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Going after what we want without armor

It requires a lot of vulnerability to admit you really want something.

I'm in the process of applying for a job that I desperately want. And because I'm also in the space of conscious leadership, I'm noticing how vulnerable it is to really try.

I am learning a lot about myself in the process. My normal pattern is to distance myself from those vulnerable feelings to avoid fully experiencing the anxiety and fear of not getting it. Brene Brown writes about the forms of armor we use to minimize pain and discomfort, and I notice myself reaching for my typical forms of armor: A tendency to under-prepare and subsequently blame outside circumstances for an inevitable failure.

When we really want something, it is natural to pit ourselves against the world for self-protection (a victim mindset) while turning the competition into the enemy (a blame mindset). But this kind of attitude gets in the way of a commitment to leading with an open heart, and so I find myself asking: Is it possible to be in competition with others while still connecting and appreciating them fully?

A group of my competitors and I decide to meet on a Sunday morning before the interview to get to know each other on video. The call feels awkward at first, but also vulnerable and brave as we learn about each other and attempt to enter this challenge with optimism and grace. The result of the call is that we feel more connected, present to each other’s humanity and fear, somehow stronger as a result but also without our normal armor as we prepare for the interview day.

My inner critics insist that to succeed in this process I need to go in with my guard up, old tricks activated to defend my worthiness. The book Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute describes the boxes we put ourselves in so accurately - I'm better than you, I'm worse than you - to avoid true connection and to insulate ourselves from the recognition that we are exactly as worthy as every other human being.

So what does it mean to be equal to everyone else and then still fail? To not get the job? To be judged as not unready, or insufficient?

We are finding a new way to walk through this world as leaders. I now know that no leader can go it alone, and we exist in a system of forces and energies that intersect constantly. Why should the way we compete with one another be different from the way in which the world ideally communicates?

It is possible to be secure enough inside yourself that you can feel all the feelings of competition, be scared of failure, and still be at your best - all at the same time.

To love each other - competitors or friends, strangers or partners - as you prepare for something you really want requires loving yourself, first.

It requires the courage to show up and feel vulnerable.

It requires that you name and claim what you want before everyone who might judge you or want it for themselves.

To step into what was possible for me, I had to publicly declare that yes, I am worthy of this role. And yes, I will try my hardest to achieve it.

Yes, I will still be kind and collaborative with my direct competition.

Yes, I belong here with my colleagues.

And, the hardest to say out loud, yes, I really want this.

I had to resist my urge to grab my armor and pretend I wasn’t truly invested for fear of failure or rejection.

All of this is the old pattern of avoidance, running from the resounding truth: I am worthy and it may not happen. I am both worthy of this role and really scared of failing to get it. I can't control the outcome, and I commit to still trying. I am willing to feel into both of these truths.

I am large enough to hold this both/and.

I continue to challenge myself to be both ambitious and humble, collaborative and selfish, kind and honest. It takes vulnerability to embody these paradoxes, but I challenge you to see for yourself what fearless commitment can do.

What is it you really want today, and can you be brave enough to claim it, and love your competition, today?


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