In most leadership material you read you’ll come across the need to be self-aware. I agree, it’s a very important element of growth because if you’re not aware of the need to change it will never happen, right? But how do you do develop self-awareness? Often times when I’m running a workshop on leadership I start with awareness and how to develop it. To do this I always start off with the concept of the Self. One way the Self can get into conflict is when there is too great a gap between the Actual Self and the Ideal Self.
The Actual Self refers to your views of ‘how’ you really are…it includes your mental processes, body and personality characteristics. The Ideal Self refers to the hopes, aspirations and wishes that define the way you would like to be. When people experience a discrepancy (or gap) between the Actual Self and the Ideal Self they may feel emotions such as anxiety, fear, resentment, guilt, self-contempt or uneasiness. People who suffer from these emotions may believe they have failed to meet their obligations and even may be punished…in a way they are already punishing themselves psychologically!
If you’ve ever wondered how to close this gap between the Actual Self and the Ideal Self then read on and get S.E.T. to change your life because the only difference between where you are in your life now and where you want to be is the simple combination of Skills, Effort, and Time.
Skills: Identify the skills you need that will help you get to where you want to go.
Let’s be honest here…if you’re a forty-something old male who has never boxed before it’s unlikely that learning how to box now will give you a shot at the heavy-weight world title. There are some physical skills that take years and years of training and often mind-numbing repetition to master to get to world class level. There are, however, other skills that can be developed to quite a high level that can help improve the quality of your life and even your career prospects. So the first step is to identify those skills. Who out there is doing what you’d like to do? If you want to become a great leader go find someone who is a great leader and get close to them, model what they do and how they behave and how they think especially in times of stress and turmoil. It’s easy to be awesome when everything is going great…it’s so much harder to be great when everything is falling apart.
To the soldier, luck is merely another word for skill. ~ Patrick MacGill
So the first step is to identify the skills you need that will help you get to where you want to go.
Effort: Create a learning plan to develop your new skill and commit to making it happen.
Once you’ve identified those core skills the next step is to put the effort into developing and honing those skills so they become automatic. Just like the boxer who can duck and dive without thinking you need to be able to draw on these new skills automatically. This is best achieved through practice, practice and more practice. A useful tool often used by sports people is visualisation…athletes often picture in their minds over and over how they want to perform on the day. They see it and feel it as if it’s real. Not only do they imagine everything going smoothly they also rehearse what they’ll do if something doesn’t go according to plan so they immediately launch themselves into Plan B without wasting unnecessary cognitive and emotional energy trying to figure out what to do next.
This is a useful tool to use if you’d like to improve any skill, physical or otherwise. For example, if you wish to improve your assertiveness in a meeting you can mentally rehearse how you’d like to sit, what you’d like to say, how you’d like to raise an important point, etc. and, with a bit of practice in real life situations, develop this new skill. Regardless of what it is, to develop any new skill, you must put consistent effort into it.
So the second step is to create a learning plan to develop your new skill and commit to making it happen.
Time: Be patient and allow your new skill to develop over time.
They say that to become an expert at anything you need to practice for 10,000 hours. That’s the magic number! I don’t know the validity of that statement but it does make sense that we need to give our new skills time to embed themselves so they become part of our neurology. Even skills such as controlling our emotions or critical thinking take time to embed and we need to have the patience to allow them to settle in. In reality what we’re doing is creating a new strategy or shaping the way our brains process and respond to information and other stimuli in our environment. For example, if I get anxious and flustered when I’m challenged in a meeting, through practice and conscious effort, I can learn to remain calm and level headed.
Lost time is never found again. ~ Benjamin Franklin
So be patient and allow your new skill to develop over time and know this, embedding new skills can take much less time than you might first anticipate because as William Hutchison Murray so poetically put it, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.“
If you’d like to know more about how to make massive change in your life or career, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.