One of the exercises I ask some of my coaching clients to complete is to write a short narrative on their journey, or what they have learned throughout our time together. The choice is theirs. I ask them to do this because the coaching process we employ is heavily weighted on self-reflection. Often people come in thinking that things happen “to them.” Our job is to get them to see these events as happening “for them.” Other times we get clients who think that everybody else is the problem and they come seeking guidance on how to deal with that. When we hear that, we often counter with “when everybody else looks wrong, maybe it is not them.” To create the change they want to see, either in themselves or their organization, our goal is to get them to reflect, and look for what their part is in the dynamics, the conflict, or the relationship.

The main benefit of this exercise is to help the client clarify where they are and how far they have come. I believe strongly in writing it out because I believe “Writing Clarifies Thought” Getting the swirling thoughts out of your mind and out on paper brings clarity in your mind. It helps untangle the spiderweb that is swirling in your head and lays out the points independently.

I have asked for and received permission from one such client who has done tremendous work in a very short time. This client was very uncomfortable with this exercise and pushed through it and created a brilliant piece of work, that I want to share with you.

In 8th grade, I decided to be an Architect and never looked back. My journey has been one with many great achievements, but with each one of those “wins,” there were ten losses. The goal (to be an architect) is just one minor event in a lifelong journey, but the process is what really made me who I am today. In retrospect, I could’ve paid a lot more attention to every turn in my career, but that is difficult when I was in the trenches; with time I learned how to always go back and analyze situations; what would I do differently? How can I be more prepared for the next time? Should I go back and fix it? And that’s when it clicked; this is called experience. What a novel idea, right?

Imagine me as a young entrepreneur, a millennial, and with a lot of drive, being told that I must be patient. My head almost exploded; I was furious about why I can’t lead a team or a project to success if I have such drive, energy, and creativity. It was then that I became interested in leadership as a language each generation speaks differently. If I wanted to be successful, I needed to understand the needs of those around me more than my personal needs or recognition. Therefore, I need to be nimble as leaders in this day and age. We have multiple generations coming together in the workplace—each with different needs, expectations, and challenges—and I must help our teams work together to produce results for everyone involved. I also must help everyone on a team feel valued, respected, and listened to at all times while maintaining a consistently high standard of performance that will result in success for our business.

My journey has been one of hard work, adaptability, and empathy. I feel that my growth has outpaced my experience, and that’s been my greatest challenge. How can I demonstrate that I’m competent for my position? The reality is that all I must always look for is those people that are better than me. Those who will not only complement the team but challenge to keep a healthy pace while still pushing the envelope every step of the way. When I hire people who are better than me, it’s not just a matter of recognizing the value of their skills. I must be able to step back and let them do their jobs. But hiring the right people isn’t enough. I must make sure that they have what they need from you for them to be successful. And that’s when I understood to adapt and be nimble to be the support of the team.

There is plenty for me to grow and learn in the workplace, but there are a few things that I will always take with me. First, I need to work hard for myself, not for recognition. So many things in our lives are centered around getting external validation. At the end of the day, working toward a goal because I want it for me is far more fulfilling than working for praise or reward. Second, I need to have empathy for those around me. It’s challenging to find time for people when I am busy, but having empathy allows me to recognize the struggles my peers are facing—and even if it’s just giving someone a high-five or asking how their day was going, little things like that can make all the difference in someone’s life. Finally, I need to be curious and enjoy the process. My life goals are only one event in my timeline, but the Journey is the one that defines who I am when I get there. It is the most underrated lesson I can get in life. Stay Curious!

Anonymous | Guest Author