Are YOU a Phoenix?

How important is it to reflect on our ability to reinvent ourselves over our lives and career? Try this simple exercise to get you started!

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How important is reinventing yourself and recognizing when a “growth spurt” is happening? Are there patterns you are aware of that prompt these moments of change in your personal or professional life?

“I have felt like a Phoenix more than once throughout my life time. Where I have gotten myself to a certain crescendo and I have been able to metaphorically “burst into flames” and re-emerge from the ashes to start over again…stronger.” – Marcie White

I saw an article a while ago entitled “Lessons from Unexpected Places ” by Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon Inc.

I actually looked up her profile on linkedin and it turns out she has quite an interesting background including being a VP at Hooters at age 26. Talk about a Phoenix and reinvention, I think she has experience in this area! Surprisingly, I did like all six of her points but the one that caught my attention was:

You Define You. Never forget where you came from as a person or as a company, but remember, you are not solely defined by your circumstances or your history. You can reinvent yourself many times over if needed. Nothing about my background would suggest I would have ended up where I did, and where our company is today is notably different that where we were headed just 3 years ago. Write your own narrative, or someone else (or the competition in business) will write it for you instead.”

So knowing that we have had more than one of these moments of change in our personal and professional lives how can we more purposefully reflect and learn from these experiences?

I’m glad you asked!! I have been lucky enough to work with three wonderful executive coaches over the course of my career. During my most recent experiences, one of the exercises that she had me do was a “High-Low Chart”.

At first, I didn’t think much of it. How was this going to help me be a better leader or get my next promotion? How would graphing my Highs & Lows differently for personal events versus career possibly tell me anything I didn’t already know? She also didn’t give me any real direction about how high the highs should be or how low the lows would be. It really was up to me to decide if I saw my whole life as being within one or two standard deviations of each other or if I found large swings between the highs and lows. And lastly…how the heck do you choose what makes the chart and what doesn’t??

“The more I contemplated it….the more intriguing the exercise became.”

Ready to try it for yourself?? The instructions are as follows:

Highs & Lows Exercise: Set aside an hour in a quiet space where you can work without distraction.

You will be reflecting on the ‘high and low points’ of your life to date. If possible, list ten high points and ten low points in total. Try to spread these out over the decades of your life. For example, if you are fifty years old, try and have at least two high and two low points listed for each of the five decades. This does not have to be exact, if one decade has three and another only one, that’s fine. You can start from where you are now and look backward, or you can begin with your childhood and work forward, coming into the present.

What defines something as high or low? That’s up to you. For instance, a marriage or the birth of a child or a move to a new city could be a high point to one person and a low point to another. Just see where this takes you, and try to pay attention to what comes up without ‘censoring’ or trying to make your responses ‘look right’…enjoy! It’s your list.

Some things to consider as you ponder your High-Low chart are:

  • Can you identify any patterns related to your personal or work life. For example, are lows in your personal life closely followed by lows in your career? If you can see any patterns, it is just good to be aware of it so you can mitigate (or pay closer attention) to those moments or patterns of behavior going forward.
  • Is there anything you notice about what made the list and what didn’t? Did any repeat? Were some a single moment in time, yet big turning points? Were others a period of time or events that ran together? Are there some that you didn’t put on because you are not ready to face up to them and the impact they had on you?
  • Can your correlate times in your life where you went through significant events (high and low) where it gave you an opportunity to reinvent yourself? If so….do you think the reinventions were visible to other people or more internal personal change?

For me….looking back on the last 50 years or so it was easy to see how each stage, event, or occurrence left lasting impressions on my outlook both personally and professionally. There were some that I had downplayed or avoided and it was good to finally see how they intertwined with the decades of my life and career. I could also start to look ahead to the “me of the future” and foresee some of the “brick walls” where I really have struggled in the past and how I want to handle them better going forward.

How about YOU….Are YOU a Phoenix too?

Leadership Questions of the week for YOU:

  • Have you ever done a high and low exercise as described above and if so what did you learn about yourself?
  • If you haven’t done an exercise like that, give it a try and be really honest with what those moments have been and what it tells you about yourself especially as you are about to embark on your next reinvention.
  • What is one of your most poignant “Phoenix” moments out of the list and what did you learn from it?
  • Are you amazed with what made the chart and what didn’t? Are you also surprised by how high the highs were or how low the lows were? How did you decide?
  • What are the two to three pieces of advice you have for leaders (either personally or professional) around becoming a Phoenix or the concept of reinvention?

Thanks for reading and remember…YOU make a difference!

Please continue the conversation by liking…commenting or sharing this article. You can also follow me on twitter @marciedwhite

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