“Know Thyself”

Pythagorus said “Know thyself and you will know the Universe”. The idea is engraved boldly in the forecourt of the 2300 year old Apollo Temple at Delphi. It’s also an old African proverb. In fact, it’s an idea that’s been in all cultures in some form for as long as civilisation has allowed time for contemplation.

The thrust of this wisdom is that if you know yourself, you open up opportunities, wisdom and personal power that is far beyond what you’re experiencing now. This applies to you in every aspect of your life, no less so as a leader or executive or entrepreneur.

To know thyself is not only to be conscious of what you do and when you do it. It’s the “why you do what you do” where the magic is. And it’s not the “why” you think it is. If it were, problems would be easily overcome, life would be easy and everyone would be cruising around with a smile on their face and a pocket full of cash.

Recently a GM expressed a frustration with their inability to achieve their potential. They’re ambitious, charismatic and energetic but set out a history of “almost succeeding”. And then the bombshell came – “I’d really like to know what the next step is to unleash my potential, but I don’t want any of that personal development stuff. I’ve done all of that.”

Thirty minutes later they could see the repeating patterns in their story and begin to understand “why they do what they do”. They may have “done all of that” but they didn’t understand the architecture of their personality or how to effectively manage it.

Now a client, their life view has shifted, their choices have become easier and their influence / results have gone to the next level.

All of this by taking the challenge to “know thyself”. Are you up for it?

Getting “hooked” NEVER ends well

A client came in recently with nothing much to report, other than a few minor, personnel related annoyances. All was well, at least that was the story.

Everything about my client, who I know well, said the opposite. There was a level of frustration that, once experienced, obviously hadn’t been released. As a result his personality remained attached to the issue and was reverting to go-to protective strategies, such as ignoring the protagonists and planning a bit of pay-back mischief.

So I did what I’m good at, and called bull%$#@. That’s always a challenging but exciting moment in coaching – what happens next is always telling.

It’s not my client’s first rodeo and after a bit of resistance, he did the work. And then the “aha” moment. What was really bothering him (more than he had realised) was his reaction to the situation, in circumstances where (he felt) he should have known better. New options then became obvious.

All of us have go-to strategies. We apply them because they work and are habits, unconsciously driven by an emotional response to external stimulus. If you want to do things differently and stop digging yourself a hole through reaction, take a look at the habit that seems to be getting you into trouble. Then, rather than tackle that habit head on, take a look at what’s really going on under the surface.

So, how do you know if you’ve been hooked? What’s underneath your reaction? Unlock those 2 things and work and play will get a whole lot easier.

Change is hard, unless…

It’s easy to say you want something other than what you have, but do you really?

There’s a recipe for transformational change that’s well tested for those brave enough to try it. But that’s the issue – transformational change requires courage, courage to do the things that most will avoid no matter the cost. And what are those things?

The recipe is simple enough. Reflection, self awareness, honesty, belief and most importantly a leap of faith to do the things that go against the grain. Doing what you (or your team) finds easy to do will likely get you more of what you have.

So if you really want things to be different

  • work out where you’d like to be and why
  • have the courage to really dig into what you think about yourself, others, and the safety of life
  • make a commitment to stay the course no matter how it hard it might get, and
  • then move toward your blind spots (generally where it hurts the most).

There is no magic bullet, but there is a well worn path to whatever you (or your team) are yearning for. Are you brave enough to take it?

Courage or comfort – you choose.

The only way to evolve is to do the things you don’t feel comfortable doing. If there’s no discomfort, there’s no growth. End of story.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that you are built for growth, literally. You are a meaning making, learning, growing machine destined to go where you thought you never could or would.

But nothing comes from nothing. “Is the discomfort (anxiety, terror, frustration, etc) worth it” you might ask? That depends on whether you want change or not, whether or not you’re happy with “your lot”.

Mark Twain had this in mind when he said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore! Dream! Discover!”

This is true both literally and metaphorically. Playing safe by constantly recommitting to your protective personality patterns will never get you what you want. It’s by deconstructing those defences that your true potential and lustre will be revealed. Of course, our instinct is generally to do the opposite, to run from the cannons rather than toward them.

And there’s your clear choice. Courage or comfort – you can’t have both.