Brene Brown: Change Demands Discomfort
It’s a big question with no simple answer. However after a morning with author Brene Brown, a woman who’s insights have inspired tens of millions around the globe to change how they parent, love, live and lead, it’s a question worth exploring.
You only have to look at today’s headlines – US presidential hopefuls, refugee crisis… – to find reasons to feel afraid. It’s why creating a better world will first require creating a braver world; one in which people aren’t drive (or elected President) by fear of what could go wrong, but by a sense of purpose for what could be made right.
In the spirit of Margaret Mead (quoted above), it would seem that the only way this will ever be accomplished is when ordinary people like you and me decide we can’t wait for anyone else to make things right and that we must step up and each do what we can.
Idealistic, sure. However nothing was ever changed by succumbing to cynicism or relegating the most pressing problems to the ‘too hard’ basket. Which, in the end, is what real courage is all about.
- It’s about taking ownership of your ability to influence change – beginning with yourself by confronting what’s not working in your own life.
- It’s about stepping up to the leadership plate in your team, your organization, your community and beyond and daring to rattle the cages of power and complacency.
- It’s about refusing to buy into the story that you aren’t smart enough, experienced enough, powerful enough, brave enough or _______ (fill-in-the-blank) enough to affect the change you’d love to see in the world right around you.
Brene shared her belief that the influence of a leader is not limited by their professional development; it’s influenced by their personal development. It’s rings of truth. After all, how can we lead others if we have not learned to lead ourselves? All leadership begins on the inside and extends outward.
Our ability to create and accomplish and influence and change what inspires us most deeply is limited by how much we’ve ‘worked on ourselves.’ Needless to say, ‘working on yourself’ is not a one off endeavor where you get to tick the box after a weekend with Tony Robbins or Brene or anyone else for that matter. It’s a life long endeavor to keep peeling away the layers of armor we erect around ourselves to keep us safe and comfortable and shield us from the vulnerability inherent in living what Brene calls a ‘wholehearted life’.
Admittedly, like all true noble endeavors, it’s far easier said than done.
As human beings, our brains aren’t wired to make us happy they’re wired to keep us safe. It sets up an internal tug of war between what scares us and what inspires us; between protecting our pride and laying it on the line for new possibilities that far transcend it. It’s why every single day of our lives we have to get up, step up and ‘work on ourselves’ – consciously choosing to put our weight behind the best part of ourselves; the part that is urging us toward growth and learning and contribution and the fullest expression of the person we have it within us to become.
Great leaders do that every day. They tune into the emotions that can so easily high-jack reason – their own and others; they challenge their own stories and they embrace the discomfort that comes from laying their vulnerability (and reputation) on the line. As Brene said so eloquently, “The nature of leadership is discomfort. That’s why there are so few great leaders.”
So what does it take, in practical every day terms to start changing the world? Here are ten suggestions inspired by the work and words of Brene. I challenge you to do at least three in the next 24 hours and then repeat daily thereafter. Courageous is contagious – you have no idea what ripple effect you may set in motion!
1. Encourage someone to think bigger about what is possible for them. Remember our greatest gift to others is to help them see the gifts in themselves.
2. Do something, however small, to show someone you care about them and what they care about. It’s the small things that build the strongest trust.
3. Sit with an uncomfortable emotion, get curious and ask yourself “What’s the story I’m telling myself about this situation that’s making me feel this way?” Then tell yourself another story that moves you toward a better outcome.
4. Have a brave conversation with someone you’ve been putting off. The price you pay for avoiding hard conversations will always exceed the discomfort you feel when having it.
5. Reach out to someone outside your work team or usual ‘group’ and find out what they’re up to and how you may be able to help them.
6. Ask someone to help you. It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.
7. Spare the blame. Instead of pointing the finger and laying blame on others for something that isn’t as you’d like, do something to change it. Problems cannot be solved by complaining about them.
8. Show up fully. Take off your ‘armor’ and lower your “I’ve-got-it-all-together” mask and dare to share what’s been on your mind with someone you trust.
9. Upgrade the value you’ve been putting on yourself – set a boundary, say no to something that doesn’t light you up, or simply raise your asking price!
10. Give someone the benefit of the doubt and make the most generous assumption you can about why they may have acted as they have.
And if none of these are calling to you today, simply ask yourself “What would I do today if I were being truly brave?” Then move in whatever direction your answer beckons. It may not change the whole world, but it could change yours.