Why is it that we are often the very person that gets in our way? Well to quote one of the greatest leadership guru’s of all time the answer is clear:
The toughest person to lead is always yourself.-John Maxwell
But why is that? Why are you the hardest person you lead?
There is an old saying that for every mile of road there is 2 miles of ditch. When it comes to leading yourself, those two ditches tend to be a lack of real objectivity or being overly critical.
The lack of objectivity tends to make us overlook things like the small details necessary for progress. We often see ourselves, and our efforts, in the very best possible light to the exclusion of any critical flaws no matter how big or how small. This failure to look at ourselves objectively prevents us from making the corrections we need to make and taking the steps we need to take.
On the flip side, many of us have a tendency to be too self critical. We become our own worst enemy and engage in patterns of negative self talk that destroy our confidence and ability to recognize our own positive efforts to improve. In an effort to achieve perfection, every idea comes up short, discouragement grows, and soon all progress stops. Honest feedback and self assessment allow us to gauge our own growth, and understand that a failed idea may only be a few small tweaks away from success.
2. Blind Spots
In college I used to cut my own hair to save a few bucks. It is fairly easy to take care of the top and sides, but to cut the back I had to use two mirrors so I could see what was going on. It wasn’t easy to do, but unless I wanted a mullet (and if I wanted to be seen in public with my future wife!) it was something I had to do.
We all have blind spots in our lives. It may be minor habits that we think nothing about, it may be personality quirks that push people away without us even realizing it. We all have areas of unawareness that can trip us up. The problem comes if we never use that other mirror and we fail to see just how bad it is. It is one thing if we have a bad haircut, but crimes against fashion aside, having problems we aren’t aware of in other areas can be simply disastrous.
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.-Proverbs 15:22 NIV
The best way to beat your blind spot is to get someone else involved. Two great ways I know to do this are to build a team and get a mentor. A good team member will always be honest with you if you expect and allow it to happen. Good mentors have a way of helping us see those areas where we need to grow in life, but again we have to given them permission to speak into our blindness and be courageous enough to listen before it does us any good. Surround yourself with good people that not only cheer you on, but who also call your attention to those things you can’t see.
3. Impossible Expectations
This is the curse of the American Dream, but before you get offended hear me out. I believe in hard work, I believe in pursuing your dreams, but I also believe in reality. No matter how much work I put in today, tomorrow, or for the next year, I will never become an olympic sprinter. All that effort might help me lose some extra weight, but the reality is that being a world class runner just isn’t, and has never been, a possibility for me. Of course if you know me that is a rather outlandish goal anyway, but we commit whole hog to outlandish goals all the time. We find ourselves believing that if we just put our heads down, go to work, and get ‘er done that anything is possible. And it is, except when it’s not.
Instead of helping us make the progress we need though, impossible expectations tend to make us overcommitted, often over budget, and always overstressed in an effort to attain the unreachable goals that we set for ourselves. We need to get real and take another look at our expectations. They may be great long term goals, but they are the mountain you can’t climb right now. Instead of trying to become Bill Gates overnight, do some strategizing. Set short term goals that you can successfully meet and build off of, and pretty soon you will see the progress you need to see. I believe almost any mountain is climbable with the right strategy and a clear plan of ascent.
4. Easily Justifiable Excuses
When it comes to leading ourselves it is so easy to buy into the excuses we give. Hitting the snooze just one more time is OK because it’s just 8 more minutes. Eating that extra two scoops of ice cream isn’t a big deal because after all, it is your birthday. Putting off your education for another semester just makes sense because right now you are too busy. But those minutes, calories, and semesters add up and pretty soon we are running behind, gaining weight, and have lost all motivation for school. When you are fighting against yourself you always win and you always lose. Excuses and explanations are only good for apologies and for those times when we remember why we aren’t doing that anymore.
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If you want to overcome the man in the mirror, you’ve got to do more than just ask him to change his ways. Take some responsibility. Do some self reflection, you got yourself into this, you may need some help getting out, so bring someone in. Responsible people own their failure and do what ever it takes to make corrections, even if that means getting help. Write down some doable short, mid, and long term goals, put a timeline on them, share them with someone you trust, plan a few rewards along the way, and then get busy chasing down your dream.
We all have a hard time leading ourselves, but with some hard work, self discipline, and solid support it is doable and worth the effort every time. If I can help you with any of this, I’ld be happy to connect.