I define hitting your stride as doing your work, your way—whatever your work may be.
It happens when you’re offering the best of who you are to your work, at your pace, with your talent, and with your highest you shining through. It’s uniqueness applied with ease and grace. When you’re hitting your stride, no one needs to tell you. You know you’re doing it by how it feels.
By consciously getting a better sense of yourself and your abilities, you’ll more consistently be hitting your stride and getting the outer results you desire. A few tips:
- Become wish-less: Wishing and hoping is fruitless. Acting and doing is the way to be getting work and life results. I may want to lose 30 pounds. I even know how to do it—expend more calories than I take in. But all the wishing in the world won’t budge the scale. All your hoping won’t get you results or enable great work. Turn what you know into what you do. It’s the doing that’s key.
- Know your eggs: Just because Josie down the hall and Mark from IT had luck with a strategy, doesn’t mean that’s the basket where you should put your eggs (that is, efforts). You’re not them. Don’t chase elusive baskets with eggs that won’t hatch for you. Understand your strengths, talents, and style. Use them. Focus on them. That’s where you’ll find your golden eggs. If you don’t know your top strengths or core talents, start your thinking there.
- All that you are: You’re not your title, job, or occupation. You’re not your family or background, your thoughts or past. You’re more than these. So, who are you? What are your attributes? Values? What’s your vision for your future? What do you want your contribution to be at work, home, or in your life? Think about all that you are. Write down what comes to mind, without editing.
- The three-a-day plan: Each day, jot down three things you learned about you. Keep adding to the list. Include positive and not-so-positive reflections. Use this experience for self-discovery and personal growth. As you unpeel your masks, you connect with your resilient core and are better able to bring you to your work. Self-honesty is key to self-knowledge.
- Use a 30-second pause: Pause as you start your day. Count slowly to 30 as you breathe deeply. Now close your eyes. Picture yourself hitting your stride. Feel the ease and grace. See your best-you in your work. Picture yourself happy, vibrant, and full of energy. Greet this day with that vision firmly planted. If you need a refresher during the day, take a three minute walk and for 30 seconds of it recreate that feeling, vision, and energy.
- Learn to ride the roller coaster: Up and down, backward and forward, and loop-de-loop goes your ride. Life is the process of self-discovery and work is a reality-show. You can take it screaming or laughing. Use these workplace ups and downs to learn about who you are at the resilient core, the strength you possess, and what matters to you. Add these to your self-discovery and inner-knowledge.
- It takes a little fear: Seize nervous apprehensions and self-limiting concerns by recognizing it takes a little fear and vulnerability to sharpen skills, push them to the next level, or maximize growth. It takes a little fear to dare to become who you are capable of becoming, and offer your uniqueness to the world in spite of insecurities, naysayers, and comfort zones. Don’t let fear corral you.
- Your name in your work: Remember when you printed your name so everyone could see it at the top of wide-ruled paper? You may not print your name in crayon on your work anymore, but it’s in everything you do. Make the name on the outside reflect the inside. Not who you think you’re supposed to be, or others expect you to be, but who you are. Use self-knowledge to understand brand "you" and let your work communicate those attributes.
- Don’t settle: A job spills into your life and those you spend it with. Albert Schweitzer said, "Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing you will be successful." You can’t be hitting your stride if you don’t like what you’re doing, where you’re doing it, or who you’re doing it with. If what you do feels like work the majority of time, do inner digging. Discover why and develop a plan for change.
- It’s not the drum: "He who cannot dance will say the drum is bad." People hitting their stride don’t apply this African proverb. They’re accountable to themselves for offering the best of who they are despite poor bosses, uncooperative coworkers, less than optimal conditions, or challenging roadblocks. Create a pocket of excellence at work where you can dance. And if you do in fact determine the drum is bad, don’t blame it. Just figure out how to get a better one.
Don’t cheat yourself from becoming yourself or squander your gifts by copying others approaches and styles. Hitting your stride is a path of your making and a choice you make every day by how you show up. You can start hitting your stride any time. Everything you need is inside you.
Permission to shine
At a workshop a young man told me he was doing well at work, but his friends weren’t, and the dynamics between them had shifted. Conflicted about leaving his teammates behind, he wasn’t sure if he should accept an upcoming promotion.
There are two choices. You can fit in and stay comfortably in the pack and be nourished by mediocre sameness where your gifts and talents may remain on life’s unfilled-potential-shelf for fear of out-shining or outperforming those with whom you work, or you can realize people are not the same and show up as who you are and offer your best "you."
Those who share their gifts and passions and decide to operate as a leader, choose the second path. As they do, they raise the bar for others, pushing, challenging, and inspiring them to show up with their passions, abilities, and dreams. Titleless leaders have the courage to shine, and their modeling encourages others to bring their own gifts to this challenging world.
Your talents are different from mine, which are different from his, which are different from hers. You do some things better than others; others do some things better than you. The powerful and exciting part is this—when we use our individual differences we collectively shine. I hope that young man embraces his promotion and realizes the best way to help his friends and those he cares about achieve their dreams is by achieving his own. Give yourself permission to shine.
[Image: Flickr user Matt Hintsa]