Was he really talking to me when he said that?
I’m sure you can remember a time when a mentor, child, or boss said something that made you stop in your tracks and realize that what you’ve been doing might not be working.
Recently, my mentor Dr. Mark Goulston said, “Justin, STOP! You need to allow yourself the peace of going into first gear.” I felt like I had been smacked across the face. It was my passion, energy, and perpetual busyness that I thought had made me successful over the last decade, so who the hell was he to tell me to stop? As wrong as I wanted him to be, I left his office in Los Angeles and headed back to Miami, FL with an uneasy feeling. Deep down, I knew he was right.
I realized that we get so caught up in being heroes to our kids, to our employees and coworkers, and to everyday strangers that we forget to create the space to be heroes to ourselves.
From the start of the morning, it’s rolling over and checking emails or text messages, taking care of family, getting ready for business meetings, responding to emails, building relationships, going to the gym, preparing dinner, and maybe the chance to watch a television show recorded on the DVR.
Dr. Goulston’s message inviting me to slow down was not a criticism but more of an opportunity to stop abusing and abandoning myself so I can be fully present and enjoy life. Plenty of people have tried delivering the same message to me before, but I wasn’t in a place where I could receive it because I was too busy being busy.
I realized this past week that I was not alone in my perpetual busyness. I had the opportunity to facilitate a leadership workshop in CA for over 50 General Managers, and like many of us, they walked into the training a little skeptical of what they were going to get out of the experience. They didn’t understand how pulling them out of their day-to-day lives for four days would be worth the reward. Throughout the week these leaders engaged in sharing stories, explored their values, discovered why they do what they do, learned how to listen more from their heart than their head, and as a result they, unknowingly, created the space to find themselves again.
Leader after leader reiterated that through their busyness they became more focused on numbers than people, lost sight of their values, treated their work family better than their home family, and struggled to tell you the “why” behind what they do.
Why did it take attending the workshop for participants to have this awakening? Of course, I would like to take credit and think it has something to do with the way I facilitate the material. Ego aside, however, these leaders came to the realization because they went through an experience that created space for these every day heroes to remove themselves from the distractions of their day-to-day, engage in real conversations, and reflect on the person they want to be.
The teacher became a student. They taught me that it doesn’t take a four day training program for you to find yourself, but it does take space. It takes self-awareness to know that you can be even better than you are today, and it takes intentionality to set aside time each week to remove yourself from the busyness and reflect.
Below are several questions meant to be reflective and help you get back in touch with yourself so you can reach your full potential. I invite you to pick one question a week and focus your energy on doing better in that particular area. Additionally, share your commitment with your family or colleagues and invite them to do the same. Your vulnerability and openness will lead to deeper and more authentic relationships.
- The three words I hope people use to describe me are ________, ________, and ________.
- To be a better ________, I would need to change __________.
- What specific behaviors do I do that might limit my potential at work and home?
- If I owned up to one thing that I could do to improve my relationships with people it would be ________.
- If I truly felt like I was good enough then I would ___________.
Finding yourself again might not be comfortable. It takes vulnerability and humility to own up to things you might not want to admit. It’s easier and potentially more comfortable to stay busy and distracted. However, I’ve never known one person who found themselves in the midst of a traffic jam, changing a poopy diaper, or scrolling through their cell phone during dinner.
You have the power to change the world one conversation at a time. Create the space to find yourself, again: Slow down. Shift into first gear. Engage in the most important conversation you will ever have.