What is the most difficult thing you’ve ever done? Is it learning a new language? Is it a physical challenge like running a marathon or climbing a mountain? I know what the most difficult thing has been for me. For me, it’s staying committed to a transformational journey.
When I look around, I am seeing plenty of examples, of transformational journies in which people reach a tough spot and they have to choose which direction they’re going. Both individuals and teams going through such a journey run into these tough times. There are really two choices when you reach these tough places; continuing forward, sometimes after a short rest, and turn around and go back to where you came from.
My journey started two years ago at a time I was struggling with what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. My only life goal seemed to be about making enough money to allow me to retire sooner (I was only 47 at the time). I wanted to escape the need to work as I just couldn’t see myself ever being happy again on my chosen career path.
This is when I started coach training to gain some new skills I could use in business. The unintentional side effect of the coach training I took, was to start a personal journey of transforming my life. In these past two years, there have been grand peaks where I am loving the world around me at an unimaginable level. It’s also true there have been some dark valleys where I was confronting something fairly painful to look at in myself. Of course, I’ve also been everywhere in between those two extremes.
As good as that might sound, I will confess there have been several times on this journey when I’ve reached a point where I’ve thought of giving up, and retreating to a life in my comfort zone. It’s hard to really describe what I’ve felt. It’s almost a fight with myself, and I’ve questioned whether I had the strength to keep going, or what’s different in my life as a result of all this effort. I’ve even found myself in places of questioning what’s the point? There were even a few times where I even wondered if I was broken, and needed to go see a therapist.
What I’ve learned more recently, is regardless of what happens, how difficult it seems to be, is to never stop loving myself. Yes, there are things I want to be different about myself, and flaws I wish didn’t exist. However, when I love myself, I can more easily accept all those things and be with them rather than fighting them. So, I get back on my feet, dust myself off and continue on this journey. Perhaps I just needed to rest and catch my breath, or let some newly developed muscle rest for a moment. Whatever it is, allowing myself this moment gives me a renewed level of optimism, strength and love to keep going.
I have worked with many teams and organisations going through a transformational journey as well. In their case, often it’s to improve things such as how they interact as a team, the collaboration between each other, or the methodologies they use in delivering value to their customer.
Several years ago another Agile coach and myself started working with a team as they wanted to transform their work and adopt Agile methodologies. They had a challenging couple years, and knew to cross the finish line they had to transform how they worked together. I truly believe their intention was good, in which they wanted to improve results and stop the insane pace in which they were working.
It didn’t take long for us to discover they had many problems getting in the way of transforming how they work. We brought many of the issues forward, some easier to resolve than others. It became clear though the first thing we had to do is shift the culture of fear created by the leadership team. It had the whole team, leaders included, in an infinite loop of dysfunction which was only paralysing them (you can read more about this situation here).
I remember the day we held the mirror up for this leadership team. We brought the leaders together and white boarded our observations, and the impact it was having. When done, the director paused and said “You’ve nailed it … that’s us as a leadership team!” Then after a short pause, she asked what can be done about it.
We suggested the start of a leadership circle with her team, in which we would help them develop their leadership stance. We talked a little about the types of activities we would do, and they seemed to be on board with making this happen. We then booked our first leadership circle session and made our preparations.
On the day of the first leadership session, the other coach and I went to the meeting room finding ourselves alone. Before long, we received a call from the Director asking us to come to her office. She called us there to let us know our services were no longer required. To this day I’m not sure what caused them to sever our relationship. Perhaps they weren’t ready to hear the messages we were delivering. Perhaps they didn’t really believe us. Whatever it is, our services were no longer required and we were done.
For months afterwards, I continued to hear stories coming out of this team in which nothing ever really changed. They started down the path of transforming their team, and it seems when things became uncomfortable they chose to retreat back to their status quo.
Don’t give up
Going through a journey of transformation is about making choices. It means confronting stories you’ve been telling yourself for a very long time. Stories come in various sizes and shapes, and always have one thing in common; the stories keep you in your comfort zone. In other words, the stories you tell yourself keep you from stretching yourself and becoming a better version of yourself.
This is all true for teams as well. I hear teams tell themselves stories all the time, in which they talk themselves into how there are really no better ways of working together. They tell each other how things won’t change because that’s not the way we’ve always done it around here. The team will go on to tell me how they will never things be done in a different way.
Trust me when I say I know there are times in which it may feel like the right thing to do is to retreat. To go back to the way it’s always been and just sit in your comfort zone. However, what I also know is transforming your life is too important! Finding better ways to work as a team, critical to the long term prosperity of your business. This is just way too important, and although you may choose to step back and rest temporarily, don’t ever give up!
Don’t ever give up on living full out in all parts of your life. If you choose to stand with me on this, make sure you don’t forget to love yourself as well. Love your good parts, your flaws, and the times you might fall on your face. Just know that whatever happens, you will always have the strength to keep going.
You have so much to offer the world around you so please join me! This journey IS the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. However, I can also say it’s THE most important and rewarding thing I’ve ever done as well as in this journey I can say I am finally living!
I am a very tenacious person. Always trying and I hope never giving up I have had my wings clipped, I have been discarded, I have been pushed down. All of these things of course are all feelings that I have told myself. What I have learned is yes they are all stories. Something I can choose to learn from or not. We nèed to keep brushing off the dirt from our knees and rise. There are so may beautiful people and places to see out there including ourselves that needs to be seen to enjoy and love.
I love this post Mike. It really encourages me to rise up and love myself more. I’m am on the path with you. A few miles behind, and learning from all your breadcrumbs:)
Thank you for writing this Mike. I’m reminded of the Yin and the Yang — the dark negative, and the bright positive — two parts that make a whole.