Pursue What Matters
Episode 72: Trust the Unfolding of Your Path
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
How do you know if you’re on the right track in life? Are you in the right career? Are you on a path that will help you progress? Or are you on a dead end track? can be so hard to know? What does it mean to love and work well? And how do I pursue what truly matters? Working at the intersection of business and psychology? I help you answer these questions and more. So you can focus priorities, inspire, change, lead with courage, and live with more joy today. Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the pursue what matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work? Well, as a pro at second guessing my decisions, wondering if I’m doing things right, whatever that means. I am here to tell you that it is time to trust the unfolding of your path. Has your life turned out exactly how you planned has anyone’s it’s so easy to look at other’s lives and think, Wow, they’ve got it all figured out. They went through all the right steps and seem to be real pros at life. But this is what I know, having worked with 1000s of highly competent people over the years behind closed doors, the devil is in the details. No one writes a nice and easy escalator through life, even if their social media or LinkedIn profile would have you believe otherwise, we tend to have a belief that if we can just do things the right way, quote, unquote, then we’ll be happy, we’ll be free of stress and life will be good. But of course, life doesn’t work that way. Life will always be challenging, and life is not meant to be rigidly control. And of course it does you no good to compare your life to others comparison is the thief of joy. So you’ll just do better to focus on your own
Unknown Speaker 2:02
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:04
So today, I want to talk to you about trusting the trusting the unfolding of your path. It can be so hard, it can be so scary. But as you can learn to quiet yourself, quiet your fear, and trust your path, your journey. And then you can lean in to purpose and potential. So it’s, it’s awesome. But it can be scary. So that’s what I’m focusing on today. So of course every week with the podcast, my goal is to help you strengthen your confidence to lead. And this week, it is in two primary areas. So I want to help you lead with clarity. And of course, clarity is all about helping you connect to a sense of purpose. And that is right. That’s what it’s all about, like connecting to purpose, but also recognizing that that that trust, right trust in your purpose happens over time. And the path unfolds over time. But it’s never how you predict never, ever, ever. And then the second area that I want to help you strengthen your confidence to lead is by leading with curiosity. And this, of course requires you to quiet yourself, and to connect with your sense of self. This is intuition. But intuition isn’t just about your gut feeling. It is so much bigger than that. And so we are going to explore that a little bit. And really help you learn how to sink into trust and trusting your path, your leadership journey. So that you can develop your potential and you can do your best work. So the problem that many of us run into is that we have set unrealistic expectations for how we believe our life should proceed. We have this little belief that we can control our lives. When of course the reality is that control is an illusion. Anyone who has experienced a job loss and major illness, the loss of a loved one can tell you that and really, none of us need to look any further than 2020. To know that our sense of control is really just an illusion. The world can be turned upside down in a heartbeat in every conceivable way. Oh my goodness, like 2020 control is a joke. We there’s no way we can have control. So what happens when life doesn’t conform to our expectations? Right. We tend to lose Our friggin minds. A very simple calculus for depression and anxiety is unmet expectations. Right, so we set expectations. And then when those expectations are not met, we develop depression, or anxiety or both. So that is not a happy formula, we don’t want that happening to you. The work is to trust the unfolding of your path, your path through life, your path on your leadership journey. And so this is really what we’re going to focus on today. And what does that even mean? Right, so let’s jump into the details of that. So to trust the unfolding of your path, I really want you to have clarity about your purpose about what matters most in life. But then, right, you got to have flexibility on your path. You must trust the unfolding of your path, you cannot engineer your life. That’s not how life works. You do your best, and you set your goals. But you can’t engineer every aspect of your life. Because you can’t plan every single moment of life, life happens, life unfolds.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:31
