Let me fess up. I’ve got a bit of an addiction, although I have curbed it a lot lately. It’s going online and watching videos or listening to podcasts in the personal development and leadership space.
The topics are varied, from writing your own book, producing products, changing habits, being more in touch with your emotions, your spirituality, your physicality, leading in tough times, and so on.
I made a major DISCOVERY THAT’S VITAL TO YOUR HAPPINESS.
There’s a theme throughout, to all the input, and it’s not subtle, not subliminal, not disguised. It’s blatant, in your face SHOUTING at you: “You are EXTRAORDINARY”.
Everyone is preaching messages like:
“You were born for greatness”
“You have so much untapped potential”
“You can be anything you want to be”
“Everything is possible for you with enough belief”
“You are exceptional”
“You were born to win”
And the one I love most of all:
“It’s not your fault, it’s just that nobody up until now has shown you how to be extraordinary”
Talk about taking away responsibility.
Part of me wants to believe them and part of me has the story of Icarus resonating within, not to fly too close to the sun (or too close to the water for that matter). Not to let my hubris overtake my humility.
On the surface, this looks great, to tell people they are great. But with our newfound knowledge of the tension of opposites…
“Houston, we have a problem!”
Owing Your Ordinary
The problem is you are being unconsciously discouraged from owning your “ordinary self”. The self that’s not that brilliant, exceptional, smart, wise, in control, never depressed, never angry, never lost, the part that never makes mistakes.
The self that knows…
- Your marriage is on the rocks.
- Your firstborn adult son is into drugs and, you suspect, an alcoholic.
- Your daughter insists she is leaving home (she is only 15) as soon as she has finished school.
- Your parent’s health is failing and there’s nothing you can do about it, all of the money in the world can’t alter the decline.
- Your own health is horrific, you are grossly overweight, get puffed going up even one flight of stairs.
- Your brother has cancer and needs to stay at your place for treatment.
- You’ve completely lost control of your business; it’s running you down.
- You’ve become a workaholic overnight, when did that happen?
- You run this multi-million dollar corporation, drive a beautiful car, you have the McMansion, McMortgage and are only 3 months paycheque away from McDonalds.
How can you possibly be “extraordinary” when surrounded by such events that make you feel even less than “ordinary”. In fact, you feel like an out-and-out “loser”, totally inauthentic.
What’s the real problem here?
The real problem is you have been conditioned to believe that unless you are extraordinary, you’re nothing, you just don’t count.
And so again, you have to hide this tension of opposites from the world, behind the bravado, brave faces and in extreme cases, bullying, shouting or over-controlling.
You push it down, down, down, deeper and deeper. You feel like such a phoney, so unworthy. Every time someone compliments you, you literally cringe. It’s a reminder of what a “phoney” you have become.
So, you anaesthetise the pain, with more addictive or masking behaviours. Masking or covering up the pain. You drink more, you eat more, you work more, you gamble more. Anything to “numb” the hopelessness of facing the reality that you may just be normal, the same as everybody else. Ordinary you.
The saddest most extreme form of this is when business people, because of their attachment to living “extraordinary”, link their self worth to their net worth. If they go “bust” the shame of this can be so intense, they cannot bear to face the world, and in extreme cases take their own lives.
There is no easy solution, but if this is you then your dark side, the side without the light must be allowed to surface, to see “the light of day”.
“Let your ordinary self shine”
Again, I’m not saying give up on your extraordinary, I’m saying “own” that you have an “ordinary” part as well.
You make mistakes.
You don’t always get it right.
You need others’ support.
You need others’ ideas.
This self-acceptance is really at the heart of all great personal growth and development. Being ok with being ordinary and ok.
Here’s the funny thing. What will often happen is the more you own your ordinariness, the more you will be seen as “extraordinary” in the eyes of others. You model humanity for us all.
Are you up to it?
Let your “extra” ordinary part show the world just how “ordinary” you are.
- Do you find yourself measuring people’s worth? “Is this person ordinary or extraordinary?”…Catch your judgement of others!
- Become aware of any tendencies to be constantly working out the authority, power and pecking order in the room to see if you are the “extraordinary” one.
- Ask yourself what the lesson is from those you brand as “losers”.
- Admit to others where you’re struggling. That’s REAL strength.
- Be comfortable not knowing all the answers, make your mantra “I don’t know, what do you think?”. One of the key strengths of top leaders is their tolerance for ambiguity, to be great in the grey. Now more than ever.
- Know that the more you fight against showing or owning your ordinary part, the more it will unconsciously control you.
- Go to those dark places, it’s where the gems are.
“The cave you fear to enter
holds the treasure that you seek”
Until next time…
Find the passion.
Develop the skills.
Make the numbers.
Make a difference.
“APAC’s most respected transformational leadership performance coach”
Paul Mitchell (@Paul_S_Mitchell) is a speaker, author, transformational leadership coach and founder of the human enterprise. Through leadership coaching, leadership development programmes, keynotes and facilitation, Paul works with organisations to build cultures where everybody leads.
In our Leadership Development programme Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? What it takes to be an authentic leader, we encourage leaders to share both their strengths and their allowable weaknesses with others. In that way the whole team can support you as you model your vulnerability and humanity.
When business results depend on leading others, it helps to understand what followers need. Yet too many leaders emulate celebrity CEOs or bosses they admire, trying to be people they aren’t. As a result, they often fail. If your leaders fail, your organisation will too. Based on the work of London Business School Professors Goffee and Jones, this BlessingWhite programme allows leaders to remain true to who they are, while simultaneously modifying their behaviour to respond to the needs of their followers and the circumstances they encounter. They are then able to be themselves – more – with skill, releasing and focusing amazing amounts of energy to create amazing results.
We’ve researched the absolute essentials of inspiring leadership and created a one-day experience for emerging and new leaders. It’s primarily skills based, yet also inspires your associates to be the best leaders they can be at work, at home and in their community. It provides you with a solid platform of self-awareness, a servant leadership mindset, and the skills necessary to get to Higher Ground in the future. Basecamp: Leadership Essentials is also now being delivered as Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) with multiple modules and online pre and post workshop activities to promote transference of learnings and skills back into your organisation.