Welcome back to Making it Happen, I’m your host, Amanda Kaufman! Each week I’m writing and vlogging on the topics of personal productivity and mastering your personal performance. I want to share what I have learned to help high achieving breadwinners stop the silent decay of self that is often associated with high stakes positions, to make time for yourselves, your relationships, your family, your adventures… all while continuing to crush it at work for sustained performance. This week, I’m discussing the importance of “Claiming Your Greatness” to position you for living up to your maximum potential.
Before we jump in, what do I mean by Claiming Your Greatness? Claiming Your Greatness means understanding and cultivating your belief in your ability to achieve your goals. That’s it! It’s a knowing that you are more than enough to achieve your goals, and that you deserve to achieve them if you are willing to do the work to get there.
I’m no stranger to transformative change. I grew up in a very small, very, VERY remote arctic town in Canada. I then left the North to pursue a degree in chemical engineering. Then, halfway through, I decided to add on the Engineering Entrepreneurship Option (think MBA minor) to my degree to explore the world of entrepreneurship that 3 generations of women in my family before me had pursued. After that, another sharp turn on my life path: instead of becoming an engineer, I decided to pursue an opportunity in technology consulting in Calgary, Alberta. After 3 years of that, I had met the man of my dreams, and followed my Texan sweetheart to Fort Worth, moving my entire life to live far further South than I ever would have considered possible! After that, I became a step-mother, then a mother, and all the while pursuing my transformative career, shifting gears from technology, to management consulting, and into strategy consulting. All these changes, all these transformative events that resulted in wildly different circumstances for my life – they are all opportunities I identified, and intentionally pursued.
Why all the back-story this post? Because it’s important to the main point: I have learned, first hand, that you need to Claim Your Greatness far before anyone else will, if you genuinely want to achieve a new level of normal in your life. Had I never discovered this ability, I would never have left my hometown. Ever since I was a child, I dreamed of a jet-setting professional lifestyle. I dreamt of “having it all”. And while having it all is a subject for another post, suffice it to say, I have most of what I want, because I claimed my own greatness to permit me to do the things that needed doing in order to achieve each stage of new normal in my life.
To be very clear, Claiming Your Greatness is not a narcissistic exercise in ego-maniacal grand-standing and bragging behaviors designed to marginalize the people around you. In fact, Claiming Your Greatness is a quiet, and externally boring exercise. Most people won’t even know you’re doing it. The only time someone else will know that you’re indeed Claiming Your Greatness, is how you respond when situations occur that could infringe on it. It’s like an invisible bubble or shield around you and your belief in your capacity to achieve your goals, no one will notice it until they bump into it, or in some cases, try to pop it!
So, how do you Claim Your Greatness for yourself? It’s a simple idea, but it’s not always easy to do. Here are some ideas to help you get there:
Whether it’s career, or love, or self-growth… whatever. You have to start with a vision for where you want to be. Know with total clarity, down to the ability to smell it as you visualize that new normal. And you have to check back in with that vision, A LOT. Be a bit obsessed with it, so you can’t put down ideas and progress for too long without feeling the itch to move forward again.
We are so conditioned to believe that we only deserve something once it has already been granted to us. “You can be a leader, when you have the title of Manager”, “You will be worthy of love, after you found love”, “You will be beautiful, after you achieve your goal weight”… But how true are these things? Everyone influences someone somehow… that makes us all leaders. Your worthiness of love is not dictated by your relationship status, because it does not change with that circumstance. Beauty does not require the qualification of a specific weight, as we are FINALLY seeing advertisers more regularly embrace, now that the average American woman is a size 16.
If we didn’t aspire to better things for ourselves in our lives before we already had those better things, how on earth would we ever achieve them? As high achievers know, aspiration is essential to growth, but our conditioning makes us hide from that fact. Don’t speak your big dreams out loud, we think, because if we do, we are being audacious. Because if we are audacious, it means we don’t deserve it. How about a little word swap? Instead of believing your next big goal is “audacious”, how about replacing that word with “inspiring”? My new normal is “inspiring”. I don’t “dare” to strive for it, I “MUST” strive for it, because I am worthy of the results of my effort. This is a HUGE mindset requirement for personal transformation success.
And confidence is NOT that high-school version of the popular kids, or our favorite superheros… confidence is not an attribute you have like brown eyes, or curly hair. You do not innately possess confidence! Rather, confidence is simply a choice. It’s a choice to believe in your ability to work things out somehow, eventually. Confidence shows up as the choice of taking one more step forward toward your goal, and specifically choosing not to allow the numerous deterrents and fears we have to make us stop moving forward, or even turn back. Confidence is a choice. The funny thing is that the choice comes easier, the more steps you take, and the more results you achieve. Psychologists call this the Confidence-Competence Loop… as you gain competence (through forward action), it feeds your confidence (your desire to take forward action), which in turn causes you to want to take that next step forward, which builds your competence, and so on…
Sometimes such comments are overtly mean from strangers, but even more often they come from well meaning people in your life such as close family, friends, and colleagues, that don’t want to see you get hurt through failure. Then there are the voices in our own minds! Our “gremlins”, who whisper all manners of sabotaging thoughts with that exact same aim: keep you small, keep you safe, keep you unchallenged. Keep you “normal”… which, if you’re a dreamer, and a high-achiever, is NOT what you are going for! You don’t want “normal”!! Voices from friends and family seem to speak directly to our gremlins, and if we do not assert ourselves when these voices appear, the choices we make tend to be “off ramps” – decisions that take us off our intended path to our next level of greatness. Don’t go for that risky job, don’t share your true feelings with that person you like, don’t have kids yet… these are all off-ramps to “normal”, which is totally fine if you’re fine with normal. But high achievers are never satisfied with “normal” for very long.
It is very easy to fall into the line of thinking that you can’t achieve more. That nothing else is left. You’ve plateaued. That in order to grab that next lofty goal, you have to let go of something else that you’ve worked so incredibly hard to achieve. I get that. When I faced the decision of whether to pursue motherhood fully or career fully, as many women in my position do… I created a third option for myself. Pursue motherhood with abandon AND keep kicking butt in my career. To this day, when I explain that choice, and the subsequent actions I took to make that happen, I am met with incredulous looks. “How is that even possible?”, they often ask. Well, it was possible, because I had already overcome so many situations where I was told “it’s not possible”, and I had developed certain skills that helped me: an ability to research to find new techniques, very strong organization and productivity skills, knowledge and practice in interpersonal and relationship skills… I could draw on these to show up into motherhood and my career to really get what I wanted: great relationships at home, and continued high performance at work. I already knew I was great enough to overcome this challenge, so even when others said to me every single day that “oh, I could never do what you do”, I quietly thought to myself “well, you could… if you claimed your greatness and decided to do it”…