I’ve noticed a trend recently among coaching clients, on social media and in my community: all too often, people are believing that, just because they’ve invested in becoming a better version of themselves, their transformation journey is complete. They started a weekly date night, so now their marriage is awesome. They started working out, so now they’re healthy. They’ve been reading leadership books like they’re going out of style, so now they know what it takes to be an amazing boss. Box. Checked.
I could go on and on about how problematic this mentality is (and I will, to some extent, shortly), but this trend is a two-parter and it’s the second part I find most troubling:
Because people are experiencing growth and checking the boxes – feeling that rush of awakening – they start to assume others should just automatically want to and be able to change too.
On one hand, this can be inspirational – it helps to see others overcome obstacles, because it may provide hope that you can too. But all too often I’m seeing it come across as judgmental – I went to the gym/took my spouse out on a date/read a book…so why the heck can’t you?
Now, don’t get me wrong – I LOVE that people are on a mission to grow personally and professionally. That’s what our work at MJST is all about! But what I don’t love is the superficiality that I’m seeing and hearing about – the surface level “looks good, sounds good” type of change that isn’t accompanied by real, meaningful, long-term shifts. I’m not here for the short-term endorphin rush – that’s nice and feels good in the moment, but it eventually wears off. I’m here for the long-term, slow-and-steady wins the race, sustainable change that others can’t help but notice.
If you’re wondering where you’re at on the change spectrum – superficial to deep and meaningful – here’s some “pulse-check” questions to ask yourself.
1. Are you looking at personal growth as an obstacle to overcome or a task to accomplish?
First things first: growth never ends. There’s no ‘mark task complete’ box on your personal growth journey. If there was, you’d be dead – and I can’t imagine you’re ready for that yet. Instead, growth should be thought of as a continuum…a never-ending process. Consider for a moment:
- What has the journey to this point looked like? What got you here? What can you appreciate? What have you learned from?
- What are the lessons you might need to be paying attention to in this moment? Are there signs and triggers that need to be looked at as teachers?
- Where could the journey go from here? What do you need in your backpack or toolbox to prepare you for that?
Sure, you can read books and start new habits and set clearer goals – and you really should be doing all of those things – but they aren’t “one and done.” You don’t go on one date with your spouse, have one hard conversation with an employee or take one trip to the gym and check the box ‘Complete.’ Those steps are simply one of many you’ve already taken and will continue to take along the way – so make sure to remember that.
2. Are you taking action or simply absorbing information?
We exist in an amazing time when there is unlimited information at our fingertips. If you want to evolve as a human being, there’s definitely someone on the internet or in a personal development book who can tell you how to get there. But here’s the thing: growth is not reading 100 leadership articles a day. While those articles may prove to generate thought (and selfishly, I write them, so I hope they’re helpful!), it’s not until we apply lessons, shifts, and behavior change in real life that we start to grow.
As Dr. Brene Brown says, “We know that the way to move information from your head to your heart is through your hands.” What’s that mean? It means that growth is not just about absorbing information – it’s about turning that information into action on a regular, habitual basis.
3. Are you taking action in fits-and-spurts?
How consistently are you taking the actions required to make change? Not how consistent were you that one month or how consistent do you want to be – how consistent are you REALLY?
Consider this example: If the work ahead of you is building rapport with your team, it’s going to take more than the occasional motivational quote in your weekly email. Growing trust – in yourself and with others – is a delicate practice that takes daily, habitual, consistent action and getting really clear on desired outcomes. Why is building rapport important? What does success look like? What does success feel like? Is it something spoken? Is it through daily behaviors? Weekly commitments? What are you doing to make amends when you fall short? Are your employees experiencing this elevated effort on your part or simply hearing about it?
If we want people to believe we’re changing – and we want to believe it ourselves – we’ve got to make a commitment to ourselves and others that we’ll backtrack as little as possible. Sure, we’ll fall short every now and then, but trust comes when backtracking is seen as the exception and not the rule.
4. Are you meeting people where THEY are…or where YOU are?
You’ve had an awakening! You’re riding high on that feeling of accomplishment! You’re seeing what life can look like! So, what comes next? Well, you should try to convince everyone and their brother that they should make the same changes you are, right?!
Trust me, I know how exciting it is to accomplish something and want to share that accomplishment with the world. And that doesn’t mean that there aren’t important people in your life that you should share those successes with.
But have you ever had someone try and try and try to convince you to try some new amazing thing and you just want them to leave you alone? Maybe you’ve had a friend try to force their new favorite song on you or your spouse twisted your arm to go to their new favorite restaurant that you have no interest in or your sibling begged you to see a new movie that you couldn’t care less about – causing you to push back even harder.
That’s what it can be like when we forget to meet people where THEY are – not where WE are – in a personal growth journey. We don’t know the experiences and beliefs and stories that have led people to where they’re at, and we can’t pull them kicking and screaming to where we are.
So, the next time you feel yourself wanting to relentlessly persuade your coworker to try your new workout routine or date night spot or the best personal development book since sliced bread, consider #5…
5. Are you telling more than you’re showing?
Like I said in the last point, we want to share our awakening moments with anyone and everyone – but our enthusiasm can fall flat when that person isn’t ready for a shift yet. The next time you think about shouting from the rooftops, ask yourself: could the results of my actions simply speak for themselves?
When we make change – real, deep, meaningful change – the people around us can tell. A different energy starts to pour out of us. We start to speak differently. We look different. We sound different. When the change is serious, you won’t have to tell people what you’re doing – they’ll ask.
6. Are you cultivating authenticity or hustling for your worth?
Which brings me to a final pulse check for today – are you cultivating authenticity? Dr. Brene Brown’s research led her to the finding that “…authenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It’s a practice – a conscious choice of how we want to live.” She continues to say that, by choosing authenticity, we are “cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.” I consider this a transformation pulse-check because – as a leader, a friend, a spouse, a human – making real change takes courage, boundaries, and vulnerability. Vulnerability to share the work you’re in, that it can be hard, and asking for the support or accountability you need. Courage to allow your actions to become congruent with the thriving person you envision being. Boundaries to identify who needs to know, what they need to know, and how to share what you need them to know.
When we’re growing and changing from a place of authenticity, we don’t have to put on a show for anyone. We don’t have to hustle for our worth by trying to convince others that our way is the right way. We simply act from a place of what’s “real” and “true” for us – and the rest will follow.
The good news about the lack of a “complete” check mark on growth is that every day becomes an invitation to live as our truest, thriving selves. Good intentions help us identify the work, the growth and the change that's possible – but only application and implementation can create real shifts and actual results that everyone (including ourselves!) can experience.
So…have you changed?
Or has the journey just begun?