I was reading my recent post,”Getting Started”, and it occurred to me that I left a very important question on the table: why now? What’s changed in my exterior on interior world that would cause me to say, “Yes, I have to do this and I’m starting now.” Especially after being so defended against this kind of “risk” for so long, what shift has occurred that would allow the permission to express myself and my ideas?
The first part of the answer is that I’ve received exactly the right kind of feedback I’ve needed and was supported in making really good use of it. About four years ago, when I was just three weeks into my current job, my boss told me that I was arrogant. I was so angry I couldn’t see straight. Of course, he was right. He had pierced the facade of “super competence” I had created as a way to mask my deep insecurities and doubts. He gave me some tough medicine and he stuck with me, helping me to understand how others were seeing me and challenging me to take the hard, initial steps of self-confrontation.
The second piece of the answer is that I found the right tools and resources to support my efforts at self-awareness. Personality assessments provided valuable clues but it was really the energy of gifted and caring mentors, a coach and therapist that made the difference over time. These “resources” are people who know how to be present with me and facilitate my learning. Since all development happens in relationship, it is no surprise to me that this is such a significant part of the answer.
The third element is persistence. This is about just sticking with it – getting on a path and taking steps forward, one conversation, one insight, one piece of understanding at a time. Consistent feedback, great resources and meaningful relationships made persistence possible for me.
As I was considering this combination of feedback, tools and persistence I made a connection to the movie “The Shawshank Redemption.” A turning point in the film is when “Red”, played by Morgan Freeman, challenges Tim Robbin’s character, sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, to “get busy living, or get busy dying.” As Robbin’s “Andy” discovers the possibility of a way out he is liberated long before he reaches the outside. Driven by his desire, armed with a small tool and aware that the stone walls of his cell had been softened by time and weather, he painstakingly picks his way through the wall, clearing a path for the very real journey to the next chapter of his life. His most important tool, however, is himself. As his path becomes clear, he builds on and strengthens his inherent genius, curiousity and spirit, making it possible for him to face each new challenge with more confidence and determination. Ultimately, he crawls through 500 yards of shit to reach the outside. A minor detail with so much at stake.
My biggest learning from all of this is that what seems so fast or sudden is really the product of determined effort over the long haul. My new-found freedom of expression was actually years in the making and each step of the way I was building up my own inherent genius, curiousity and spirit.
I am out of prison. I do not plan to return.