Choosing the Path of Personal Growth is Hard

If you’re reading this, you already know that a leader’s job requires achieving results, taking risks, and creating and sustaining healthy and respectful relationships. Your choices about how you spend your time, what risks to take and how much time and effort you spend on building relationships ultimately determine how effective you are.

Choosing the path of personal growth is hard.  Why is that?

A real-life example for you – I spent this past weekend on a golf trip with 32 guys I have never met. I’ve had similar experiences in the past that have not gone well. I would typically not even think of going on a trip like this. I knew it would be good to go and make some new friends, but that is not what my inner voice was saying. As the date approached, my inner voice became very loud, and my feelings of discomfort (fear and self-criticism) became quite strong.

I chose to go and had a great time. But deciding to go created a lot of dissonance and discomfort. 

We have all participated in our own version of the golf trip in our professional and personal lives.  How do we navigate that?  What do we need to overcome to grow into effectiveness and even happiness?   

One of the biggest obstacles is mental dissonance. Dissonance is defined as “inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one’s actions and one’s beliefs.” Put simply, dissonance is the flood of feelings (often fear and self-criticism) that result from new behavior.  Especially when the new behavior directly contradicts long standing internal rules about the safe, good, or “right” thing to do or way to do things.

We overcome dissonance through self-awareness.  At a basic level this begins with knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Higher levels require knowing the filter through which you see and interpret the world: how you measure self-worth, what you fear, and how you respond when strong emotions arise.  This filter is what determines your thoughts, feelings, and behavior.  When we are engaging with self-awareness at a high level, we are able to experience strong feelings and thoughts and respond with curiosity rather than trying to push them away or get rid of them by fight or flight.  We are able to overcome our dissonance.

This is where daily discipline and maintenance comes in. I recently listened to a podcast on meditation from the Harvard Business Review. The author talked about a benefit of meditation being that it creates a “second in time.” What he meant was that the discipline of meditation trains your mind to be able to pause for a second before you act. And that second makes all the difference.

Effective leadership is about leading change and a commitment to your personal growth. Choosing to change and grow will create dissonance, both in you and the people in your organization. Understanding and working through dissonance requires self-awareness and a willingness to take risks. And it requires discipline and daily effort.  It requires each of us to find that “second in time” and engage in discomfort.  Finding the courage to grow despite dissonance is critical to your long-term success and that of your organization.

Executive coaches are trained to help you to recognize and manage the dissonance that comes with growth. If you could use some support on your growth journey or managing change in your organization, take a risk, overcome your dissonance, and click here. The thought of talking with a Bailey Group coach might, like my recent golf trip, create some internal dissonance. But it will also help you become a better leader (and perhaps even change your life for the better).