Learning Leads to Self-Discipline
In last week’s post, we examined the power of using the emotional clarity of contribution to move beyond our fears and find a higher purpose for taking action. This week, we explore the other tool for emotional clarity: learning goals.
In previous posts, I’ve been discussing my resistance to writing a book as an example of how emotional clarity can lead to discipline. This week, I’d like to offer up a different example to highlight the importance of learning goals: My role as CEO of LaL.
LaL is at a crossroads today that is challenging us to rethink our business model and long-term strategy. As CEO for the last year and a half, I have been confronted by a lot of self-worth fears that threatened to hijack how I spent my time including:
- Not being smart or strategic enough
- Not being a good enough leader
- Feeling overwhelmed by too many new business opportunities — which is the right one?
- Not wanting to be wrong or criticized
These feelings make addressing the more strategic questions for LaL fraught with the fear of failure. I experienced tension every time I tried to block out a morning to work on the strategic issues on my plate. And since I’ve always been successful at, and gratified by, business development and client work, it was very easy to not be disciplined with my time and get caught up in all the urgent operational issues that my team brought me.
I just needed to sit down and force myself to do it, right?
(Wrong! If you were nodding yes, then go back to the first post and start over! J)
Not being able to let go of the tactical to carve out time to do the strategic is a very common issue we see in the leaders we train. If you have that issue, I believe it is because you are emotionally confused about what you want.
So my first steps were to examine my fears and why it deeply mattered to me to define LaL’s path forward. But even then, there is no guarantee that I’ll make the right decisions. I might fail. (shh!)
And so learning goals help me let go of the outcome while recentering me on how this challenge is an opportunity for me to grow.
A few of my Learning Goals as CEO of LaL:
- Learn to think strategically about our business (sorry, but yours truly didn’t take a single business class in college)
- Share our challenges with mentors and other CEOs to broaden my perspective of how we might improve our business model (let go of appearing like I know/am competent)
- Be curious about my own team’s perspectives and learn to integrate different points of view (vs. trying to figure it out on my own)
- Learn from (vs. judge) false starts or mistakes I make along the way
In moments of frustration, when I think, “There are so many different issues and problems, and so few answers” (like I did yesterday), I can connect with the emotional clarity of those learning goals and say, “Yeah, you’ve never been here before. You are in uncharted territory, but it’s okay. You’re learning.” I have a way to relate to the breakdowns like they are part of the process, instead of a problem I can’t overcome.
Have you had those moments in your life where you’ve gone through a difficult or challenging experience and, looking back, said, “Wow, that was a great growth opportunity. I learned so much”? Think how much less painful — and more fruitful — the experience could have been if you’d had that learning mindset at the most awkward stages along the way.
Think about something personal or professional that is important to you that you have been putting off. This could be the same item you used in the exercises from the last two posts. What are some learning goals that you are excited about in regard to this item? We would love to hear your comments and questions.
In next week’s post, we will wrap up this discussion on discipline being a consequence of clarity, not willpower, by looking at how this dynamic plays out in the workplace.