I was speaking with a friend recently who confided in me that she was feeling stuck and as though she was not growing or advancing. In fact she said she felt like she was going backwards instead of forward. This made me think of dance, of course. I offered her the analogy of dancing the Cha Cha Cha or Salsa where we have to go backward a little to then go forward and for the follower we typically start by going backward… Ultimately I encouraged her to stick with it through this transition time which is often not fun, scary, uncomfortable, and not pretty.
This reminded me of another metaphor I have used to explain growing pains. When a person is trying to grow out their hair there is always that stage that the hair is not long enough to style the way we want yet too long to turn back if we want the style we are hoping for. It’s an awkward phase where the hair is, well ugly, and you have to decide if to live with it because you know what the pay off will be for your continued investment or revert back to what is easier, more comfortable, and certain. Sometimes when we are learning something new we have to lean into the time period when we are not yet competent, when we haven’t quite figured it out and we may be a little behind others, whether they are in the room with you or not. Instead of retreating back to what is known sometimes we have to challenge ourselves to be humbled by the experience and continue to work on it knowing that eventually we will go forward again. This may be especially difficult for those of us leaders who find it difficult to follow.
I remembered seeing in a former colleague’s office (Shezad Bruce, Media Coordinator at Whittier College) a sign with an image of two circles (similar to the one pictured above). In the smaller circle were the words “comfort zone” and in the large circle were the words “where the magic happens”. It was a nice constant reminder for him and his student workers that sometimes when we get too comfortable we don’t grow yet it is easy to not want to go outside of our comfort zone because it is challenging. However like when we are dancing the Cha Cha we don’t want to step so far back that it takes us off balance. It is best if we step back just underneath ourselves so we can do the movement faster if need be and so that we can add the Cuban hips / our own flair easier as well. 🙂 In other words, some challenge is good, too much challenge is overwhelming and can be detrimental to our progress and/or not allow us the opportunity to make it our own.
As I write this I began thinking of the Paula Abdul song “Opposites Attract” (I may be dating myself here but oh well I’m a fan) with the lyrics “two steps forward and two steps back…”. These song lyrics remind me that life is a dance; sometimes things will challenge us and it may seem as though we are going backward, standing still, or as though we are not meant to be somewhere. If we remember that all of those steps (back, forward, side, in place, etc.) are needed to create an entire routine (aka life) then perhaps we won’t be so scared of it and we can lean into the discomfort and continue to realize our potential. The hard work is how we turn raw talent into strengths and us from coal into the diamonds that we have inside! This is how we attract our opposite partner that Paula Abdul sings about, how we dance life’s challenges, and ultimately how we can be resilient. #justkeepswiming (A reference to a line from the character Dory in the Disney Pixar’s movie “Finding Nemo“).
Remember: Everyone has the potential to lead (and follow)…
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