Lead Your Life

Awake, Aligned, and Grounded In Truth

How Much Is The Approval Habit Costing You? August 19, 2011

Think about the last decision you made at work.  Did you make the decision you knew was the most creative, amazing choice or did you deliver an approach designed to please your boss? How about the last meeting you attended – What did you NOT say because of what others might think?

 I want to invite everyone to stop making decisions based on what you believe is expected and saying what you think others want to hear.  Why?  For obvious reasons, it dumbs a company down.  The brilliance of many always trumps the brilliance of one – even if working through disparate opinions takes time and lively banter (aka: conflict).  Need proof?  Space Shutter Challenger Disaster Circa 1986.

But perhaps more insidious is the long-term effect of approval seeking on a company’s spirit.  Companies are nothing more than a team of people hired to collaborate in order to create something profoundly more powerful, sustainable, and profitable than yesterday’s results.  I don’t know a single person who,when hired, thinks they are going reach make their biggest impact by being the best “group-think” professional or by telling their boss exactly what they want to hear.  Yet, this is exactly the behavior that many highly competent leaders adopt.

So here’s my take.  Approval seeking – whether to please, impress, or earn respect – is a bad habit that often starts early in life as we try to “fit the mold.”  We adopt patterns, habits, conditions, & priorities that have been shared with us by parents, teachers, friends, and society.  We mold ourselves to FIT, and to surpass the standards we’ve learned attract approval.  In other words, we empower outsiders to create our definition of success.

The Approval Habit has deep neurological grooves.  We have passed over this groove so many times – often receiving recognition for the passage – that we fail to see we are shorting ourselves and the world of our highest potential.  We live in a world where the majority live captive to the greatest trick of all – that we are supposed to be something different from what we are. We are supposed to toe the line, gravitate to the center, and not be too little or too much. 

 And not only that, but that we must sweat, tirelessly toil, and sacrifice in order to preserve this false front.

Approval is a binding agent.  It binds, constricts, and eventually suffocates.  No job is worth this high cost.  And, the people around you – both those at work and at home – deserve to witness your personal brand of brilliance.  Within that lies true success.  Where achievement intersects with authenticity & courage trumps comfort. 

Here’s an assignment.  Observe yourself for one week & track how often you withhold thoughts, neutralize your disagreement, and reign in “wild” ideas at work.  And each time it happens, project forward the result of you under the spell of the approval habit versus you exerting your own personal brand of brilliance.  I’ll bet you’ll discover the risk of the approval habit is a lot higher than you’ve previously calculated.


The Magic Wand of Perspective August 18, 2011

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Try as we might, we cannot control the world external to us.  We can; however, make decisive and conscious choices about how we choose to respond.  And within that choice is magic.  It is the difference between accepting and rejecting; flowing and resisting; embracing and repelling.  And while the blame game soothes the ego, the reality is that consciously choosing to see events as opportunities versus obstacles dictates our success. 

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature nor do the children of man as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” Helen Keller 1880-1968, Blind/Deaf Author and Lecturer

Here’s a great blog post by a friend who has just waved her own wand and redefined her life.  Enjoy!



Skills Are Overrated. August 11, 2011

For all of my talk about building mastery of your unique skills – the ones that you do better than anyone & thus give you the greatest opportunity for standout, brilliant impact – the reality is that your skill is relevant only when you possess 2 other qualities. 

Until these are present, your skill, regardless of study, practice, & opportunity, will never fully blossom. 

#1 – Will.  Will as in tenacity, motivation, desire, & fearlessness.  I am not talking about the will that “guts it out.”  I am talking about the will that embraces, forges forward, and creates progress.  It comes from a knowingness & acceptance of where you are (your as-is) and a drive to move forward.  To progress.  To shift.  Gutting it out has its place, but typically results in fatigue & burnout.  It is overdrive – not drive.  Drive assumes possibility but recognizes that progress doesn’t walk backwards to meet you where you are.  That you must step forward to meet it.  And sometimes, that means stepping off the comfort ledge & believing deep within you that you will soar. 

#2 – Compassion.  The yoga sutras talk about compassion as the foundational principle of service.  When we work from a place of compassion – or service – we strive to create something better for the world – not just for ourselves.  We see others and the planet in our sphere of influence.  We fully understand to our core that unless we work with the right intention, we can never achieve our peak.  We are at our best when we are bringing value to the world.  It is a knowing that bringing value to the world, even at a short-term cost to oneself, ultimately & always brings value to us.  We are creatures of service, and this starts with compassion.  Want to set yourself on fire?  Connect with the impact you can have.  Your performance will skyrocket. 

Last weekend, my husband & I took our children to an amazing family camp at Glen Arden Camp in NC.  While there, we had an opportunity to rock climb.  True harnessed, hanging from a rock by a rope rock climbing.  Totally exhilarating.  Our children joined us, and if you have read past posts about my son, you can imagine how challenging this was for him.

I learned one of Maya’s skills are akin to spiderman.  And with some effort & a bit of fear, she was able to summit and then repel back down with relative ease.  But Jack – lacking the skill – made slow & arduous progress on the rock.  Progress that sometimes was so slow it was difficult to detect.  Often, it looked like he might just lie on that steep incline the rest of the day.  But he had WILL.  He did not give up.  Did not ask for relief.  Never considered quitting.  Sweating profusely, he kept working.  An hour of suspension, and finally, he completed the journey.  Climbing up and repelling down.  He made it.  Total Will. 

Other children climbed after Jack, and struggled with fear & skill mid-rock.  Tears, sweat, & a little begging to stop.  However, I believe witnessing Jack’s example motivated them to work through their fear & press on.  And they all made it.  Will is contagious. 

On our hike home, Jack was more excited about that fact that everyone else made it to the top, and he congratulated his sister on being “the fastest climber of all the kids.”  He’s still telling people how great his family did on the rock with no mention of his own accomplishment.  Service.  Total Compassion.