The other day I was catching up with a friend, and she mentioned how excited she was putting all these self development principles into practice, and how they were really helping her. The usual things like being focused, having a positive attitude, and working hard. All those things were helping her be better. And what’s more, she was actually seeing results.
And I thought that was all great. I was happy for her, but a part of me also felt jaded. Which granted, is a feeling I’m prone to, but also a feeling worth investigating.
Perhaps it is the result of doing this for a while. At the beginning of the journey, things are new, fresh and exciting, life changing even. Over time, these ideas still remain important, and the tools useful, but things change, and you must go even deeper, or evolve.
In talking with my friend I understood that the journey has different phases. She’s at the start of hers, and I am a bit further along. At some point, the tools you learn to use can only take you so far. At some point, the things that brought you here can even start to work against you.
It ties in a bit to my other post about the point of self help. In the sense that you do need a solid foundation of the basics – discipline, motivation and work ethic to get results. But perhaps more important than that is discernment in how to use those tools. If you are not acting intentionally and appropriately, you can reach a point where doing things in the same ways will begin to backfire.
What has brought you to the place you are in now is not what will take you to the place you need to go. To move to your next level of being, you need to approach things differently.
We know this already. New levels, new devils. At every different level, there are different traits needed to survive, and as you transition between these levels or roles, you have to unlearn and relearn things.
At the start of your journey, you might need to work your ass off, hustling 24/7 to get things going. As you mature and get established, working so hard and indiscriminately without proper strategy will hurt you. You have to understand the seasons you are in and what tool to bring to the job.
The Idea in Practice
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. About the idea that what has brought you here, will not take you there. And there actually is a book by basically that name – ‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith. In it, he speaks mainly to working professionals. Specifically to the gifted executive who has leveraged their skills and personality to rise up to a certain point, and then hit a ceiling because that strength has now become a weakness.
Perhaps you are a naturally driven person, always moving from one thing to the next, getting things done by sheer force of will. And maybe that has worked, that has gotten you noticed by your superiors and promoted. But now that you moved up, you are finding it hard to get your team to co-operate with you because of your abrasive forceful nature. The same thing that brought you here, is now holding you back.
We see it on the scale of companies as well, the greatest always reinvent themselves before the world does it do them. Facebook’s strategy to its present state of dominance was a deep focus on web2.0, on connecting the world via its many social media platforms. But what made it great, connecting the world has also produced the chinks in its armour, the concerns over privacy, the anxieties of social media, etc. The company knows it can’t stay in place forever. It has to evolve. So now, it is betting on the metaverse, literally different planes of reality. It is now Meta.
Always be Evolving
At the core of this whole idea is humility. It is understanding that to do new things, to break new ground, to break past your ceiling requires a change. We cannot fall into the trap of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Once we appreciate that, we are able to constantly evaluate things, where we are, where we are going, what we need to do, what we need to leave, and then we can make the right choices.
For instance, in my experience, being hardworking, conscientious, always hustling, taking on projects, doing so many things has usually been a strength. It allowed me access to a good range of people, build a decent pool of clients, etc. But I could argue, and I guess that I have been arguing to myself for the past few months, that there are limits and issues with the way I do things now that actually hold me back. At this point, it matters less that I do a lot, and more that I do the right things.
To effectively make the changes that need to be made, there have to be fundamental shifts.
I think there are 3 levels of shifts that need to happen for you to re-invent yourself. First a fundamental shift in basic assumptions, perception, framing of the issue at hand. Then a shift in behaviour, new action needs to be taken, things need to start to change. And then finally there is a shift in results, the end point of those actions, your lived experience then starts to change.
A Shift in Perception
Everything starts with perception. And having as accurate a view of life as possible is invaluable. We have to be able to look at our situations as clearly as possible, and identify where things are working and where things are breaking. We have to be open to bringing our sacred cows to scrutiny, examining the limitations of our strengths and the things we cling to.
Is this thing we love so much hurting us?
I love to work, but is this work keeping me so busy that I don’t have the time to do important thinking and positioning? This way of doing things has brought me so far, but is this business model sustainable for the results I want? This strategy has proven useful until now, but now I am facing a new challenge, what if these tools just don’t crack it?
You have to be able to see those things and make the appropriate call. When you are able to perceive clearly, and reframe the situation at hand in multiple perspectives, then you open up the possibilities of action, then you can adapt and move accordingly.
A Shift in Behaviour
Then of course you have to actually adapt. The art of change can be hard. We get stuck in our ways, in the tried and true. After all, this is what we had to specialise in to get what we have now.
But to move forward, we have to unlearn and relearn. It is uncomfortable but it is the skill we have to cultivate. We have to get comfortable with starting from scratch, with returning to the beginners mind, with not knowing the answers. We have to experiment, to try new things, allow ourselves to suck, and then improve and one day become great again.
A Shift in Experience
Once you have taken action and done things, your environment, your results will start to change. And hopefully becomes a feedback loop that pulls you in deeper into this new reality. Whatever happens, it is an opportunity to learn, to experience differently, and to move on.
Shifting on each level allows us to grow, to move beyond our current proficiencies, to new levels, to new ways of being, having and doing. To be whatever we need to be, to be our best, to get whatever we want.