do? What’s the even bigger game you know you want to be playing right now?”
And to my surprise, without missing a beat, she told me she’d always dreamed of running for an elected office.
A bolt of electricity ran through my body. That. That was the thing. Anything less would not be enough to inspire her to wrangle her time and energy, start taking care of herself, and do the hard work of becoming a balanced, healthy role model for women everywhere.
Our conversation reminded me how skilled the ego is taking away things we deeply care about in order to entice us to lose sleep, energy, and time worrying about where they’ve gone — instead of committing to our next level and insisting they come back on line to serve our larger vision. If you have ever felt stuck in this kind of loop, you are not alone.
Start swimming, start biking, start dancing. Strap on your downhill skis or your climbing shoes. Get on that horse and start to ride toward the horizon. In metaphor … and in life.
I want to encourage you to reach beyond where you worry your current capacities end. Try trusting that your body, mind, and spirit will rise to meet the challenge.
In your movement practice, take an intention to track your own tendency toward sub-optimal functioning this week. How do you let yourself off the hook. What excuses does your mind offer. What feelings, sensations or emotions does your body add, in order to follow suit. How do you get lazy? How do you stay in your comfort zone?
Without changing a thing, just notice. And sometimes, notice what happens if (without pushing yourself to the point of injury) you insist on truly doing your best instead.
In your day-to-day life …
Notice where you lie in order to play small. Pay attention to the small excuses you make. Do they center around your time? Your health? Your oh so busy life?
Even if you don’t know if these excuses are really un-true, notice the moments when you also can’t prove they are true. And even if you’re pretty sure they are true, ask yourself “but what if it wasn’t?”
And as you do, see what new possibilities begin to open.
Reaching with you,
LeeAnn Mallorie, founder and CEO, Leading in Motion