The most radical thing you can do.

The other day I joined my colleague Ryan Goulart on the Think 2 Perform podcast, Making the Ideal Real. If you haven’t checked it out, you should. Many of you know I aligned my coaching and consulting business with Think 2 Perform earlier this year ( I’m a little biased. But, I’ve been a fan of the podcast long before I worked with Think 2 Perform. Ryan’s podcast is short and smart – and it only comes out monthly which means it’s a podcast I can commit to. The first question that Ryan asks is always the same, “what does making the ideal real mean to you?” It’s a question that I’ve thought a lot about over the past years. I think it’s actually a similar question that changed the course of my professional life. It was the question that gave me permission to make major changes when I knew deep down I needed change desperately. It’s a question I encourage you to think about. 

When I was prepping for our podcast together, I knew he would ask me that question. AND, I knew I could give him some sort of safe ‘corporate leadership’ response. It would be a response that would resonate with other business leaders. It would even be a response that would serve people well. That type of response would be a safe response for me to offer. But – if I learned anything about safety the last four years, I’ve learned that safe can by synonymous with stuck.

I shared with Ryan that making the ideal real for me is the audacious idea and true belief that I’ve done the work to Know Myself and I’ve done the work to Love Myself. If I don’t know myself truly and I don’t sincerely love myself, I’ve come to learn that it’s damn near impossible for me to live ideally in any other area of my life.

It’s one thing to “know” yourself. I look back now and realize I knew myself at the surface level. I knew my gifts and abilities. I knew my accomplishments. I knew my bank accounts aligned with those accomplishments. I had taken every assessment under the sun. I knew everything about me “on paper.” I even took the time to identify my values. I tried to live my life according to those values. Here’s the problem though, knowing myself on paper and knowing my values on paper wasn’t enough. I was deeply tired and on the brink of burnout. I was living a life always waiting for the “other shoe to drop.” I used my values as some sort of crappy report card. In the privacy of my own thoughts, I was never measuring up.

Here’s what’s really frustrating to me now. At that time, I was doing so much to grow. Mike and I were being more intentional than ever to invest in our marriage. I was working hard to be a great mom. I was being intentional about my spiritual life. I was doing more to develop my skills as a leader. I was changing habits to invest in my health. I was working out more, I was drinking less alcohol and drinking more water. While it was all good activity, it would never be enough until I made the decision to truly know myself and love myself.

People talk about negative self-talk. People talk about Imposter Syndrome. No one talks about how to deal with it. But when you don’t deal with it, if you’re not self-aware of the thoughts you think about yourself, it has real impact, EVERY DAY. I believe more than ever that Lao-Tze was right. Thoughts become your reality and ultimatley your destiny. If you’re not living your ideal life, start with your thoughts.

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

Lao – Tze

If you’re not making the ideal real, start with your thoughts. My negative self-talk was impacting every area of my life. Knowing myself wasn’t just about my personality traits, my gifts, and my abilities. Knowing myself was actually about knowing and being self-aware of my emotions, how I was feeling about myself and how that translated to thoughts and actions. When I allowed myself the time and space to become aware of how I was thinking about myself, I realized I was approaching a crossroads – I was approaching ground zero. I could do nothing – I could stay safe/stuck and wait for an explosion at some point when I least expected it.  Or – I could make the decision to know and love myself.

I ran towards ground zero. Well, if I’m being honest, my therapist Justine held my hand and walked me towards ground zero. She very firmly and also gently helped me get clear about how I was thinking and talking to myself and as a result how I was loving myself. She put a mirror up to my thoughts. It was heart breaking. I would never talk to someone else the way I was talking and thinking about myself.

It was that day that I proactively pursued self-love and compassion. Truly loving myself wasn’t a one-and-done decision. I couldn’t just check that off the to-do list. It was a commitment daily to change the way I thought and trust that different thoughts would become different words, and words would become actions, and actions habits, and habits character. I trusted the science and the scripture that said I could renew my thoughts, that I could create new neuropathways. I trusted that if I did the work to change my thoughts about myself, I could and would love myself.

Do you know what happened? Something radical happened. I learned to know myself – not just on paper, but I learned to know my thoughts about myself. As I renewed my thoughts, as I created new neural pathways, my behavior and my decision making changed. As I changed my thoughts, I learned to love myself.

If you’ve ever heard me speak “on stage”, you know that I’m still on a journey some days to love myself. Some days I still need to remind myself exactly how to think about myself. I literally write down on paper how I want to think about myself in third person as if it already happened. I think it will be a journey I’m always on.

I shared all of this with Ryan on the podcast. I was vulnerable and honest. And, I share this with all of you now. I’m vulnerable and honest with you. Why? Because I believe knowing yourself and loving yourself is the most radical thing you can do for your family…faith…business…community…for yourself. It’s why friends Jocelyn and Jessie and I are creating a community of women that are on a journey to know and love themselves. We’ll be sharing more soon. I can’t wait to invite you to formally join us in this community called the Hive Exchange. If you’d like to learn more, let me know. I’ll make sure to invite you.

While I wish sometimes I didn’t have to do the messy work at ground zero, I’m so thankful I did. It was work that was worthy of my time and attention. The work had radical results that I’m still realizing. Every time I share my story, I hear directly from people that they are on the same journey. I hear they are challenged to know and love themselves in a different way. I hear this from men and from women. I hear sometimes that until hearing me share my story, they didn’t ever give themselves permission to think about themselves, not to mention love themselves. People tell me they weren’t sure that they believed self-love wasn’t even possible.

That’s why I share this with you today. That’s why I shared with Ryan on the podcast. I share because it might give at least one other person permission to share their own journey. Or it might encourage sone other person to start the work themselves, to know and love themselves. And that’s the most radical thing we can do.  

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!


P.S. I want to publicly thank one of my mentors Ray Kelly who isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions. Ray asked me how the blog was going – knowing I wasn’t writing. When I shared I was taking a bit of a break this last quarter as my business was ramping up, Ray did as Ray does, he encouraged me to get back to my ideal self.

Published by encourageherelena

My name is Elena and I'm the Chief Encourager at Encourage Her Elena. Encouraging Women in business, at home and in community is my passion. I'm an author, speaker, and coach. After almost twenty years in Financial Services (the ultimate male dominated industry), I realized that women need to hear another voice. They need to hear their own voice and step into exactly who they were made to be.

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