Many years ago, a presenter in a leadership development seminar I was attending made a statement that has stuck with me ever since: “At least once a month, we all need a do-not-kid-yourself day.”

The audience responded with a nervous laugh. Coming from a fairly transactional approach, he was talking about being accountable for what you say you are going to do. Yet I sensed that there was a much bigger transformational concept here than he was speaking of. And I knew right then that this was going to be the nugget I would take from this seminar.

There can be a fine line between compassionately fierce honesty and destructively harsh criticism. Walking that line is a learned skill. Being straightforward and truthful with ourselves about what is working and what is not – about what habits and thought patterns support us and which ones are actually debilitating – requires sensitivity, awareness, generosity of spirit, and courage. It’s a simple concept, yet it’s not easy to do. It takes practice.

Are you up for a do-not-kid-yourself moment right now? If so, let’s begin. There are three steps to this self-reflective process.

Step 1 – Begin by going to stand in front of a mirror, and take the device on which you are reading this article with you. Look directly into the mirror – directly into your own eyes – and acknowledge the gifts you bring to the world. You don’t have to speak out loud – I usually don’t. Yet be very clear, specific, and honest with yourself about what you do really well. Be willing to name the positive difference that your presence makes for those around you. In humility, allow yourself to be proud of who you are and what you bring to the world. Own your gifts. Fully embody your most authentic and powerful presence.

Take a few moments for this first step. Then continue when you are ready.

Step 2 – Acknowledge with unwavering compassion and honesty where your learning or growth edge is – where you realize that your potential is bigger than what you are actually living – where life is asking you to stretch yourself into the next iteration of your best self. This might feel exciting, or it might feel scary or take you out of your comfort zone, or perhaps even both. Whatever you are feeling is OK. Let it be information. You don’t have to do anything about it right now. Just be willing to be with it.

Take a few moments here.

Step 3 – Accept whatever insight or awareness arises as an invitation to take a next step. Resist any temptation to criticize yourself for not being there already. Breathe in compassion and love and stand in the greatest authentic and humble strength you can muster. And then say “yes” to the invitation. Say “yes” to your potential and the next iteration of your best self that it is asking you to stretch into.

Take your time here.

This is a do-not-kid-yourself moment in its highest form. It goes far beyond transactional accountability. It opens the door to the calling from within that you cannot deny. It might even be transformational.

To take these three steps in one self-reflective exercise requires deep self-awareness. It brings new meaning to “getting comfortable in your own skin.” Because it’s about being comfortable with the power and strength of who you are and living into the purpose you are here to fulfill.

Most of us have not been taught how to be gently compassionate with ourselves – to hold ourselves lightly with enormous love, and at the same time, stretch ourselves to say “yes” to our next big learning edges. We haven’t been taught how to be OK with not being “there” yet, whatever “there” might mean at a particular time in our lives. We have to learn how to be in full-on commitment to the process or the journey.

I am blessed to spend time with many extraordinary people. We support one another and learn and grow together. Most of us can do many things very well. And many of us could easily fit into the “over-achiever” category – wanting to be the best that we can be on every level and never disappoint the people we serve. It’s not so much about looking for approval or wanting people to like us – it’s that we are incredibly committed to making this world a better place for all. We live and work to a high standard.

And yet here is the catch. As we progress through different chapters of our lives and work, and as we continue living into our own ever-evolving potential, our callings also evolve. What we have been very successful in doing in the past may no longer be as fulfilling as it once was. Or perhaps it is no longer the best use of who we are and the gifts we have to share. We won’t necessarily serve in the same ways for our whole lives. And as we mature in our capacities and awareness, new opportunities show up to stretch us even further.

At first, it can be really hard to say “no” when you are asked to do something that you can, in fact, do very well. Yet deep inside, you know that saying “yes” is no longer the right thing for you.

There is actually a simple way forward. Just say “yes” to what your heart and spirit are pointing you toward now. Commit your time and energy to that new direction. As you follow that path, there will soon be no more time for the things that are no longer yours to do. There will be a natural falling away of the old as the new takes form. And it is incredibly liberating.

From time to time, we all need a do-not-kid-yourself day – to look in the mirror and go through those three steps. And then to ask one more question: What is truly mine to do now, and what is no longer mine to do?

There have been at least five or six times in my life when I have walked away from stability and security and walked toward where my heart was calling me next. These were not naïve choices. I listened and paid attention. I didn’t take foolish risks. Instead, I put as many things in place as I could and prepared the new ground as much as I was able. There were many do-not-kid-yourself moments when I had to assess and reassess where I was, the choices I was making, and the ways I was thinking.

And then it was time to take the leap. Every single time, the payoff was enormous.

What about you?

~ ~ ~

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