It can’t have escaped your notice that former US First Lady Michelle Obama was recently in Europe promoting her memoir ‘Becoming’ to rapt audiences in sold-out venues. She talked frankly and honestly about her continuing battle with Imposter Syndrome (despite, or perhaps because of her immense success) and I was delighted to participate in a discussion about her confession and how it relates to other high-performing women on the Vanessa Feltz BBC Radio London show towards the end of last year. (You can read more of my thoughts about Imposter Syndrome here).
As well as hugely admiring Michelle Obama and all she has achieved against the odds, I was struck by the title she chose to sum up her story: ‘Becoming’. There is such a lot of depth and meaning in that word; it implies past, present – and future. It signifies a journey, a continuing evolution and it is something everyone can relate to. We all reflect on our younger incarnations, work on our current identities – and imagine who we will eventually become.
This idea of personal evolution brought to mind the work I have been doing with two clients who have recently been promoted to partner or lead counsel in-house. Although they are in essence the same people they were before their promotions, their lives are transforming. They have realised that their roles and what is expected of them have changed and that their experiences in their new jobs are different. For example, as senior associates, they were valued for their legal expertise, their technical brilliance, and their transactional experience. Now, in their new leadership roles, they need to step back from the coal face. They are required to move away from what they are used to – the technical, being knee deep in the work load – and take a more strategic approach. They are expected to be more commercial and business-focused; to plan, to lead and to advise rather than to execute.
Supporting my clients through these challenges, reading Michelle Obama’s memoir and feeling that the New Year is a time for reflection, change and goal-setting, inspired me to write this blog about ‘Becoming’. It occurred to me, that when you’re promoted or there’s some other dramatic transformation in your circumstances – having a baby being the obvious example – in order for you to make a successful transition to your new situation, you need to change too. But it doesn’t happen over night. For a while you are in transit – evolving from who you were before, to who you are now, to the next version of yourself. In other words you are ‘becoming’.
In this blog, then, I want to invite you to stop and think about who you are and who you are becoming. Embrace the power of this vital question (see my blog on the importance of questions here). Who and where are you going to be in the future? I’d like you to think about what action you need to take or habits you need to develop now, in order to grow into the best new version of yourself.
These are the situations when the question ‘Who am I becoming?’ can help:
1 – Promotion
If you have been promoted recently, or hope to be in the near future, this brings with it the expectation that you will grow into a new role and might perhaps need to develop different skills. In this case, asking yourself, “Who am I becoming?” is a great way of working out the kind of leader you want to be, and identifying the behavioural and character traits that will help you get there. What kind of leader do you want to be? How do you want others to describe you? Who are you becoming? Asking yourself this question means deliberately taking ownership of your journey, of how you want to lead and what you want your life to look like. If you don’t ask yourself this question, you may find yourself being dragged along by the tide – by the influences, culture and people around you, or by your fears and limiting beliefs from the past – to a place (or into a person or leader) you never planned or wanted to be.
2 – Achieving your goals
When you set goals or resolutions – whether work-related like the goal to make counsel or partner, or leave the office earlier, or the personal goal of getting fit – what you are really saying is that you want to create changes in your life that make your life different (ie. better). “Who am I becoming?” reminds you that this doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, a series of steps. Setting a goal is embarking on a journey and until you get there (to the point where your goal is achieved) you are a work in progress, you are becoming the new person that will emerge when you achieve those goals / make those changes. Acknowledging this is both empowering and liberating. It means you don’t have to be perfect, to get everything right on the first day or on the first try. Your only job is to take a step forward in the right direction; and to follow that with another step, and then another. You are becoming.
3 – Checking you’re on the right track
It’s a great way to check in with yourself, who you are and where you are going. Asking yourself, “Who am I becoming?” means scrutinising your daily actions and looking at your habits with some perspective. If you keep doing what you are doing, where will you end up? What will you become? And is that what you want? Asking yourself the question gives you opportunities to make changes and improvements.
4 – Overcoming self doubt
A variation of this question can be applied in this context: “Who have I become?”. The self -reflection involved in asking yourself this question – looking back on past achievements, failures, disappointments, pleasant surprises – or in other words, reviewing your journey up to now – is empowering and motivating. Look how far you’ve come! See how well you’ve coped! Remember the times when you kept going even when you wanted to give up? These are successes that since achieving them, you have most likely taken for granted. How easy things look when they are behind you! “Who have I become?” helps you draw strength and confidence from past experiences. You can channel this into future challenges and goals.
Who are you becoming? Ask yourself this important question regularly and use the answers to guide you through challenging times and new experiences. Also – write to me and let me know who and where you want to be! Caroline@babyproofyourlife.com
Caroline Flanagan is a Keynote Speaker, Babyproof Coach and Author of Babyproof Your Career, The Secret to Balancing Work and Family so you can Enjoy It All. Caroline believes passionately in the dream of having it all, and founded Babyproof Your Life to train and prepare ambitious career women for the marathon of working parenthood so they can find their own way to #enjoyitall and #makeitwork. You can reach Caroline at firstname.lastname@example.org