The only constant in life is change. That’s been said many times, many ways. Still, one of the things people are most resistant to, afraid of, and hesitant to embrace is––change.
Whether you like it or not, change happens. And, it IS happening. Right now and all around you. And, right now people are demanding change. Lots of it.
The most difficult changes are the changes you make in you. And if you want things to change around you, the best place to start is right in the mirror.
Why is change so difficult?
First of all, I prefer the word “transformation” when we’re talking about our own personal change. Transformation is a much more active and a much more inspiring term. To any individual, transformation is the key to living a rich, productive, and satisfying life.
I remember after a conference a while ago, a woman challenged me on something I had asked the audience. She said, “OK––you asked us. I’m asking you. Who do YOU want to be in 10 years?”
I said, “I don’t know. But I know I don’t want to be the same person I am today!”
I learned about this process of transformation as a drug addict. More accurate to say I had to learn the process to survive. I had to transform myself from a loser to a leader. In my case, from a drug addict and dropout to a black belt, then to Sensei.
For leaders, transformation is a responsibility. A very important and serious responsibility.
Leadership is about a lot of things, but one of the most important is inspiring, directing, and managing change. Being a leader is in itself a process of continual transformation––if you’re doing it right. And the best leaders make change happen––in themselves and in others. Today we call the most successful change leaders “disrupters.”
Transformation is simple––not easy. As important as it is, and most leaders agree that it is, change can still be very difficult. Especially transforming one’s self.
Step One: Look in the mirror…
Seems almost stupidly simple. Right? Then why is it so hard?
When you take an honest look in the mirror, you’re going to see some things you don’t like. You’re going to see some things that are painful and sometimes difficult to admit. But you want to see an accurate reflection––warts and all. You can’t treat those warts unless you see them.
Step Two: Prioritize…
One of the biggest reasons people fail in any transformation is trying to do too much all at once. Pick one area for improvement. Pick just one thing to do––or stop doing and focus on that.
Pick whatever you think is going to produce the best or most important result––not necessarily the greatest result. Believe me, when I decided to quit drugs my immediate priority was not to become a black belt, a professional speaker, or a successful entrepreneur. My immediate and most important goal was to get through the next week without using drugs.
Only after I established that discipline could I realistically go after bigger goals.
Step Three: Solicit reliable support…
Emphasis on the word “reliable.” This is especially true for leaders.
First of all, you don’t want to surround yourself with “yes men.” You know this. You’ve got to be very careful not to get trapped in an echo chamber that only magnifies any confirmation biases.
On the other extreme, you don’t want people who do nothing but criticize and discourage you either. And there are plenty of them––especially people who don’t want to change themselves.
Find people who will offer sincere and constructive observation and criticism, preferably people with real experience or insights relevant to your goals, interests, and challenges. Find people who are capable of recognizing and acknowledging actual progress and accomplishments. And find people who understand your fears and the real hardships you may face.
This is where coaches and mentors can be such a tremendous help. And it helps to involve people who aren’t “friends and family.” People who are trained to look at you objectively and offer guidance without judgement and without a personal agenda.
Step Four: Celebrate your wins…
There’s a reason for those belts we give out in martial arts. Each rank is a celebration of the real progress you’ve made. And it’s a reminder that you’re beginning the next phase of learning, growth, and development.
Step Five: Analyze your losses and make corrections…
Despite what many people say, there are such things as failure and loss. Mistakes are not “just lessons.” They are lessons when you have the courage and fortitude to wring those lessons out of your mistakes and failures.
So you see, Step Five is really back to Step One. The process starts all over again. And again. And again.
As I said, I learned about this process the hard way. In hindsight, I’m grateful for the hardships I put myself through. I’m also grateful that I’m still alive and not behind bars. Having said that, my experience with transformation can make your process a lot easier, less painful––and I can help you avoid many of the most dangerous obstacles and detours. If you’d like my help, just reach out.
To wrap it up, I’d like to share the most powerful lesson I learned through my life in martial arts, and through my transformation from loser to leader…
“Perfection is not a destination. It’s a never-ending process.”
Those are the words that guide my continual transformation. Those are the words that will shape who I will become over the next 10 years––and beyond.
Effective leaders embrace this process. And the very best share it with others.