Do you remember when you first learned to drive a car? Were you afraid of making a mistake? Turning without hitting anything? And God forbid, managing a stick shift? No matter what auto you started with, there was a learning curve that demanded persistence, courage, and experimentation. Did you eventually discover the joy of driving? Did you enjoy the windows down, the wind in your hair, the roar (or meow) of an engine, and the sense of freedom that forward motion delivers. A similar process exists in discovering how to drive your own life. And I’ve got a great example to prove it.
Meet my client and friend, Sharon. Sharon lives in Missouri. After we met at a webinar, she reached out to me and asked if I would help her build a success plan. Would I? Is the Pope Catholic? I love it when a motivated individual wants to learn why they are a rock star, is willing to overcome their fears, and insert energy in the success process. Sharon embraced the journey – I didn’t have to sell her on the value of it. Neither of us knew what the destination would be, but we agreed that the only way to figure it out was to start down the path.
May I pause here for a moment and make a point? The key to success is simple (but not easy); it is committing to the exploration of a new path, unique to you, with the belief that treasures unknown await.
Commitment is essential and flows both ways. You commit to the pursuit of unknown path, and I commit to supporting you on the journey. My commitment is only effective when it is coupled with your commitment, just as hiring a driving instructor is useful only if the driver is willing to drive.
When I first spoke to Sharon this spring, she was in the middle of a challenging time in her life. Her marriage was ending, her youngest daughter was getting settled, she was finishing her Master’s thesis, and she felt stuck in her position at work. Sharon knew she needed to explore a better future, and the idea of building upon her strengths appealed to her.
In our first meeting, we covered a lot of ground:
- We talked about her previous successes what she was doing when she was most fulfilled.
- We talked about her strengths, and agreed that when they owned her, rather than her owning her strengths, it had a negative impact on the situation.
- We talked about what the “best future” would look like.
- We explored her professional network – who could help her make her dreams come true?
- We talked about the challenge of making a big change in one’s life.
- Finally, we covered next steps, including a monitoring period that focused on observing when she did well, and when she struggled.
I was impressed with Sharon’s energy and with her ability to identify and face her fears. This is what courage is, isn’t it? It isn’t denying fear; it is carrying on in the face of fear. It’s trying again when the blasted car is bucking like a bronco as you struggle with the clutch. It’s laughing in the face of a good tumble while in front of an audience, and trying again.
Sharon emailed me when she had tried something new. She discovered that by consciously curbing one of her strengths she had achieved a better outcome. She’d also noticed how her strengths were supporting her efforts to interview for a new role. Sharon was learning how to drive (her life) all over again. She worked really hard at it. Before long, she was cruising at high speed, just like the car in the photo above.
Last week, Sharon reached out to me to schedule another session, and teased me that she had “good news.” We met a few days ago, and got right to the point. Sharon had lobbied for and landed a new position – her dream job – helping build a stronger education system in Missouri. But the best part – the part we celebrated the longest and loudest?
The man who hired her said, “We’re not hiring you for your Masters in public policy or 19 years of school board experience. We are hiring you for whatever it is that makes Sharon, Sharon.” He went on to describe behaviors that sounded a lot like Woo and Connectedness, both of which she has. He hired Sharon for being able to communicate and demonstrate her Secret Sauce (click here to read that blog)
Sharon entered the interviewing process determined to be completely transparent. She talked about her strengths, and when pressed on some difficult topics, she replied with honesty and grace. Sharon didn’t pretend to be someone she wasn’t, or try to throw out the “right answer”.
Articulating your strengths, weaknesses, skills and experiences with authenticity and self-awareness is both compelling and extremely attractive to employers. Quite simply, Sharon’s preparation and delivery gave them confidence in their choice and reduced their risk of hiring her. Sharon was the right person for the role – she has the talent to do a great job in that position. Talent is something you can’t teach.
Once we completed a thorough debrief and celebrated her achievement and courage – possible only because she was willing to do the heavy lifting associated with real change – we moved on to deepening the understanding of her strengths. It was a lot of fun for us both.
Sharon is an example of embracing what makes her unique, harnessing it to her passions and dreams, and then setting out to find the place where she is valued for it.
What can we learn from Sharon’s journey? One of the hard things about becoming an adult is that we forfeit the joy of exploration for the belief that we must know exactly who we are, why we are here, and what we should be doing. The journey is cloaked in the disguise of a destination. We fear looking awkward, silly, uncertain, and making a mistake. All of those emotions (emotions are not facts, and no one ever died from looking silly) prevent us from trying something new – like learning how to leverage our strengths, build a success plan, and trust that the universe will support us as we take our first steps (or baby steps!) on the path.
I felt the joy and commitment in Sharon’s voice as we discussed our own next steps. It’s not about a destination; it’s about crafting, with intent and purpose, a really cool journey where she feels successful, strong, and fulfilled. Sharon is driving her life and loving it.
Call to Action: Are you driving your life? If not, can you identify the obstacles and fears that are holding you back? Can you stare them down and embark on your own journey? Can you take even a small step forward this weekend?