Being held by an open mind

train journeyAt last month’s kick-off session for our Power2 Leaderlab, since it was the first in the series, we tackled confidentiality, commitment, and the challenges of disclosure. For such a program to work, one which focuses on our development, we need to feel free to talk at a deeper, more honest level. But the risk of revealing something is that we will be held to it forever. Will people identify us only with what we disclose? If we go out on a limb and say something revealing or provocative, will we be associated with that forever?

For cohort learning to be truly transformational the answer must be: NO. The one gift we have to give others in order to get in return is the possibility of changing.

We need to see ourselves and others like a train on a journey. We make many stops along the way, but none of those stops define us, or define our journey. Even if we linger, get off the train, and stay for a while, our life is far more than any one way station.

This is really how we grow through life. We go through phases. Most people make at least one or two seismic moves in a lifetime, shifting from one phase to another. We may have our serious phase, our wild child moments, our radical departures and radical returns. One month we are vegans with a vengeance, and then the next, it’s all Paleo.

Some transition softly from phase to phase while others make loud and messy shifts. They don’t just change, they revolt, kicking the old phase out the house, tossing its suitcase onto the sidewalk, slamming doors and shaking fists. Like ex-smokers, they become evangelists for the new and against the old.

This is human, and for this reason, we need the freedom to be fickle. In fact, our growth can be stunted, our development constricted by other’s perceptions and expectations. We know enough about self-fulfilling prophecies, and stereotype threats to know that how we are seen and the expectations others have on us go a long way towards determining our performance. It’s for this reason that people sometimes leave companies, groups, and even relationships, so that they can get a fresh start, be seen through new eyes, to become successful.

To be part of a group dedicated to growth, it’s important that we don’t hold others to the phase of life they are in, no matter how compelling or how vehemently they swear by it.

This is great group: one that allows you to change, to have pink hair and tattoos and the next day be completely over it. This is what we strive to create in our program, a group of people who can not only champion who we are in a given moment, but also who we are along the journey, even in our unrecognizable selves.

If you prize personal growth, the best gift you can give to others, and get in return, is the gift of being held by an open mind.

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