When working with people in the area of personal and professional development, I find that many individuals are looking for a technical answer when wanting to grow or develop their skills. What I have found in my work is that most change or growth is adaptive in nature.
That is, it is driven by a deeper belief or assumption. This deeper belief is linked to a fear or anxiety which drives their behaviour. Without identifying this underlying fear or anxiety, growth or change will be limited. For example, a leader who asks me to help him with delegation thinks all he needs is some learning on a step by step process specific to delegating more effectively. While this transfer of knowledge/skill (technical) may be helpful, I know that his reason for not delegating goes much deeper than a knowledge or technical challenge. Upon coaching him and building trust, rather quickly, we come to a place where we can identify his behaviours and most importantly his assumptions. These assumptions are below the surface and are not a part of his conscious thought process.
Through the process of coaching, he is able to identify some of his deepest assumptions such as, “If I delegate, then I will no longer look like the leader” or “If I delegate, the work will never get done the way I want it to” or “If I delegate, I will no longer be the hero.”
The fear and anxiety in our lives often prevents us from growing both personally and professionally. A story I have shared in my seminars and workshops that illustrates how fear works in our lives is a book by Max Lucado called You are Special. This simple, yet effective teaching tool encapsulates the power of thought. It demonstrates how the power of thought can influence a person's future positively or negatively depending on the choices they make. You are Special can teach us many things regarding how fear is falsely conceived in our mind and how it can negatively impact our thoughts and feelings about who we are.
The basic premise of the story involves a woodcarver named Eli, the creator of little wooden Wemmicks. He establishes a community for the little people to live in. Eli's workshop overlooks the village where the Wemmicks govern their own laws and carry on in their day-to-day life. All day long, the Wemmicks give each other stars or dots depending on the perceived characteristics of each Wemmick.
Every Wemmick is different. Some have big noses, some are tall, some are short, some wear hats and others wear coats. Those with pretty wood and paint receive golden stars, and those with damaged paint or chipped wood, receive grey dots. The talented Wemmicks receive stars due to their ability to sing, dance, or express a large vocabulary. Other Wemmicks, who do not possess an external talent or skill, receive a dot. The stars and dots are situated on the wooden body by other Wemmicks for all to witness. Ultimately, this results in positive and negative judgments. Some Wemmicks receive dots just for possessing many dots on their body.
The story represents how each Wemmick allows the dots and stars to control their thought processes and inevitably their self-esteem. With each dot, a new fear emerges. This parallels our own life, specifically how we treat each other every day. When we receive a "dot" or believe a lie which was told to us by our parents, our colleagues, our spouse, a friend, a teacher, or a student, we ultimately internalize their comments and lies and create fears. We perceive certain beliefs (the lie) based on what others think of us and tell us. These false perceptions transform into fears. For example, fear of criticism, fear of leadership or responsibility, fear of not finding love, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of success, fear of the unknown, etc.
As fear becomes a part of our conscious thoughts and as we internalize “the lie”, many negative actions and symptoms occur, such as indecision, procrastination, over-caution, lack of trust, doubt, worry, anger, self-consciousness, inferiority, lack of ambition, jealousy, fault finding, susceptibility and addictions begin to emerge. This in turn becomes our deep rooted assumptions and beliefs. We begin to see the world through these “sunglasses.”
Many people take these experiences and fears into adulthood and inadvertently continue to live in fear. We do not always identify it as fear or specific lies that we have believed, but rather develop symptoms of fear like the ones stated above. The story conveys how to overcome our false perceptions and how to worry less about the opinion of others and only on the one opinion that matters – GOD’s opinion.
Punchinello, a Wemmick who suffers due to his dot-infested body, meets a young Wemmick named Lucia. When Punchinello finds Lucia, he soon realizes something that contradicts all of the other Wemmicks. That is, Lucia does not possess a star or dot on her body. The dotted Wemmick learns that Lucia does not have stars or dots because she chooses not to allow them to stick on her.
She makes a conscious choice to dictate what positive or negative emotions enter her conscious mind. Punchinello has difficulty understanding how to do this. Lucia encourages Punchinello to visit their creator Eli, who talks with Punchinello and informs him that all people are created equal no matter how many dots or stars they possess. Eli shares with Punchinello the importance of only caring about what He thinks.
Eli communicates how He made Punchinello and that He made him with love and care. He conveys the message that a Wemmick can allow dots and stars to affect their perception only if that Wemmick's mind allows it too. Punchinello starts to realize that Eli really does love and care for him. He starts to worry less about others and focuses his energy by spending time with Eli. One day, as Punchinello is leaving Eli's workshop, a dot falls off his body.
This simple yet powerful story mirrors our own lives. As we experience life, we often choose to take all the "dots" (lies) we encounter and internalize these dots into our thoughts. Often, if we think it, we act on it! The "dots" (lies) that we receive are false perceptions of our self.
These dots do not represent who we are, but rather, harbor in our subconscious. These dots form our fears, which evidently prevent us from capturing the things that we want to pursue in life. Furthermore, we allow the opinions of others to affect what we do and say in many of our conversations and actions on a daily basis. If we only focus on an audience of One (God), then we can go about our day peacefully.
It is when we search and identify our fears that we begin to recognize these fears as false and artificial. Through our perceptions, we can begin to realize that our false perceptions control our thoughts, our thoughts control our words, our words control our actions, and our actions control our destiny in life.
Remember, you cannot change what you do not acknowledge. And you cannot acknowledge what you refuse to understand. On the other side of your greatest fears, lives your greatest life! It begins by identifying the beliefs and assumptions holding you back.