I was chatting with a friend the other day sharing some recent personal drawbacks, especially on the romantic side of life. Long story short, I wanted to do something, and I found half a dozen distinctive reasons not to do it. You know what she said? “You are a sissy”.
She is so f.cking right! In any given day I’m afraid as sh.t by at least 20 things. True story. I’m a runner and I mostly do my runs in the mornings. Guess what do you get a lot of in the park in the morning? Yep, dogs. Yep, I’m afraid of dogs. I’m afraid of texting this girl I’ve been chatting with for a couple of days now. I’m afraid of sending a message on LinkedIn to this prospect I’ve been wanting to approach for a long time now. I’m afraid of having this tough conversation with a subordinate of mine (imagine how I feel talking to a superior). I don’t give this impression most of the time, but I guess what Alanis Morissette sang about applies fully to myself: “I’m brave but I’m chickensh.t”
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena” Franklin D. Roosevelt
If you ever feel like that, consider asking yourself “Whom must I fearlessly become?” The brilliance of the question comes from at least three of the words in it. One, and perhaps most importantly, fear. There are plenty of quotes on fear (like “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” Franklin D. Roosevelt) and most coaches will tell you it is fear that’s stopping you from reaching your potential. My personal favorite is this quote by another Roosevelt – Theodore, which is the foundation of the brilliant Brene Brown book Dare to Lead:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”Theodore Roosevelt quote by Brown, Brené. Dare to Lead (pp. xvii-xviii)
“Fearlessly” features in the question I’m offering to you for a reason. Fear makes us small, cautious, reasonable. It’s a dream-killer! What if, instead of thinking pragmatically in terms of what’s achievable, we allowed ourselves space to be fearless, untouchable, unassailable, immortal? What would we dream of if we thought we could accomplish it all?
“He not busy being born is busy dying” Bob Dylan
And then you have ‘become’. Not ‘became’, not what have we achieved, and not what we stand for, but a strong, relentless focus on the future. It is crucial to know where you came from and what defines you, of course. Our core beliefs direct our behavior and this is important so we can maintain the daily flow of our lives. The problem as I see it, is that this is a slippery slope that can easily keep us in our comfort zone. What we risk is losing sight of where we want to go. We risk acting out of what we know instead of what we want to become. We risk becoming less deliberate than a big hairy audacious goal would require. By featuring ‘become’ instead of all other options, the “Whom must we fearlessly become?” question shifts the perspective towards the future and makes us reflect on where do we want to go. An important perspective if there ever was any.
“I seem to be a verb” Buckminster Fuller
Last but not least, I love the accent on ‘whom’. The shift from the more typical ‘what must we do’ is subtle, yet it puts us in quite a different mindset. It raises the game to a higher level if you wish – instead of thinking about small actions and behaviors it makes us imagine ourselves as a whole. While I’m more a fan of talking about behaviors, as I strongly believe this is the right path to implementing the changes you want to see, this question opens completely new perspectives by simply asking me to consider myself as a whole, as opposed to as a combination of behaviors. It also makes it much easier to think about certain things by virtue of shifting our thought process from the small but rather abstract (behaviors) to the grand but also very tangible – yourself.
I hope this question will serve you well. Asking yourself “Whom must we fearlessly become?” helps us reinvent and reinvigorate our vision, mission, and purpose. Yes, the path is going to be challenging, but knowing where you want to go is a crucial first step, and you’ve already made it.
My best wishes for a great day ahead!