I was thinking about the journey of learning the other day, as I’m getting ready to start another course on leadership for a cadre of participants.  It’s an unusual course, as it allows a lot more time for unconventional mindfulness practices and self-reflection.  And I was thinking of what I would say to kick it off, as getting participants to buy-in to such unorthodox methods isn’t always an easy sell.

Give me the formula

In our fast-paced world we’re used to impatience, and we need the answers, and we needed them yesterday.  We want to be handed the content, the checklist, the model, or technique and then we want to know exactly how to apply it.  We have a “people problem” and we need it solved.  “Tell me what to say.  Tell me what to do.  This is a difficult person.  I need to know the exact words to say to get them to do what I want.” 

But the interesting thing is life just doesn’t work that way.  Unfortunately, there’s not a model or a checklist for every possible thing that could happen and often in these types of situations we need to look within first and ask ourselves a few questions…

Learning and growth is often messy

  • How are we contributing to the problem?  
  • What’s the story I may be creating here? 
  • How might my perception of the issue be off?  

Real growth and learning is often messy and can require us to lean into things that are frankly just uncomfortable.  I often mention this to potential coaching clients.  The path to growth is not an easy one, and it’s not linear.  Some days you might feel like you’ve taken two steps forward, and some days it might be a step back. Development is a messy, messy business.

This reminds me of a situation many years ago when I went on sabbatical.  I talk about this in my book.  I was strung out, burnt out, and even more than that, disillusioned with life and the direction I was headed.  I was stuck in a job I never wanted and didn’t like, and I had ticked all the proverbial boxes and yet was miserably unfulfilled. 

Learning and growth comes to those willing to stay open

I went on sabbatical because I figured I needed some time out (which I did) and figured I’d distract myself with yoga teacher training.  In the end, the teaching of yoga was probably the least important thing I learned.  Don’t get me wrong, it was helpful.  But I learned something far greater than that, and something quite unexpected.  I started the long and arduous journey of practicing compassion for myself.  The long and arduous ride of stepping into my real power, because that’s what happens when you can accept every aspect of yourself.  And what a ride it’s been. 

When I returned from my sabbatical, I sat down with my beloved boss Timothy, a boss who recognized the importance of self-discovery and gave me the space to start the journey for myself.  It took me forever to work up the courage to ask him for permission to go, and when I finally did, he was more supportive than I ever could have imagined.

“So did you get what you wanted from this?”  He asked.

I paused for a while.  I wasn’t sure how to answer the question initially.  And then it just came out, “No, I didn’t get what I wanted.  But I got what I needed.”

He smiled at me.  “Then you were open.  Your journey has begun.”

Coaching Questions for Thought

I’ve been thinking a lot about that moment with Timothy lately, partly because of this course and his words of wisdom are so relevant to the journey these leaders are about to begin, but partly to remember him.  Probably the greatest leader I’ve ever known, Timothy passed last month from ALS at the age of 56.  His memorial service is in Houston this weekend and I think I’ll share this story there.

If it hadn’t been for him my life might actually have been quite different.  I perhaps may have never had the oh so precious space to figure out what it was I needed as opposed to what I wanted.  So as an homage to Timothy, here are this week’s Coaching questions for thought:

  • Where in your life would it benefit you to be more open at the moment?
  • What are you resisting learning?
  • What are you not wanting to admit to yourself?

Rest in peace dear Timothy.

Shelley Pernot is a leadership coach and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and step into their greatness.  Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!

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