Recently, I embarked on a 10-month leadership program that began with a 6-day retreat in Sonoma, California. It was one of the most valuable and life changing experiences of my life to date. And holy cow, did I get a wake up call! And I’m dying to share it with you.
At the beginning of this first retreat, a diverse group of 16 people came in wondering what the heck the next 6 days would bring. Little did we know that we were all the walking dead. We thought we were alive and living full lives. Boy, were we wrong.
By the end of the retreat, I had the pleasure of watching each person come fully alive and step into who they truly are, including myself. It was profoundly beautiful and utterly breathtaking. I’ve never felt more vulnerable in my life and my reward was realizing that my imperfections are the best part of me. WTF? Why did it take me so long to learn this? It felt so incredibly good to have people really SEE me, and not the version I expected.
One of my biggest lessons was that I have been leading way too much from my intellect, my brain, my ego. I was thinking my way through everything. I hadn’t been leading from my heart or my intuition nearly enough. My heart was securely wrapped up in a thick layer of Teflon. Before now, especially in a work situation, I wasn’t going to show people my heart! I needed to be strong and unflappable. I needed to look good in whatever I was doing and get things right. I needed my clients to believe that I had all the answers and I’m 100% confident all the time. That’s how you succeed and get ahead, right?
Being in that place, many people found me intimidating, over confident (hilarious), and intense. They would tell me this and I would have hard time understanding it. “But I’m so warm, compassionate, and fun! How come they don’t see it?” Upon reflection, when I would let out my sassy, playful, and wacky side, the intimidation and intensity would melt away, but I had a hard time inviting that in consistently. It’s not professional, I told myself.
As I reflected on this, I remembered a certain April Fool’s day a few years back while working at Google. As a joke (and as part of an urge), I replaced each of my team's intranet pictures with some crazy picture I had of them. I had to change my own so they wouldn’t suspect that I was the perpetrator. My own “crazy” picture took on a life of it’s own as my team turned it into 5 more jokes that poked fun at me. We still talk about that day with great fondness and laughter. Not surprisingly, it became a career highlight because it broke down barriers and significantly contributed to creating a lasting and unbreakable bond amongst the team. It’s funny how we underestimate the power of letting it all hang out. Oh and here's that picture…enjoy!
I now know, without a shadow of a doubt, that this intellectual, ego-driven approach to success is a surefire way to feeling uninspired, reducing your impact, and getting stuck in a rut. Until we fully step into the “real” us and give ourselves permission to live in that place, the success we’re dreaming of will continue to remain out of reach.
Take a moment to think about someone in your life who is truly authentic and risks everyday not having someone agree with them or even like them. Even if you don’t always agree with them or like how they are acting, I guarantee that they are one of your favorite people on the planet. They inspire you. They delight you. They are easy to be around. They unconsciously give you permission to take the filter off and just be yourself too. Isn’t it wonderful?
Yet, you tell yourself that you couldn’t possibly act like that at work. You’ll be fired if you spoke up and said what you’re really feeling, you won’t get that promotion, or your colleagues will alienate you. But is that really true? Have you tested that theory? Instead, you resist your urges, quiet the intuitive voices, and make sure to look good and get it right.
Let’s take a look at 3 ways you can start unleashing the “real” you ASAP:
Replace reactions with urges
An urge is something that bubbles up inside of you with a quiet voice that says something like, “ahem, here’s what’s needed.” A reaction is when you are fending off obstacles coming your way. An urge would see an obstacle coming and dance with it. A reaction would have you running away from it or punching it in the face. An urge comes from feeling, from your gut and your heart. A reaction comes from thinking, from your ego and your fear. Act on your urges. Don’t let your brain question and judge them. Go ahead, lean into your urges and watch the magic happen.
Nothing matters but this present moment
Most of us have become really bad listeners and are completely disconnected from those around us. We’re so busy trying to figure out what we’re going to say next (to look or sound good). For just one day, experiment with being totally present in the moment and let go of any desired outcome. Take each situation or encounter and see it as an opportunity to connect in a deeper way. Really look into the eyes of the person you’re talking with and listen to what they have to say. Notice how you feel, instead of what you think. Allow for silence. Respond with what comes up for you in the moment. Trust that nothing more is needed than your full attention.
Get comfortable with not having everyone like you
If you are truly committed to bringing more aliveness, fulfillment, and joy into your life and career, you will need to risk having some people not like you. When you follow your urges and speak your truth, not everyone will get it or like it. That’s okay! Think of it as auto-sort. When you are being the “real” you, you will naturally filter out the people who fear that kind of authenticity and attract the ones who appreciate and respect it. You will step into your own power and become a leader whom people want to follow.
The “real” you is the very best version of your self. It’s the one that can work miracles and inspire others. When you allow the “real” you to come out and play, it’s a beautiful thing. I want your career to skyrocket to new heights. I want you to give yourself full permission to be the “real” you and watch as the world shows up to let you be just that…and then flourish brilliantly and brightly! I want you to connect with others in a way that will blow your mind.
Take a risk right now and leave a comment with one thing you’ve been holding back on for fear of others not understanding it or liking it. What is the commitment you’re going to make to honor it and let it rip? Let this be your first step towards unleashing the “real” you and stepping into your power. I can’t wait to read it and cheer you on!