I’ve been driving a car since I was 16 years old. That first summer I was in a few very minor fender benders and my parents quickly let me know that I was forbidden from driving after dusk. I’m happy to report that since then I’ve safely traversed roads all across the USA. I’m a great driver – just ask my insurance company. Fast forward, well, a lot of years to the summer of 2012 when I moved to Australia from the United States.
In Australia they drive on the wrong, I mean left, side of the road and I was terrified to drive but I knew I had to take the plunge sooner or later. The first day my husband went to the office and left the kids and I with the car, I made an important choice: I decided we had been home long enough and it was time to brave the road. I should have put a sign on the car that said “Brace Yourself Alice Springs!”
Here’s a short play-by-play of how the first outing went:
- The first roundabout, I drove over the curb
- I turned on my windshield wipers about 100 times when I meant to use the turn signal and had no idea how to get the wipers to go off
- I was challenged to find the right balance between aggressive and timid in the roundabout and I almost took out a car and a pedestrian
- The way home from our short trip I missed my turnoff
- Unfortunately, instead of proving to myself that driving on the left isn’t too hard, I schooled my kids in the art of profanity
Still, I was proud of my effort; that I bothered to try at all. I was afraid and did it anyway. Nobody died so I decided to try again the next day, and the next. Now, just five months later, you’d think I’ve been driving on the left my whole life.
Here’s what I learned through the experience:
- Do what you’re afraid to do: The idea of taking action, to lean into your fear, is far worse than actually taking the first step – no matter how clumsy that step may be.
- Find your cheerleaders: Identify the people of your life that will be proud of you not only because you met your end goal but also because they believe in you no matter what you do. Hold these people dear through your journey.
- Do it again: If your choice to come face to face with your fears was awful or so-so it doesn’t matter. You’re alive. You did it once, you can do it again – you just need to make the choice and hold yourself accountable.
- Celebrate the small successes: Nobody can finish a marathon after one day of training. Progress is a thing to be celebrated. Trying needs to be celebrated. You need to be celebrated when you persevere. Don’t let the accomplishment pass you by.
- Give yourself time to get it right: It may take 10,000 hours to be the best but it takes far less to get good. For some things, good is enough – or even average! Take your time, keep trying and you’ll get there.
- Share your story: Even if it seems silly. Let other people in on your fears and challenges. Be vulnerable. You never know who you might inspire.
Not only did I learn how to drive on the left but also learned that I have what it takes to persevere. I had choices in front of me that would enable me to play it safe and to stay off of the roads. Over the past year I’ve decided to make the harder choices, not only with respect to driving but with much bigger things in my life, and I’m glad that I did. Growth comes in the stretch, not the glide.
My personal leadership mantra for 2013 is to make it the year of the stretch.
- To do what I’m afraid to do
- To stop holding myself back
- To step into my best self
- To be willing to go to the edge for my clients
- To take risks instead of playing it safe
What’s your personal leadership mantra? In what ways will you stretch yourself in 2013?