And this is where intuition really matters. So this is a definition of intuition by Rene brown based on her research. So intuition is not a single way of knowing it is our ability to hold space for uncertainty, and our willingness to trust the many ways that we’ve developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith, and reason. I really like that. Because sometimes I think, when we think about intuition, we just think, Oh, it’s just my gut feeling. But here, brown teaches us that intuition is so much bigger than heart gut feeling. It also includes experience, faith and reason. So intuition, includes thinking, intuition includes experience, intuition includes faith, intuition includes instinct. And it’s really our ability to hold space for uncertainty and the willingness to trust all of our forms of knowing I just think that’s so powerful. And I think what’s often difficult is that willingness to trust, and I know for myself, the hardest thing for me along my path through life, is being able to trust and hold, hold space for the uncertainty, I’ve just wanted the answers. And when it comes to my fee, my approach has been like all all, all do what I need to do, just tell me what to do. Which is like not a great approach to faith, by the way, I don’t think that’s how it works. But it was, it was very painful for me to sit in the uncertainty and the not knowing. And what I have learned is that learning to hold the uncertainty is actually the work of life. And it’s really good preparation for parenting and for leadership, and just all all of the work of life actually. But intuition accounts for multiple ways of knowing, not just your gut instinct, it’s working things out in your mind. It’s studying things, it’s consulting, it’s using logic and reason. So we need to also pay attention to the trail markers along our path. So what excites you? What are your strengths, what’s a good fit for you? So you know, I have, I often use the analogy of climbing a mountain, and that our vision is our, you know, our purpose and our vision are these are the mountain peak, often the disk distance, and we can see that mountain peak and sometimes it’s shrouded in clouds, and it’s a little bit fuzzy, but we can see it and we know what we’re heading to. But the path is often twisting and turning and so we can’t always see it, or or know what that path looks like, very clearly. And so this is where we have to have flexibility. And we have to be willing to make twists and turns and pay attention to trail markers along the way. And so I know for myself when I was an undergrad, you know, I was interested in graduate school, but I didn’t really know what major to go into. But I knew it was going to be in the helping professions. And so I it really required me to connect with intuition and pay attention to the travel markers along the way, what are my strengths, what’s a good fit for me, what excites me. And so, right, we have to quiet ourselves, we have to pay attention, we also have to have a whole lot of flexibility. So life won’t ever look like what you thought it would. And you’re going to have to get over that. And so if you have to be perfectionistic, if you’re perfectionistic,
Unknown Speaker 11:02
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:03
your path is probably going to be very disappointing for you. Because life never unfolds the way that we expect it to. And this is why keeping your eye on purpose. So keeping your eye on that mountain is really important. But you need to be very flexible about the route. And, you know, one of the things that I’ve learned is that there are many ways to fulfill purpose and develop potential. There’s not just one route to the top of the mountain, often there are many routes, and they will all get you there. And the question becomes, you know, what’s the route that’s right for you? So, you know, when we think about trusting the unfolding of our path, intuition really matters. Right? flexibility really matters. And then humility really matters. So you need to have a lot of humility. So you can’t be rigid. Don’t be prideful, right. The opposite of humility is pride. So if you have to be right, you’re going to be alone. You need to ask for help, you need to ask for feedback. You need others to help you on your path none of us were meant to, to make the journey alone. You know, when we think about life, when we think about our leadership journey, we need help, we need to help others on their path. And they need our help as well. And so you need to ask for help. And we can’t make it without the help of others. The sooner you recognize that the better. And so humility goes a long way. So when you think about your path, you cannot abandon hope. And you need to be realistic about the challenges you face. I think one of the most powerful examples of this comes to us from James Stockdale, who during the Vietnam War was held captive. For seven years, he was one of the highest ranking naval officers at the time. And so really, he he was the highest ranking officer in the Hanoi Hilton. And so really, you know, took a leadership role during that time, and the reality was, everyone was tortured. Everyone was giving up information. And he was repeatedly tortured, as was everyone else. And he had no reason to believe he would make it out alive. But when he was interviewed, and he was, you know, interviewed by Jim Collins, for the book, Good to Great. And Jim Collins said, Tell me about the POW who didn’t survive. And Stockdale said, Oh, that’s easy. The ones who didn’t survive the ones that didn’t make it. Long were the optimists. And that really shocked Collins and he said, Why, like, you got to explain more about that. And he said that the optimists always pinned their hopes around the next corner and so they would say, you know what, We’re going to be out by Christmas. And then Christmas would come and they were not released. And so they would lose hope. And or the optimist would say, you know what we’re going to be out, we’re going to be released by Easter. And then Easter would come and they were not released. And he said, What happened to the optimists is they died of broken hearts. And so, what Stockdale said was that he, he told Collins, you must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end.
