Several years ago, I was going over some leadership feedback gathered for a leader in a large organization.  As part of our coaching work together, we gathered feedback from her direct reports, her peers, and her boss and discussed the themes of the perceptions others had of her leadership effectiveness.

What struck me was how consistent the perception of her was in all the comments people made about her.  Without fail, people mentioned her calm demeanor, her inspiring presence, her sense of urgency, her care for others, and her ability to be unshakeable and poised in even the most stressful or heated circumstances.

As we discussed this overwhelmingly consistent perception of her style and effectiveness as a leader, I asked her to what she attributed these traits that others described.  Without a moment of hesitation, she replied:

“Oh, that is easy,” she laughed.  “I wasn’t always so grounded.  But I got cancer five years ago and almost died.  Now I know that this is not a dress rehearsal…”

After the pause of letting the unexpectedness of her answer settle into my brain, I asked her to explain further.

“Well, during that pretty dark period I made a promise to myself.  If I beat this thing and came out on the other end, I was going to make some big changes.  And I did.  I don’t take myself or anything so seriously anymore.  My whole attitude about everything changed.  I don’t get stressed. And I think about my actions and what I say to people before I do or say them.  I am different.”

This interaction made me think about a question I had been posing in leadership workshops to thousands of leaders over the years.  As I had them recount their leadership journeys and describe what had shaped them as a leader, I would ask them to describe some key defining moments they had experienced in that journey.

Over and over again people would recount the exact same themes.

Some “thunderbolt” experience in their lives – a loss, a health crisis, a death, a divorce, or something unexpected would hit them out of the blue and knock them into some serious self-reflection and introspection about what was truly important, what was out of alignment, and what changes they needed to make as a result.

Thunderbolts are powerful.

We’ve all experienced them and they serve to shake us out of our slumbers and comfort zones.  They are often painful and unwelcome shocks to everything we have built up until that point.  They knock us off of our feet, often into an unknown and scary darkness, and we have to go deep inside of ourselves to come out on the other end.

What they do serve as are–catalysts.  Catalysts for looking at things we don’t want to deal with or face, for moving us out of habit and comfort zone, and for making changes we want and need to be making today rather than that proverbial “someday”.  I call them conduits for the deeper soul searching and evaluating we often put off and are afraid to do about what we are creating and who we are being in this one precious life we have been given.

As I have these conversations over the years, I am convinced that many of us are looking for deeper meaning and fulfillment.  That we have long “bucket lists” and lists of things we say are important.  We have things we keep saying we must do and people we must reach out to.  And we have a picture in our heads of who we want to be that doesn’t necessarily match the person we are actually being on a daily basis.  We want to reduce stress, set meaningful priorities, and have our actions match what we say we value as important.  We want to leave some sort of meaningful mark, a legacy, and maximize our impact in the world.

Yet we put off the introspection we need to do about our current state and keep doing what we are doing, comfortable in the notion that when we have time—someday, we will think about these things and make changes.

Perhaps we are waiting for the thunderbolt to hit us and knock us off our feet—forcing us to confront this misalignment we are so used to and comfortable with.

Why are we waiting?

What are we afraid of?

What are you afraid of?

I think it is time to stop waiting for lightning to strike.  It is time to redefine success–now.

If this resonates—I’d like to invite you to join me for a one-of-a-kind group experience in Laguna Beach, California on October 11 & 12, 2017.

You don’t have to wait for a thunderbolt to re-evaluate and make changes.

Click here for information and to register.