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Life and leadership aren’t linear – just let it happen

Personal development and growth aren't linear - we have to allow ourselves room for failure in order to succeed.

Leading mindfully and consciously is essential. It fascinates me, in my experience of working with thousands of CEO’s, that there is a desire to want to rid themselves of emotion. To rid the moment, when they are speaking to an audience, of emotion. They see emotion as negative, something they are unable to control. 

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘to perform’ as ‘fulfilling a role’. As an actor, when I am required to fulfil a role, I must bring certain emotions to bear. I must behave in a certain way. I must think in a particular fashion. I believe the same applies to everyone in life. Including leaders.

I help people come to terms with who they are and their purpose and how to use emotion to connect with people and how to do that in a public speaking context or any other leadership context. But what we’re talking about really is disclosure, sharing some degree of one’s self. Without doubt, just belief.

What holds you back from your truth?

When it comes to finding, speaking, and living our purpose, there are many obstacles in our way, not least of all the ones inside us. This inner critic is your survival brain. It is the flight part of fight or flight. It is driven by fear. It is part of your brain that tells you, you can’t be the leader you know you are. The father you are. The mother. Sister. Brother.

I have struggled with finding my true purpose and being brave enough to live it. Looking back at my life thus far, as I often do, I’ve noticed a pattern of events and feelings resembling the activity on an ECG monitor. For every peak, there’s been a valley. For every leap forward, there’s been a stumble backward – sometimes just an inch, and other times, what seemed like miles.

I recognise and embrace this now, and this has brought me a tremendous amount of peace. I used to think that success and personal development required a steady, consistent ascent toward perfection. After all, my most powerful driver is ‘be perfect’.

Struggling sometimes feel like failure

Last week I did a talk to a room full of CEO’s about finding, speaking, and living their purpose. I was insanely nervous. I made a lot of mistakes, not least of all not introducing myself. I was filled with fear. 

But hold on a minute, Deon, you’ve found your truth. You are living it every day now. Aren’t you being it up here now, with these people? I was, but I was trying to be perfect. Last week, I experienced a professional setback. I thought I’d done something wrong. I was seeking permanently better. Perfection.

Better, not perfect

Finding and living my purpose does not mean always doing and feeling better than I did the day before. That’s not growth, and when I believed it was, growth wasn’t what I was seeking.

In that moment last week, I noticed I wanted persistent happiness – a reprieve from difficult, overwhelming feelings, and a sense that every day of my life I was one inch closer to the ideal. We all know that life and, let’s face it, leadership, is about the journey.

But in the back of my head in that moment, I believed it would have no purpose if not for the destination, which made it hard to honestly be the real me. The authentic, playful, sometimes camp and outrageous me.

When I have my mind fixated on getting there, and I am deeply upset by any seeming break in momentum, I feel like a failure. Not good enough. Angry with myself. But I’m not supposed to feel angry – I’d been cultivating my truth for years. I’m living my purpose goddammit! I must stop trying to make it happen and just let it happen.

We are wise because we doubt

I recognised that personal development and growth – that life – isn’t linear. That every day our struggles with who we are stretch us, helping us come to a better understanding of our true nature. 

And I live my purpose and grow when I do my best to learn from and move beyond my challenges instead of obsessing over them. In the car, I turned up the music and I sang at the top of my voice. Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.

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