Over the course of my own professional life, I’ve addressed and overcome many limitations myself, and I’ve learnt how to work smarter rather than harder. But life is a continuous learning process, and I was recently confronted with another big limitation – my need for control - which resulted in a rather big and very cleansing cry!
The incident happened at a seminar with about 200 other people. It was a three-day business event designed to help us accelerate in our professions. About six hours into the first day the facilitator took us through a guided meditation which lasted about 15 minutes. The purpose of the meditation was to help us visualise that which we wanted to achieve in our professional lives and to let go of any conscious or unconscious fears we might have. In my case I visualised how I needed to change my ways of working in order to reach more project managers. I want to help as many project managers as possible to get to the next level without the experience of project failure, excessively long hours and negative stress.
Inside the room everyone had their eyes closed, the lights were dim and a very powerful and inspirational tune was playing. The facilitator asked us to imagine where we would be 3 months from today, then 6 months and finally 3 years. We were asked to float outside of our bodies and see ourselves from high up in the sky – and to keep moving further and further away. At one point I was way out there. I couldn’t even see my body any more. I felt so good and I was so close to my dream. I felt I could achieve anything.
But whist I was floating around in outer space feeling near perfect, I got overwhelmed by a fear of stepping away from that which is known to me and into the unknown. You see, as a project manager I’m a bit of a control freak. I like to be on safe ground and the thought of fundamentally redefining how I work – and possibly having to give up my day job in order to effectively reach and help more project managers – filled me with uncertainty and unease. On the one hand I saw the beauty and the potential, and on the other I saw the reality of my fears and I understood that my need for control was holding me back.
My body started to shake and tears were dripping from my face. I was being confronted with one of my biggest limiting factors and I couldn’t stop sobbing!
The truth is that most of us are uncomfortable moving away from something we know well and into a place where we have not been before. In some instances we overcome the discomfort and do it anyway - for instance when we wrap up the old project and start a new one. But in other instances we let our fear control us and stop us – for instance when we dream of switching sector or moving to a foreign country. In these situations we have to show strength and determination and remind ourselves that in order to get something we never had, we have to do something we never did – and by definition that means moving into the unknown.
We only really grow and learn when we embrace the unknown. That is not to say that we have to jump into it with our eyes closed. But we have to accept that we cannot remove all uncertainly even with the best risk management.
So, let’s relinquish a bit of our control. It’s okay to be on shaky ground and it’s okay not to have all the answers. It’s even okay to fail; some would say that it’s essential. So let’s not hold ourselves back being that which we really want out of fear of failure or fear of the unknown. As the adage goes; Feel the fear and do it anyway!
- Which things do you currently avoid doing out of fear?
- What would it take for you to start accepting and overcoming this fear?
- How can you gradually start to expand your comfort zone and take one step towards that which you really want?
To read more about how you can overcome your limiting factors as a project manager, get hold of The Project Management Coaching Workbook - Six Steps to Unleashing Your Potential
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