When I was a kid I loved playing Legend of Zelda. I could get lost in the game for hours. The player has to find gems to buy food or armor. There were hidden passageways that just took some digging around to figure out. We don’t go into the game being good right away. We have to be patient and be willing to fail, learn and try again.
Our lives are very similar. We have external gems like earning money to buy some new jeans, car, vacation, etc. We also have internal gems that we can seek like patience, kindness or resilience. It’s a game of becoming more self aware and ultimately happier. The more we practice appreciating the moment for what it is and not getting angry at what it isn’t, the more self aware we become. We realize failure is just a chance to learn and grow. That’s why we dig into these thoughts and feelings through journaling, coaching, therapy, etc. so that we can grow stronger and happier. Too often people give up before they realize that they can rewire their brains to achieve anything that they desire.
Link, the main hero in the Legend of Zelda, is just an extension of us. When we play the game we have to fight through confusion, where to find maps or a stronger shield, so we can level up our character. We make mistakes. That’s part of the game. We try to fight a boss too early and we die and have to start back at our last save point. We know our mission. We want to level up our character, so that we can save the princess. The princess is just a metaphor for happiness.
We all play games in our lives. It’s who we are as people. The game, our larger purpose, might be building a business, helping loved ones, becoming enlightened, doing God’s work, earning enough money to retire, etc.
We are all warriors in the game of life. When we realize that we get to define our success then everything changes. It’s not what other people want us to do. It’s not about jealousy or judgements. It’s about staying true to our hearts.
A few weeks ago I caught myself judging a client for being late to our session. She is often a couple minutes late, but this time she was 10 minutes late.It’s easy to let my ego jump to conclusions. The story that I was telling myself was, “She doesn’t value our time together.” Which means she doesn’t value me. She has never indicated this to me, but my ego went straight to the worst scenario. I almost gave up when she hopped on our video call right when I was about to hang up. I calmed down and asked her if everything was ok. I found out that she had a sick kid at home and was taking care of him. I told her that we could reschedule. She said she wanted to keep our session if it was ok with me. Her son was watching a movie and would be fine for the hour.
A few years ago I would have stayed mad at my client, unable to let go of my anger. I would have hid it well, but it would have affected how I coached her.
When we play a game we don’t let our ego get in the way. We have a mission and it doesn’t matter if we look stupid trying to defeat a boss. It’s just us and the game.
The more self aware that we are the easier it gets to catch our ego trying to sabotage the situation. You catch the story before it takes over. You can then make a wise decision instead of a reactionary one.
The more self aware you become the easier it gets to understand the game you are playing in your head. You can shift from judging someone for a small mistake to focusing on what makes you happy.
When I was younger I didn’t want to be curious and find out what was going on with my client. I was worried about them wasting my time. My patience was limited and it hurt my relationships. This played out in my marriage, my relationship with my kids, friends, etc. Each moment like this one is a chance to practice my empathy. Lord knows I need to work on it.
Once I stopped focusing on her wasting my time and put my energy toward what was going on with her. I asked her about her health as well. I found out that she is also a Cancer survivor which helped us deepen our connection. By taking this extra time to understand her I also got a better understanding of her values and goals. When you understand someone at a deeper level you can improve your level of coaching because you can craft your language and stories that help them see new connections that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.
You don’t have to talk about health issues to get a deeper understanding of someone. You may love elephants, crafting, teaching, NFTs, Pokemon cards, etc. Whatever you love you can find a way to incorporate it into your business/career relationships. This helps people connect with you on a deeper level. It starts with your vision of the leader that you want to be, so you have a clear purpose. Then it’s just about the energy, confidence to be your full self in your career. You can do this by understanding your power patterns. You find new ways of connecting and building relationships.
Many of my clients are afraid to share parts of themselves and that’s ok if you like your privacy. I’m suggesting that you share more about the things you love, but doesn’t make you feel too vulnerable. You may love elephants, but your employees and/or clients don’t know this about you. This is a great place to start. This is the game of building relationships. You have to dig into what you feel comfortable sharing and understand why it can help you build relationships. This practice helps you connect on a deeper level and you also become more empathetic. A skill many great leaders use to help them build better relationships with their employees.
This is the power of digging deep. You slowly peel away the armor that you’ve built up to protect yourself, so you can be your true self. When you are your authentic self you don’t waste energy on stress or worry. You focus on the truth of what you really want from the situation.
Zelda goes through his trials and tribulations to get to his ultimate goal of saving the princess and defeating the final boss. We have to decide why we go through our own trials and tribulations. Why do we want to put in the effort that we do each day?
This is the game that I’m talking about.
Do you show up to work everyday for the paycheck? Do you show up to work because you care about the cause? Do you show up to work everyday because you have to? Do you show up to help co-workers? Do you show up to improve yourself by just 1% per day?
This is the power of our minds. We get to decide the game that we play. I show up everyday because I want to become more self aware. I think it’s this domino that helps me become a better coach, consultant, writer, etc.
You can’t start with the hard stuff. It would be like me asking you to go run a marathon if you haven’t trained for it. That’s why I suggest sharing the deeper things that you love with your employees, co-workers, clients, etc. so you build a connection on a more personal level. You might not want to share that you had Cancer like me, but you may be willing to share that your child has hyperactive attention deficit disorder. You can only share what you feel comfortable sharing.
By starting with sharing small things that you enjoy, people will want to connect with you on this level. Then this opens the door for you to start to learn more things about others. It’s this knowledge that will help you build stronger relationships and become more empathetic.
There is a lot of research around digging into who you are and how we show up in our careers:
When you grow your self-awareness you improve decision quality from 32% to 68%, coordination improves from 27% to 73%, and conflict management improves from 35% to 65%. (1)
The more you can learn about yourself the easier it gets to coach others. You become a better friend, partner, boss, etc. It starts with you leading the way. If they see that you are willing to be vulnerable and share your values, weaknesses and your strengths then they will be more comfortable doing the same.
If you aren’t willing to say that you struggle with control issues and try to micromanage people. I totally get it, but you must start somewhere.
It’s important that you start where you feel comfortable. That’s why I suggest starting to be vulnerable with things that you enjoy. It’s a fun place to start and you build connections from a place of positivity.
What can you share with your clients, co-workers, friends that will help them get a better idea of who you are and how you like to work?
Photo by Christina at wocintechchat dot com, Eugene Chystiakov on Unsplash, Michael Trimble on Unsplash, Mike Erskine on Unsplash, Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash, Photo by James Fitzgerald on Unsplash, self-awareness image from HBR.
- We’re Not Very Self-Aware, Especially at Work. Erich C. Dierdorff and Robert S. Rubin. Published March 12, 2015. https://hbr.org/2015/03/research-were-not-very-self-aware-especially-at-work