Dr. Melissa Smith 15:45
And you can never afford to lose faith, with the discipline to confront the most brutal, brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be. And that has come to be known as the Stockdale paradox. And so you can never abandon faith, or trust in the importance of what you’re doing. So you can never abandon a belief in your path in your purpose. While at the same time, you must be absolutely realistic about the challenges you face. And that has become known as the Stockdale paradox. And it is the idea of hoping for the best while acknowledging and preparing for the worst. And of course, this has had so many applications in business for, you know, the most successful companies who are able to face their challenges head on, rather than taking a Pollyanna perspective. And that can make all the difference. And if we think about what that means for you, personally, on your leadership journey, you know, are you able to, to make a realistic assessment of your strengths and your weaknesses? Are you willing to retain hope,
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:17
while also being realistic about the challenges you face, and that is the Stockdale paradox and we, we must be willing to do that for ourselves, we must be willing to do that for those that we lead. And so you can’t abandon hope. And you need to be realistic about the challenges that you face. And because when you just put your head in the sand, and you’re not realistic about the challenges you face, you don’t prepare yourself adequately. And so thinking about how you can really prepare yourself so that you are you know, you have what you need, and you get the support that you need. And part of that is also preparing yourself for the journey. When you can be realistic about the challenges you face, you are more likely to prepare yourself effectively, for your journey. You can check your expectations, this idea that no one said it would be easy. And so if you are complaining and resentful that you know leadership is hard. Or that you know, it shouldn’t be this way. It’s like Did anyone say that? And so we have these moments along our path that can be gut checks for us where we can you know, where we really need to dig deep and take a look at why am I here? And is there value here and what keeps me moving along this path. And that’s why it’s so important to retain purpose and clarity of purpose. And from the book, the upside of stress. I just absolutely love this imagery. One night a researcher was in the lab. And she was feeling very frustrated. I think it was a Saturday night she was feeling very frustrated. She could not get her research to jive and she was feeling ready to give up. And as she was sitting in the lab all by herself, one of the someone from the department walked in and saw her and he just said another cold lonely night on the side of Everest, and then he walked out of the room. And, you know, she said that it didn’t really register for her to Her for a while. It wasn’t until a week later that she really connected with what those words meant that anyone climbing Everest would not turn back, because it was another cold, lonely night on the side of Everest. Because in climbing Everest, you know that it’s gonna be cold, you know that it’s gonna be lonely, you know the nature of the challenge that you’re taking on. And so having that understanding matters. And checking your expectations really, really matters. And so when you have clarity about purpose, it helps you to check your expectations, it helps you to shift your perspective, so that you can stay away from some of those beliefs, and thoughts that will eat you alive, which are, this isn’t fair, I shouldn’t have to do this. It should be easier than a
Unknown Speaker 21:03
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:04
those thoughts and those beliefs will take you down. And the next thing which is related is shifting your mindset. And accepting that this is what leadership looks like. Brown, so Bernie brown defines a leader as someone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and who has the courage to develop that potential. So a leader is not a title, a leader is not someone who has the corner suite. But it’s someone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and has courage to develop that potential. There’s nothing glorious or or idealistic about that. accepting that this is what growth looks like. And often what growth looks like is failing forward. Working hard. Definitely not getting the rewards. And accepting that this is what learning looks like. You’re in the trenches, you’re putting in your time, you’re learning everything you can. And I think asking yourself, why, why am I doing this? And this is where you have to tie yourself to purpose. Because if you can’t tie yourself to purpose, then why are you here? If you can’t answer that question, then maybe you shouldn’t be on this path on this journey. And then as we think about as we think about the next step with trust, it’s respecting that growth is not linear. And with that, again, you need to manage your expectations. So growth is cyclical. And I think we want to take the seasons as our example, and respect your seasons. So you may have times of high growth and times of integration. Both are important. So I know for myself, I’ve had times of high growth where I’m like I can take on the world. I’m learning so much. It’s feels awesome. And then I’ve had times where I recognize it now. Where I needed to integrate where I needed to slow down and let everything sink in. But I’ve got to tell you at the time, it just felt like I was failing. It just felt like I wasn’t growing. But looking back now I can see no I was integrating. I like I was breathing, I was catching up. And so we need to respect that growth is not linear. And we need to manage our expectations. And resist the urge to label. Right? So resist, resist the tendency to label Oh, like oh, this is failure. Or because I don’t have a big goal right now somehow I’m less than. So recognize that growth is cyclical. Consider the seasons as your example respect to our seasons. It’s not functional to maintain high growth long term and learn to respect this and accept this. And then, you know, the journey along the path is all that matters. It’s not the outcome. It’s not like you ever get to the end of that path, right? Because the end of that path is death. Right if we if we carry this out, the journey along the path is all that matters. And the goal if there is a goal is to learn to embrace and enjoy the process of growth and learning. So when we think about embracing the process of growth and learning,
Dr. Melissa Smith 25:37
I’ve got a really great quote from Elizabeth Gilbert. She said, creativity itself doesn’t care at all about results. The only thing it craves is the process. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen without fussing too much about it, work like a monk or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence, love the work, destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless. And I think that this is such a such a great quote. And when we tie ourselves unnecessarily to outcome, we lose the purpose of our journey. And so there is value in setting goals, but hold them lightly. So what you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. Of course, that is by Henry David Thoreau. We don’t want to let our dreams ruin our lives. That becomes a real danger when we’re focused more on outcome, then process. And we want to be abundant with our gifts. When you approach life with a scarcity mindset, you are withholding from life. So learning to be a giver, and not a taker. Not worrying about what you will get out of an exchange, hold good boundaries.
