Whenever people hear the name of my coaching business, you can see that flicker of understanding across their face – it triggers something inside that stirs up some memory of when they felt on the spot, under the gun or at a crossroads in their personal or professional lives.
I was reviewing my business plan with a group of trusted advisors last week when one of them asked if I could spend some time defining, well, “defining moments.” What does that include? How do you know it is upon you? Is there a pattern?
Examples of defining moments abound: moving into a new leadership role, facing a visible and consequential decision, confronting the need for change, recovering from a failure or keeping your bearings amid spectacular success. What is more important than the actual circumstances is what these moments represent.
1. A defining moment is some point in time where your character is revealed. It may be a decision, a speech, how you handle a difficult circumstance, even how you conduct yourself when all eyes are on you, but it has a lasting impact on others – and likely on you. As we all know, personality is the public face, but character comes from within. Often the hardest conversation we can have during difficult periods is the one we have with ourselves.
2. A defining moment challenges our status quo. If all of our decisions and actions are merely a replay of what we already know, we are simply playing out the same script. It is when we step back, take a breath, and gain fresh appreciation for what is at stake and what it calls for us to do and be, that we embrace defining moments for how they can shape us. Having a profound respect for the unknown is where learning begins.
3. Defining moments are hard. If they are not, we are not stretching ourselves. As my co-author Bob Parsanko and I portray in our upcoming book The Leader’s Climb, getting “stuck” is not a mark of failure; it is evidence we are willing to push the boundaries of our comfort zone. To get “unstuck” requires new thinking, new approaches. Isn’t that what we want in our lives? Wouldn’t you agree that your times of greatest learning and growth came during your most difficult experiences?