Have you ever thought about what it would take to completely change your life? I am not talking about changing your present circumstances for a temporary period of time, like taking a vacation or buying a new car. What I am mean is COMPLETELY change your life from the inside out. Even if you have thought about it, chances are there did not seem like any good way you could just change your entire life. Sure we can fantasize about selling everything we own, buying a boat and sailing off into the sunset (or whatever your day dream might take you), but really what would that entail? For me it would mean walking away from my marriage, my children, my family, friends, and career. I am not willing to do that, there are too many people that I love and who count on me. I know people have just walked away for whatever reason. We have probably all seen stories where someone just disappears and years later are found living in some other state or country living a different life. Most of the time those stories are tragic because the person put a lot of people through tremendous heartache. So knowing that we cannot and should not be that selfish how then can we completely change our lives from the inside out? As a man whose faith is deeply important to me that question has already been answered but not in the way you might think. My inside out complete life change was a long painful process over many years. Regardless of your personal beliefs, complete change is possible. Let me give you an example using a recent true story.
I was recently speaking with a woman who I have worked with for two years. She is compassionate, engaged, culture focused and deeply cares about the people she works with. We often kid her about the touchy, feely stuff she tries to get our senior leadership team to endorse. She opened up to us one day and explained that her nickname back when she was a new leader was Hitler. She said that she had completely changed from that time to now. Time did not allow for details of her transformation but enough was said to understand that she was unhappy with those character traits and has worked hard to let go of the anger, fear, and defensiveness that manifested itself as a dictator. You can say she COMPLETELY changed her life because this transcended into her personal life and how she saw the world.
This work is hard. Think about it, we often have so many ingrained perceptions and behaviors that we naturally default to them when we are stressed. I recall years ago when I was in a leadership position at another organization one of the leaders who reported to me came in to talk about a conversation she had just had with another employee. The employee was upset with how I had handled a situation. The details are not important but what she said to me was impactful. My direct report leader was explaining the conversation and said “I just told Mary that is how Chris is, he didn’t mean it like it sounded.” Whoa! Hold on a minute, that was not OK with me. I thought about it and went back to my leader and Mary and said it is not OK if my behavior has to be explained to others in order for them to not take it the wrong way. As a leader I have to be responsible for every aspect of my communication. I cannot put my staff or others in a position to explain me. This is where it gets hard. I had (and continue) to have to be aware and open to that feedback so I can change. I sure wish I could change myself completely all in one wink of eye but the truth is my complete life change comes in daily perseverance, failing and being willing to try again. Take heart, a COMPLETE change can occur if we are disciplined and willing to take accountability for ourselves.
So when I asked, “Have you ever thought about what it would take to completely change your life,” it was meant a little tongue-in-cheek. It is more about taking the time to self reflect, dig into those rough character defects, be vulnerable in allowing others to mold your change and in the end being willing to embrace the journey.