…not a Place of Residence.
“Comfortable”, “Predictable”, “Known” and “Familiar” are all terms we would like to describe our lives as leaders. Or would we? It is easy to rely on the past because it has already happened, something we have already seen and experiences making it familiar to us. The problem is that it is what was and likely not a good reflection of what will be. The question becomes how do we effectively use the past as a learning experience without allowing ourselves to get “stuck” living in it?
- Using the Past as a Point of Reference ~ We are all products of our past regardless of what that past looked like. It molds us into who we are due to its influence on the beliefs and attitudes that drive our daily actions. The key to learning from our past is to get beyond remembering only what happened in the past, what I call our “Content Past”. We remember events, people and conversations from our past that we file away under “I will want to do more of that” or “I’ll never work with that person again” or any of the thousands of reference points we attach to our past. However, we need to take this a step further and consciously ask ourselves, “What did I learn from this experience?” or what I call our “Contextual Past”. What was the cause and effect of these experiences that help us understand that a failure in the past does not result in a “I will never do that again.” To a more meaningful, “It did not work this time due to the conditions but could work under different conditions.” The reverse is also true and potentially more blinding. A success in the past should not result in, “I will always do it this way going forward.” opposed to a more effective, “It worked under these conditions, but if these conditions change, it might not work as well, or not at all.”
- Avoiding the Past as a Place of Residence ~ Living in the past, while comforting in the moment, is a dangerous place for leaders and staying relevant in a constantly changing world. The best way to avoid falling into this trap lies in creating and maintaining an Attitude of Adaptability to complement your Purpose. Our behaviors are a reflection of our beliefs and attitudes, which are habits of thought. By embracing adaptability as an inherent element of how we think, we consciously engage in actions that are relevant to current conditions in our life as a leader (personal, business, community, etal). These actions can come across as contrarian and confusing to those who still embrace the status quo (read: most of your followers!) However, it is imperative adaptability as a norm is ingrained into the psyche of the leader and the organizations they lead. In the words of Marshall Goldsmith’s book, “What got you here won’t get you there”!
This is the time of year when we typically pause and reflect on the past year and make plans for the upcoming unknown. Our opportunity as leaders is to honestly assess what we learned from our contextual past and, with an open mind, create a future that leverages that new learning for sustainable success!
How will your future look different than your past?