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“Usually, I solicit the thoughts of others to make a decision. The last few days, even though the decisions could be smaller, I picked some where I took the lead alone and then asked: Are you comfortable with that? Maybe that’s not so different, but it’s allowed me to take on small things, while being mindful of the team as well. Even with the smallest decisions, I still feel like I’m in a whirlwind of thoughts and doubts. So I will… persevere! I think these are good practices and ones I’m not used to. It’s uncomfortable, I don’t have “the hang of it”. I’m going to keep at it and see how I can help make it easier.”

Testimonials like these give meaning to what I do. Taken from a coaching session preparation (shared with my client’s consent), this excerpt is filled with authenticity about what it feels like to learn, while hinting at the hope of an improved future where some things become “easier”.

My job is to help people learn and develop. Whether facilitating or coaching, I frequently witness the tension between wanting to invest in one’s personal and professional growth, and actually being able to do so without running out of steam or feeling overwhelmed.

What if, precisely, one of the keys to unraveling this impasse between will and power lay in the growth itself to which we aspire? “I am growing, so I can grow better without running out of steam. ” What kind of possibilities would that open up?

Learning takes effort

Let’s face it. To get better results, to become better, we must be committed and invest the necessary energy. There are no shortcuts. Studies on neuroplasticity are consistent with this. To learn, our brains need a specific goal, sustained effort and practice. It’s a simple and logical formula:

Without a goal, our efforts are scattered. Result: We’re out of breath and we don’t learn.

Without effort, our brain continues to follow well-trodden paths and doesn’t make new connections. Result: We’re not out of breath, but we don’t learn.

Without practice (repeated effort), our brain doesn’t make the structural changes necessary to sustain our learning. Result: We’re out of breath for a shorter period of time, but we don’t learn (at least, not in a sustainable way).

Is it even possible, then, to continuously invest in our development without running out of steam?

I propose to reframe the question: Is it possible to run a marathon without ever feeling out of breath?

Not really. The key, you might say, is training: the more we train, the easier it gets and the less out of breath we feel. But that still means pushing our limits if we want to keep progressing.

If we accept the effort required to run the marathon that is our development as adults, the goal becomes to develop not without feeling out of breath, but without feeling mentally and physically drained. 

We must therefore train ourselves to learn in order to grow without running out of steam. To do this, we must pay attention not only to the frequency and intensity of our development efforts, but also to the nature of our learning and the context in which it takes place. 

I invite you to consider the following avenues, which my client’s testimony inspires.

Whether it’s to take more responsibility for your decisions, to increase your listening skills, or to move towards any other improvement goal that you are pursuing…

  • Choose to do one small thing that is “not so different” but that allows you to observe new results for yourself or others
  • Accept the discomfort, the “whirlwind of thoughts and doubts” that this may cause
  • Cultivate the belief that the growth that will come from your efforts will make the transformation you’re striving for “easier”… less overwhelming