Many insights occur in conversations with others and it’s spooky how, once an insight or a new idea is on my radar, I see (or attract) examples of it everywhere.
This insight occurred while I was coaching a number of senior executives recently in preparation for their company leadership program. What became very apparent was that those mostly likely gaining the most from the learning opportunity were those who recognised that it was actually up to them.
This was confirmed a few days later when I caught up with a participant in another leadership program. I was keen to know how she was enjoying it and her answer surprised me. “To begin with, I was quite disappointed”, she confessed. “Then, about two months into the program, I had this amazing realisation that it was up to me and not up to the presenters or the program design. Since then the whole experience has transformed. It’s been fantastic”.
Elizabeth Gilbert makes the same point in her latest book Big Magic. In it she explores the creative life and what holds us back from fully expressing our creativity, including the idea that we have no legitimacy without formal education in our chosen creative field.
‘No matter how great your teachers may be, and no matter how esteemed your academy’s reputation, eventually you will have to do the work by yourself. Eventually the teachers won’t be there anymore. The walls of the school will fall away, and you’ll be on your own. The hours that you will then put into practice, study, auditions and creation will be entirely up to you.
The sooner and more passionately you get married to this idea – that it is ultimately entirely up to you – the better off you’ll be.’
Come to think of it, this applies to practically every aspect of life.
In a panel discussion last week, the question was asked ‘What are your views on leadership and how have those views changed over time?’ Different ideas were expressed and I realised that my view that ‘leadership is a state of mind’ – a choice that we make – has not changed since it first resonated with me reading Chin-Ning Chu’s book Thick Face, Black Heart more than twenty years ago.
A couple of days later, my ears pricked up listening to the Science Show on Radio National when a PhD candidate discussed her research into leadership. She voiced concern that so few people saw themselves as leaders, when in reality we all need to be leaders just to get through each day and week. She exhorted listeners to claim the leadership role when next asked the question, ‘Are you a leader?’
Yes, I am a leader.
Ask yourself any question and see how it feels to declare that it is up to you and then to act in accordance with your declaration.
Are you satisfied with your job, your career choice, your marriage, your life? It’s all entirely up to you.
In fact, it is only by choosing to believe that it is up to you, that you can act courageously to do whatever it takes to create the job, career, marriage, life you most want for yourself.
Why would you even think of putting such power in someone else’s hands?