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The Next Level of You

October 10, 2018

You are driven. You have an impact. You’ve excelled in everything you’ve ever done. You’ve accomplished great things. You’re liked and appreciated by your colleagues and your friends. On the surface, you’re a success.

But recently you’ve come to realize that you crave something more. You’re missing something, but you’re not quite sure what it is. You have a feeling that you’re leaving a big part of yourself on the table, that you could be more, somehow.

Your drive, your impact-focus, your perfectionism, and your likability have gotten you far. But these very same qualities are the ones that are holding you back from even greater levels of success and achievement.

To become the next level of you, you need to rethink what it means to be you.

It’s time to shed your skin. It’s time to level up.

Drive and perfection

You’re ambitious, driven and independent. You’re multi-talented. You’ve always had a knack for solving problems. You’ve performed and exceeded expectations your whole life. Since you can handle any challenge, you can always do more. And since other people do nothing but slow you down, you prefer handling things yourself. You strive for bigger and broader challenges, because you know that you can handle them.

But you’ve started asking yourself: What am I driven towards? What am I driven by? Where am I going with all this busyness?

You’ve realized that you’re not actually driven toward anything. The only thing you’re driven by is that relentless, incessant slavedriver on your shoulder, who whips you to do more, and more, and more. It’s never quite enough for him, though, is it? If anything, you’re driven away from yourself and what you want. In fact, you have no idea what you really want anymore, because it hasn’t mattered in a long time. Combined with your high standards of accomplishment, you’re stuck with an infinitely high bar that you don’t want to overcome. The high bar blinds you from what you actually want. And because you strive for perfection, it’s easier to do nothing than to fail at overcoming the high bar. You don’t ask for help. So now you’re stuck. And you’re numb.

Your drive has served you well. But it’s also keeping you stuck and numb.

What got you here, won’t get you there.

Impact and value

You’re focused on delivering impact and value. You don’t like to fuck around. You want to have a real impact on the world, so you despise wasting time. If there’s value to gain, you act. If not, you avoid it like the plague. You’ve prioritized value your whole life. Play is for children, you’ve always thought. You can be relied on to get things done. And you’ve delivered.

But your focus on being productive means that anything that doesn’t have a valued, practical, and measurable end-goal isn’t worth doing. Rest, recovery, breaks, play, just hanging out — why bother? You’ll eat chia seeds, turmeric and coconut oil until they spill out of your ears, but a good-old chocolate cake? Yeah right. Play and pleasure is for children, after all. And because of your unforgiving value-focus, you’ve become more and more isolated. You’ve been so focused on being productive and doing what’s “right”, that you’ve forgotten what those emotions called pleasure and joy feel like. You’ve become so focused on doing, that you’re scared of being.

Your focus on value has served you well. But it’s also holding you back from from achieving real, true, deep levels of impact and connection.

What got you here, won’t get you there.

Kindness and empathy

You’re likable. You’re polite. You’re kind. People enjoy your company. You’ve learned to play the social game with your finely-tuned emotional intelligence. You can fit in to any group, at work or at the bar. You’re a diplomat of the highest order, who always sees the other side of the picture. You’re liked by everyone.

But you don’t dive deep. You’re afraid of commitment. You’re terrified of being vulnerable and showing weakness. You shy away from conflict, because you associate the discomfort of argument with your own value as a human being. Keeping the peace has become so important that you’ve learned to neglect your own opinions. You’ve become so used to keeping other people happy, that you’ve forgotten what it means to be truly happy yourself.

Your likability has served you well. But it’s also preventing you from experiencing the tenderness of love and the attainment of your own desires.

What got you here, won’t get you there.

The work

It’s entirely natural that it’s turned out like this. You’ve achieved so much. But now you can start seeing the costs. You’re not only depriving yourself of the beauty of aliveness. You’re depriving the world of yourself and your potential impact. In your effort to be impact-driven, productive and kind, you’ve ended up stuck, numb and isolated. In an attempt to put others first, you’ve actually prioritized your own insecurities and defense mechanisms.

So, what to do about it? First of all — acknowledge all of the goodness. Appreciate and say thanks to all of your amazing qualities. They’ve brought you far. Don’t try to “fix you”. There’s nothing wrong.

But — and it’s a big, hairy but— to take the next big step and to achieve what you really want, you need to incorporate a more nuanced version of your core qualities. You need to understand where they come from and what they lead to. You need to start seeing what it is that you’re currently compensating for, and to begin healing the wounds at the depths of your soul. You need to expand what it means to be you, no matter how uncomfortable that might seem.

Where to start? In the same way you learn anything. Practice. Practice doing what’s uncomfortable and what you’re currently resisting.

You can practice being open. Practice sitting with the discomfort of being. Practice noticing what you want, and going after it. Practice committing to your desires. Practice opening your heart and leaving it on the floor, messy and bloody for all to see. And, god forbid, practice allowing yourself to eat that luscious chocolate cake, and actually enjoying it.

Work with your coach on it. Ask your close friends and colleagues for feedback. Show leadership by modeling to others what’s possible through deep inner work. Play around with your development, if you dare.

Becoming the next level of you is not easy. There’s no quick fix. It can be outright nasty at times. It’s like a snake shedding its skin — it’s a far from elegant affair. And like the snake, it’s not a one-time occurrence. It’s the work of a lifetime.

This, my dear friend, is the real work. This is where real impact comes from. This, you’ve come to realize, is your next big project. It’s you.

But you’ve always liked a challenge, right?


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