Welcome to the first edition of my new email newsletter series:
▶ PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT PERSPECTIVES
If you've been around here for a while, you will be used to my longer form content and (sometimes unconventional but effective) stories, reflections and insights from the personal development realm. This year, with the new format, the fundamentals remain unchanged. We've just had a facelift. Topics we'll look at together will include mental, emotional and physical well-being, psychology, philosophy, pursuing dreams goals and objectives, professional growth, overcoming personal limitations and much more. As an undertone, I will continue to be an advocate for men's health, invite men to become more engaged with living well and speak to personal development in a way that is not female-centric. I believe men are under-served when it comes to supporting their health on all fronts, but particularly mental health and personal growth. With that, I also offer an open invitation to you to forward this newsletter to a man you care about whenever you feel like it contains something they could benefit from.
So why the change in shape?
With this new format I hope to offer an opportunity to gain a new perspective on your life no matter how squeezed your agenda is! Each week I'll start with a short introduction to the topic so that you can see if it's interesting for you. Read the 'ONE MINUTE INSIGHT' section for coaching-style questions about the topic to get you thinking. Move on to 'DEEPER DUE DILIGENCE' if you're keen to digest some wider considerations on the topic. (This name is an ode to my former career in financial consulting!) Lastly, check out 'MORE TO MUSE ON...', which is where I'll share with you what I'm listening to, writing about and engaging with this week in case you're looking for more to sink your teeth into. This may or may not link to the topic of the week. So, let's dive in!
This week, I'm thinking about what it means to be humble.
Have you ever considered how you might balance being humble with being ambitious? This is a question many of my clients didn't even know they had until they started seeing all the places they hold themselves back. These qualities are not necessarily opposites, but they do have a relationship that's not always obvious.
ONE MINUTE INSIGHT
Often what we are judging outside of us tells us more about how we feel about ourselves than it does offer any kind of true assessment about the world around us. To that end, here is a question to get curious with:
▶ What happens inside of you when you see/hear someone declare a big, bold ambitious dream that they hold for themselves?
What does your answer reveal about you and your relationship to chasing some dreams of your own? Now that we've taken a bit of truth serum, how about considering this one to get your year started well:
▶ If you didn't have to concern yourself with staying humble, how would you restate your dreams?
DEEPER DUE DILIGENCE
Interestingly, being humble is a value that often appears on the top 5 list during the initial fact finding phase when I start with new clients. My curiosity is around whether or not this word shows up because of a genuine desire to feel equal with others, to be a good comrade and a team player... or if something a little more sinister is at play. Most of us wouldn't like to be seen as the "cocky one", the "hot shot", the "know it all", someone who is "self-absorbed"... or whatever name you might give to someone who is visibly elevated above others (by choice or otherwise). There are cultural influences at play in some parts of the world which reinforce the importance of avoiding such a social position. In Australia, we have something called "Tall Poppy Syndrome". Probably owing to the colonial history of the great southern land, we Aussies have a habit of cutting each other down whenever we get too big for our metaphorical boots. This has the effect that few dare to poke their head above the rest. A colloquial example: 'Check out Brad with his fancy car. He thinks he's "top shit".' Similarly, "Jantelov" is a Danish idea that speaks to a general disapproval for individuality or personal success, requiring instead that people orient themselves with the accomplishments of the collective. In the Netherlands, despite having a reputation for being very accepting of individuality, we have a common Dutch phrase which is simply "doe normaal", or "act normal". We want you to be yourself. But also, don't be yourself.
What we are talking about here is the very fabric with which fear of success is woven.
Consider yourself on notice. This insidious but powerful force is enough to deaden the ambition of any person who comes against that feeling of being at the top of the pond, and most of it happens unconsciously. No one wants to be kicked out of the group (or picked out of the pond). Our survival depends on it. In a practical sense, if you think you might be hiding behind a humble veil, here are some possible signs to look for: Biting one's tongue in a management meeting. Not taking up available growth opportunities. Holding back on asking for a promotion. Reluctance to voice new ideas. A biased focus on under-performers. It is my personal view that your genuine ambition, your true desires and your vision for a better world is your responsibility to bring into form. Yes, responsibility. I assert that if it wasn't your responsibility, you wouldn't feel the way you do about these things which are knocking on your soul from the inside. So, could it be that underneath that value of humbleness there is a fear of being judged, or "othered" if you were to truly pursue your dream with the vigour you know it requires if it is to be realised? The Cambridge Dictionary definition of humble includes the following: 1) not proud or not believing that you are important 2) poor or of a low social rank 3) ordinary; not special or very important The word has its root in the Latin humilis meaning "low". What if we all shifted our focus from being humble to being human? That is, embracing our humanity. What might be available for us, collectively, then? Might we dream a little bigger? Might we be a little more willing to admit when our dreams scare us, and ask for help in reaching them? Might we be more willing to help others reach higher, because we've given ourselves permission for the same? Please, don't let fear of success disguised as being humble stifle you, or cause you to unconsciously lop the top off of your fellow poppies. If you are worried you might become like Icarus who flew too close to the sun and fell dramatically to his death, fear not. Instead, find something to keep you grounded (Latinhumus, meaning "earth") and in balance, so that you can confidently reach for the sky. Volunteer some time. Intentionally do things that scare you. Donate to a good cause. Walk barefoot on the grass. Remember, we play the both/and game here. Not the either/or game. Your ambition awaits you.
MORE TO MUSE ON...
What I'm listening to: I recently listened to an episode of the Feel Better Live More podcast where the host Dr Rangan Chatterjee interviews addiction and trauma expert Dr Gabor Maté. This episode is a great reminder to have compassion for ourselves and others as we seek to overcome our personal challenges, including physical health issues, in a world that's not exactly designed to support the process. Take an open mind if you listen along.
Podcast interview: Trauma, Illness and Healing in a Toxic Culture
What I'm reading: I've just picked up Eckhart Tolle's 'The Power of Now' again for a re-read. The first time I read this I got about 15 pages in and couldn't go further. The next time I felt like it was medicine for my soul and read the whole thing in under a week. Curious what happens this time! Have you read it? What was your experience?
What I'm curious about: How culture shapes our life, and that the only way to really see that clearly is to physically, mentally and/or spiritually remove yourself from it so that you can look at your ways of being from the outside.
If something stood out to you in this week's newsletter (or challenged you, or triggered you!), I always like to hear about it because it helps me think and be better, too.
Thank you for staying committed to your growth. Thank you for being with me. Here's to a brilliant 2023!
P.S. Seeking some personalised DD for your life?
Apply now to schedule a no-strings 1:1 Power Hour session where we get to do a little due diligence on your life (and you can do some DD on me). If it feels good, we can talk more about the possibilities of working together.
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