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December 17, 2021

The Road to Growth Part 4: Am I Firm?

One way to break down a journey is to see it as built around three parts. It has a destination – a finish line or purpose which gives the journey a sense of meaningfulness. It requires a path – the actual journey itself. The path takes us to our destination; but it also gives us a sense of movement, change, and growth along the way. And a journey includes the drive to keep moving. That’s the passion or fearlessness to go on even when the road is steep or difficult. Drive fills us with a sense of momentum, of little changes and small steps multiplying and leading to something significant.

I argue that all three of these pieces are key for a journey of transformation – of permanent, positive change. But for purpose, path, and passion to do that, we need to know where we are journeying from. That requires a clear assessment of our purpose and path. And it means knowing if we have passion (and if we do, to what degree?). Answering those questions triangulates the starting point of our journey.

In this blog series we’re aiming to identify that starting point by assessing if and to what degree you know your purpose, and your path, and if you have passion. Our overview began with Purpose, where we asked, “Am I Scattered?” (Part 1) and “Am I Focussed?” (Part 2) to help us to evaluate the level of meaningfulness in our lives. In Part 3, we turned to our Path and asked, “Am I Unsure?” Here in Part 4, we continue to evaluate the level of movement in our lives and ask, “Am I Firm?” Finally, Parts 5 & 6 will address Passion and ask, “Am I Stuck?” and “Am I Fearless?” to evaluate the level of momentum in our lives.

“Am I Firm?”

shovel in dirt

Firm might seem like a strange way to describe a life. A life is firm when we are confidently moving toward purpose. A number of different markers could indicate this kind of life. Here I offer three markers which provide a good starting point for assessing your sense of clear path. They will help you determine whether or not you are firm in pursuing a clear path that moves you towards your purpose.

Unearths Awareness

A firm life is one where we consistently seek to unearth fresh awareness. We interrogate our assumptions and biases from new angles, looking for fresh understanding that will keep us moving forward to our goals. We consistently evaluate the paths we could take – the means to our end – against our core values and beliefs. In addition, we cultivate relationships in which other people can speak truth to us. We value honesty; and we’re not afraid of undoing old patterns of thinking because we know that’s a sign of growth.

Moreover, we don’t worry about detours along the way because we have a clear sense of the major stops on the road to our destination; and we recognize the long-term value in opportunities to shed misconceptions and limiting beliefs. We come to the end of a week and discover that the light which illuminates our path forward has grown just a little bit brighter.

At its best, this willingness to continually unearth awareness keeps us mindful that the journey is just as important as the destination. It gives us a joy in experimentation that transforms rabbit trails from missteps into adventure and allows us to celebrate the small victories of the everyday. If you feel like you remain open to new self-understanding, deeper insight in your field of expertise, and desire for learn and growth, you are probably firm.

To evaluate yourself against the marker of unearthing awareness take the “Do I Lack Clarity?” self-check quiz.

Leans into Influence

footprints in the  sand

A firm life is one where we recognize that influence is more effective than authority in leading and in creating change. We look to see where we have influence and let that be our springboard to action rather than a formal role or job title. We develop an internalized sense of agency that is detached from the organizational structures we inhabit, because we learn to trust the weight of our influence.

Further, we shift from looking for permission to seeking support; and so, we begin to look for the people who value and validate our influence, who will listen to us and give us a voice in areas that may take us beyond the bare bones of our remit. We may still need a sense of permission to be released to pursue our goals, but now we look for that in particular personal relationships – mentors who have trod the ground before us or compatriots who share our dreams and walk paths parallel to our own. At the end of the day, we feel energized by a sense of being heard and of walking in company.

At its best this valuing and pursuit of support gives us tremendous freedom to pursue our purpose. We step out and act in confidence, willing to become all that we have been made to be. If you readily recognize your influence and lead and create out of it, seeking support rather than permission, you are probably firm.

To evaluate yourself against the marker of leaning into influence take the “Do I Lack Permission?” self-check quiz.

Maximizes Push Points

woman pushing dominos over

A firm life is one where we maximize the effect of our influence by concentrating on push points. Rather than trying to manage an entire process or drive a whole project, we look for strategic points to influence the direction of development. We see conversation with key individuals (who already value our voice) as opportunities to bring our influence to bear and make a change. Rather than centre our attention on the systems we find ourselves in, we look at the angles. And we so search out creative ways to approach issues and have an impact. Moreover, we use our assigned tasks as leverage points to bring greater alignment, pushing everything closer to the desired destination. At the end of the day, we see projects, ministries, communities, etc., move closer toward the ends we’re passionate about because we’ve applied the right pressure in the right place.

At its best, focussing on maximizing push points gives us a greater and more wholistic sense of traction and movement in our lives. We stop trying to force things to happen and people to change. Instead we choose to respect others and guide rather than drive change. We make the shift to seeing people – and our work of relating to them and investing in them – as not only instrumental to achieving our ends, but as part of the ends itself. And so, we begin to pursue deeper connection with our community. If you look for ways to guide change, seeking to invest in and build up people, you are probably firm.

To evaluate yourself against the marker of maximizing push points try the “Do I Lack Power?” self-check quiz.

The Promise of Movement

If these markers sound familiar or you used the self-check quizzes and the results raised some hopeful possibilities; you might very well be firm. These descriptions of a firm life certainly sound positive and even freeing. And yet, you might ask is being firm truly significant? The answer is simple but profound:

All of us want a sense of movement. We long for a sense that we are making headway as we pursue the clear path to our purpose. A firm life where we consistently unearth fresh awareness; where we lean into the power and promise of influence; and where we focus that influence on guiding change by leveraging push points and investing in people; is a life that leads to experiencing movement.

Of course, being firm in life is not always enough to generate momentum. If you are focussed and firm but you feel stuck as you journey along, coaching can help. Make an appointment or continue reading in the blog series: “The Road to Growth: Am I Stuck?”

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