January 29th, 2011 was day four in Future Focused Leadership Training with Debbie Ford– think of it as a Boot Camp for leadership wannabe’s – nestled in a hotel beside San Diego Bay. I’ve spent the last four years preparing to hear all this leadership wisdom. I think my ninety-three classmates had as well.
Why was I suddenly feeling 9 years old and having a desire to bolt, run away or simply slip out the side door and disappear. I felt scared and really did not want to be there. Nothing anyone was saying that day made a lot of sense. What was happening?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent years and thousands of dollars identifying many of my triggers. Those moments when people or circumstances, right in front of my eyes, suddenly represent something from my past and I disappear or react in a completely inappropriate fashion. As quickly as I can utter, ‘’Breathe Thomas’, I’m gone.
This occasion was different somehow. Something niggled at me and I sensed it just wanted to be acknowledged.
In the midst of trying to figure all this out I got to laugh at myself thinking, ‘Sure you can hold dozens of coaching clients right where they need to be, but I’d fire your butt as my coach, because right now you hadn’t a clue.”
There seemed to be something under the desire to leave the room, some other feeling I’d never noticed before. Yet my curiosity as an Integrative Coach had the best of me. So I breathed.
Leaving, running away, disappearing, bolting, are not feelings. These were thoughts. In the room, for three days previous, all I heard was, ‘You are a passionate leader.’ Yet what I hadn’t noticed was a quieter voice that said, “No I’m not!”
There was the energy; it was ‘resistance’ to allowing myself to claim I was a leader. I immediately thought of the Borg on Star Trek and heard these words from the it’s leader, “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”
My family taught me resistance. They all had PhD’s in resistance. I had one too. To me PhD meant ‘pile it higher and deeper’ and that’s what I was doing by claiming not to be a leader.
So instead of managing this old thought on my own I turned to Heather, one of my leadership partners, and said, “I’m feeling resistance.” Heather asked how she could support me. From a place, I don’t think I have ever come before, I heard myself ask, “Please help me stay in the room.”
I made three agreements that day to stay in the room. I stayed until the lunch break. I came back after lunch. I stayed until Debbie stopped presenting at 3pm. Interesting, the topic was on ‘Why are you here?”
That day I did not bolt, run away or disappear. Instead I reacquainted myself with an old friend, resistance. It kept me safe growing up with my family and provided me a quick out to dangerous circumstances. But I realized, as an adult, resistance was not serving me.
Resistance isn’t futile at all. It lies under fear and shows up as a way to protect me, an old way mind you, but on this day I had it and it did not have me.
I graduated that weekend as a passionate leader.