A recent discussion with a friend and colleague inspired me to start my review of the year early. During the discussion, I had three “aha!” moments that hit me like a ton of bricks. One of them was difficult to look at, but if you know me, I had to look, and subsequently act. Together, these three lessons form my top three for ‘23.
1. We Are Our Own Biggest Obstacle
Our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors form a self-reinforcing triad. They sustain each other and move, sometimes in lockstep, to ensure we act in a way that keeps us safe and secure and prevents loss. We don’t like to lose. Whether we’re talking about money, reputation or control, we are taught that losing is a bad thing. But fear of losing something is just one perspective. The alternative perspective is willingly sacrificing what we now have for what comes next. You can’t see the “heads” side of a coin unless you are willing to give up looking at the “tails” side and flip the coin over.
I have been my own biggest obstacle in relationships, both personal and professional. I tend to hold onto relationships longer than is helpful for me and/or the other person or organization. The only way to overcome this obstacle is to sacrifice what I have — to give it up for what comes next, to flip the coin to see what is on the other side. This type of self-awareness isn’t always pretty, but it is always necessary if you are going to overcome your biggest obstacle.
2. Consistent, Incremental Changes Yields Huge Results
To restate a fundamental psychological law, radical change is temporary; incremental change is permanent. I have been aware of this law since graduate school (more than 30 years ago!), and I cite it often with my client companies to encourage patience as they shift their cultures.
Changing ourselves also requires patience. Regular readers may remember that I had a hernia and surgery to repair it earlier this year. As a result, I was not able to hike Mount Kilimanjaro this summer with a group of friends. I had to give up a lot of strength and fitness in exchange for a complete recovery and a reduced risk of a hernia recurrence.
Before the hernia, my exercise routines were usually hard and intense on weekends and sporadic (at best) during the week, particularly when I traveled. I was trying to make large strides on weekends without consistency during the week. Post-recovery, I’ve been working with a fitness coach. And I have learned that, just as with culture, regular exercise or physical movement – even just a little bit – yields HUGE changes. As a result, I have a higher level of cardiovascular fitness than I did before the hernia.
3. Complacency Is the Enemy of Progress
Ah, comfort! It feels so good! We work hard. We’ve earned it! Occasionally. But comfort overstayed becomes complacency. Complacency kills curiosity and growth. When we stay in our comfort zone, we stop moving forward and growing. Growth happens when we are uncomfortable. Discomfort signals that we are in a novel place and that our brain must expend more energy than we are accustomed to. We grow only when we stop being our own obstacle and start embracing change and discomfort.
This past year, I allowed myself to become complacent with my content. I have several presentations that I have given hundreds of times and continue to offer. Any changes in them happen around the edges — adding some new material here, changing some other content there. I had settled into the comfort of my current level of expertise and delivery around topics of culture and generations in the workforce. I still enjoy speaking and consulting on these topics, but I began to feel stagnant. Complacent. I was not growing.
Enter decision-making mindset. Decision-making is a concept have contemplated and a presentation I have given a few times in the past. This year, I committed to its maturation and development. I recently gave my 2.0 version of the presentation to a small group that loved it. I couldn’t be more pleased! The presentation helped the group consider decision-making from an entirely new perspective, and it also reminded me of the work and effort required to create a new presentation — and the reward that follows as a result.
Thanks to all of you who read this for your ongoing support.
Wishing you all wonderful holy-days and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!
I’d love to hear your questions and comments. If you would like to discuss this topic further, just drop me a note.