The Story in the Struggle

This post has been contributed by Leta Anderson.

This is WAY out of my comfort zone. I’m not a writer. I am a perfectionist that struggles to put words on paper (or on the screen) because, what if what I write isn’t “right”?

So, why did I say yes to the invitation to contribute to the Leadership Innovations blog? I have been asking myself the same question for 7 days now, all while the deadline for submission creeps closer.

I said yes on a Monday morning, then spent Monday afternoon with two voices talking to me from each shoulder. One voice saying, “Leta, this is going to be really hard for you – you know this isn’t something you are good at.”

The other voice saying, “Leta, this is going to be really hard for you – and I’m proud of you for saying yes to something that scares you. You will learn from this.”

That little voice on my shoulder (the one that said she was proud of me) gained a chorus of voices singing the same song that Monday evening. The choir members? Four other women from my community of faith. We have been meeting weekly via Zoom for about 3 months now after being randomly combined into a small group for a book discussion. With these women that I have grown to trust and value so much, I chose to share my fears about the writing assignment I had agreed to.

They did echo the encouraging voice on my shoulder. They congratulated me and said they were proud of me for saying “Yes” to this hard (for me) thing. Some gave me examples of when they have been impressed by my words and writing style. They said they would be eager to hear about my experience the following week (Hello, accountability). Then, I heard the words, “Leta, you have to be uncomfortable if you want to grow”.

If you have ever been a part of a Leadership Innovations experience, you know this is one of our mantras. I SAY those words to other people all the time. Being on the receiving end of that proclamation made me pause. I had spent all day so focused on the discomfort that had flooded me after saying yes. How and when would I shift to the growth and learning that inevitably comes from doing this hard thing?

Turns out, my evening with the Fabulous Four ladies also provided the blueprint for the learning shift. The focus for our conversation that evening was a podcast about the importance of “Stories”. How stories are all around us, and that they can reveal truth to us if we are attentive and thoughtful.

So, as I slogged my way through the struggle of writing this, I paid attention to the story that was unfolding at the same time. Who are the characters in the epic saga of “Leta Writes a Blog for the First Time”? What will be the moment of surprise and recognition in this tale?

  • Characters … My Fabulous Four ladies were real, live people cheering me on. They make an excellent cheer squad, and those voices of encouragement and support were much louder than the antagonist on my shoulder trying to sabotage my learning potential.
  • Moment of Surprise and Recognition … 1. It’s amazing what a hard and fast deadline can do when you have a tendency to avoid actually doing the hard thing. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the power of that deadline, but I was. 2. My second moment of surprise and recognition was that the “story” of discomfort that I was living (writing a blog post) was actually the story that I would write about in the blog post. Reflecting and learning about my personal story of discomfort would lead me to write a story about how being uncomfortable can be a powerful story of learning for you, too. Full circle. That’s a good story.

Next time you are faced with a hard thing, and that comfort zone feels stretched to the max, recall these Truths, about Stories and about Doing Hard Things:

Story Truth #1 – stories are more captivating and believable when the main character has “supporting” characters.
Doing Hard Things Truth #1 – the person doing the hard thing is bolstered by the support, encouragement, and belief of others. This requires vulnerability as the person doing the hard thing has to admit to others (not just to herself) that it is, in fact, hard.

Story Truth #2 – stories usually have a moment of surprise and recognition.

Doing Hard Things Truth #2 – pay attention to your journey through the hard thing. You may be surprised when and where you experience learning or growth.

What is a hard thing you are being called to do right now? What is the story that is unfolding as you consider doing the hard thing? Who are the characters that are cheering you on? What is the story teaching you?