Zen Jen

“I am the only one that can change it”

Last time, we met the Puffer Fish.  Now, it’s time to meet Zen Jen.  Jen has been one of the most vulnerable leaders I have had the privilege to coach.  In our discussions early on, she shared some of her leadership challenges honestly with me and her peers.  She shared her strengths, her opportunities, and her fears openly.  I often reflect, what makes some leaders willing to do this, and others fearful to share?  What holds us back?

What Jen shared opened my eyes to this intriguing question.  She recalled an earlier time in her life with sadness, “I lost my way, and I realized that no one did it to me, and I am the only one who can change it.”  How often do we feel like things are happening to us?  A job change, an employee challenge, a new project…it just happens to us.  Or does it?

We’ll learn through Zen Jen’s story how perspective and choices shape us far more than the circumstances in our lives.  Life does not just happen to us, we get to choose how we respond to what happens.

We make choices every day.  Zen Jen shared some things she did differently in her self-improvement journey.  Simple things like doing crossword puzzles to challenge her thinking to see other perspectives, or more challenging habits like being aware of the stories she was telling herself in her head and correcting the negative self-talk.  I often call this rewriting the story we tell ourselves.  Asking ourselves, “how do I know that to be true?” or, “I know this based on what?” usually reveals a whole different truth.  We often tell ourselves a story that simply is not true.  Fear creeps in, if we let, and it prevents us from seeing our choices.  Fear is what holds us back.  But, that’s a choice too, isn’t it?

Once we retell our story with the true facts, we have far more choices on how best to move forward.  Other positive habits I hear that help leaders are meditation, yoga, exercise, music, accountability partners, and positive affirmations.  This was not a simple overnight change, but a transformation that required a different way of thinking.  Zen Jen flipped the negative “it just happens to me” mindset into one of personal accountability framed around choices through a set of new positive habits.  Once she increased her choices, she was able to make better decisions.  She no longer felt boxed into a corner; she felt liberated to embrace choices and change.  She knew she was the only one that could change it, and she did.

The thing is, as leaders, we have to first be self-aware and vulnerable to be able to see our real situation.  Then, we put ourselves in a position to be successful where we’re able to make choices that align with our true selves, which keep us focused and accountable to those choices.  Leaders that are vulnerable, accept the choices they make, and hold themselves accountable to those choices, have better business results.

What did you learn from Zen Jen?