In my pursuit for growth I have often had moments when I have had a realisation of some of my dark sides, these moments are sometimes breathtakingly painful. If you are serious about developing yourself and the art of self leadership you would have had these moments too. It might be a random conversation, an article, a post or a friend calling you out.
In that moment you have a choice. What do you do with that stinging truth as you feel the shame of it wash over you? Do you bat the pain (and the truth) away, do you explain (or defend) it away? Do you seek counsel from someone you know will push it aside and tell you it’s not true? Do you go on the attack? or Do you let it sink in and sit in it for a moment longer and get curious and commit to make the adjustments?
As Sir Winston Churchill said, “Men stumble over the truth from time to time but most pick themselves up as if nothing had happened.” As human beings we are pain averse, we will do everything we can to avoid suffering in anyway. We will even avoid things that are really good for us if it means we have to suffer a little. Just think exercise…
I remember many years ago getting some hard feedback from some friends over a cup of coffee and while they were pointing out this blindspot I actually received it well and was humbled by it, I knew that they were totally on point and they did it so lovingly that it was actually a really tender and powerful moment. I remember even thanking them and feeling so grateful that they loved me enough to take that brave step to tell me.
Then I got in the car to travel home and the pain and discomfort hit me hard as I realised the repercussions of this blindspot, this elephant in the room, and the shame and regret washed over me and it almost felt too much to bare. In that moment of overwhelm I suddenly became very angry at the couple, I went from grateful to “how dare they?” and by the time I got home I was in full blown offence, I had armoured up and my sword was out and swinging, I was denying, deflecting and defending my behaviour. I was the victim.
Fortunately, as I stopped the car, a loving and firm thought crashed through the armour. “Let the truth set you free!” and I broke down and wept. I let the guilt, remorse and truth do it’s full work. We cannot overcome what we do not have an awareness of.
As I realised the full truth and received it, I also knew what I needed to do to replace that behaviour with a new behaviour. Suddenly there was a shaft of hope shining the way forward and out from that dark place. The freedom was intense and tangible.
If you want to embrace growth in your life, you will have to learn to embrace pain. Pain is a process that informs us that there is something that needs our attention. We must run to our pain and not away. I truly believe that as we run to our pain and lean into the discomfort we actually move towards a better version of ourselves.
As leaders, our process of facing and dealing with these uncomfortable truths will have a huge impact on our team. Not only by the example it sets, but the environment it creates. We can chose to be wise or foolish in our response. Wise leaders receive the feedback and make the adjustments, foolish leaders kill the messenger and defend it.
The Foolish leader receives the feedback and rejects it, deflects or blames others or attacks those who bring the feedback, and then they have to defend it. This not only breaks down trust but a leader who is so busy protecting is no longer serving his or her team. It comes about defending insecurities which we all know sets the tone for a team that focuses on covering their own butts.
The Wise leader receives the feedback and realises, receives, and replaces the behaviour. He or she embraces it despite the discomfort and uses the opportunity to grow themselves as well as others because their vulnerability also creates a safe space for other people to be less than perfect and this creates a culture of trust and a safe space to grow and risk.
So I want to encourage you today, to be brave and pull up a chair to that pain you have been avoiding, lean in to the discomfort of the truth and get curious and get free.