Unknown Speaker 27:13
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:15
but be willing to be abundant with life. And recognizing that in the end, two things alone matter. along the path. Did you develop your potential and live to purpose? And did you help others along your path? And if you can, if you can answer both of those questions in the affirmative, then I think you’re in a pretty good place. And so when we think about your leadership journey, and we think about trusting the unfolding of your path, right, it is so much bigger than who you are. As a leader, it’s who you are as a person. It’s how you live your life. And of course, this shows up in every aspect of your life. And I think, you know, the work is to resist the, the urges to compare. It’s to resist the, the urges to focus on outcome, and get caught in fears around failure. And to really lean into trust and look at what you need to help you. So I want to finish with this quote from Joseph Campbell. I just think it’s so lovely when I first came across this quote, and it was so comforting for me, because it just, it gave me permission to make my path my own. And I spent my life as a rule follower. So I really liked this. So from Joseph Campbell, if you can see your path, laid out in front of you step by step, you know, it’s not your path, your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path. So I really want to encourage you on your path and trusting the unfolding of your path, recognizing that each of us have unique gifts to bring to the world and as we can quiet ourselves and get out of the mental chatter. That tells us we need to be a certain way. But as we can get out Have that mental chatter and quiet ourselves, we can tune into intuition and pay attention to the trail markers, and gain some clarity about next steps. And you know, as I look at my leadership journey, oh, my goodness, the twists and the turns on that path are just they’re kind of comical actually. It’s been pretty funny. And sometimes, you know, with my husband, like, we take a look back at our at our path, and we just kind of shake our heads because it’s like, my goodness, like, How on earth? Did did it all work out? And all I can say is trust, you just have to trust and do your part. And then you trust. And so that’s, that’s what I want to leave with you that, in the end, two things alone matter? Did you develop your potential and live to purpose, and did you help others along along the path. And that’s, that’s a pretty good place to be. So I’m really excited to share with you a new course, this is a digital course, called confidence to lead that’s available now for a limited time. And I just think this is the perfect time for this course. Because most of us are still working from home, most of us are feeling a little disconnected
Dr. Melissa Smith 31:54
from work and from colleagues. And this course is completely dedicated to helping you develop the confidence to lead. And it is focused on helping you lead with clarity, lead with curiosity, and lead with community. And so I’m really excited about this course, I think it can be really helpful for helping you develop clarity on your path. And as part of the course, I’m going to be having a really great community and support component of this course. So I’m really excited to be learning and growing with a group of incredible leaders. So I hope that you may consider joining us for this course, the course starts soon. So if you want to find out more about this course, it’s just open. For a limited time, we’re going to start soon. So you can head on over to the shownotes to find a link and to learn more about this course. And you can do that by heading over to www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-72. One more time, that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-72. And you can click on the link there for the confidence to lead course and learn more about that there. And in the meantime, I hope that you will trust the unfolding of your path. You’re doing great work. And it’s just it’s such such a privilege for me to to even be a tiny part in helping you pursue what matters that it’s great work. And did you develop your potential and live to purpose and did you help others along your path? That’s the work right there. So I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai