This week I attended a motivational talk on how to lead with excellence. It was about how to be a better boss, but, really, it was how to invest in your personal growth first and foremost. The speaker, a passionate man with a real talent for connecting with his audience, encouraged us to stretch beyond what we believe is possible for ourselves. "Raise your hands", he said. Ok, simple enough. "Now, raise them higher." Ok. "Now higher." Um, ok, really stretching up to the sky here. "Even higher," he asked. Nowhere to go from here, I thought, my bum firmly planted in my seat. Until I looked around the room and saw people standing on their chairs, practically on top of their tables.

Over-achievers, I grumbled. 

Of course, this was just my ego wishing I had pushed myself outside my comfort zone. It was a powerful exercise in confronting the glass ceiling of my mind, but also how we let fear of being judged hold us back. For me, one of the most incredible discoveries on this path of self-actualization has been to learn about the primitive brain. Our minds are designed to keep us safe at all costs, which is awesome, except that change/growth/new pose a direct threat to the status quo. Deep inside we know we are destined for more, we know we can go higher. Yet, we stay glued to the seat time and time again, feeling our fingers stretched high, but not getting the quality of life we know is possible. The brain is sneaky like that. 

So, how do we stretch when the brain revels in inertia? First is having awareness, which hopefully this post has given. Second is playing devil's advocate with yourself. At a recent seminar, the presenter asked each of us in the room to complete the following sentence: "If I was the bravest possible version of myself, I would {insert desire}." In the blank I wrote, "Feel ok (safe)." Ok, not exactly the stuff of an exceptional life. I paused and asked myself to dig deeper, to challenge what I wrote. I scratched it out and wrote "be unstoppable." Comfort zones are for rest, not to live in. Surround yourself with people that will help you stretch, too, like motivational speakers or people who love you no matter what. Loved ones understand your dreams and goals, they see your light and want you to shine and are not afraid to tell you you are playing small. Only when you see you are falling short of your potential can you fill yourself with more to stretch even higher. 

Allyn Rippin1 Comment