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5 lessons from the year I stepped out of my comfort zone

In 2016, I left my job of 15 years to start building my own business coaching individuals and organizations through change.  It’s been an exhilarating and challenging experience that included mountain highs and valley lows. Below are a few lessons learned from my year of change.

1) Fight for what you believe in.

Change work is challenging.  Although people want to change and intend to change, the process is uncomfortable and difficult as the “unlearning” process and learning process come head to head.  There were many moments I wanted to back down and let good be good enough, but I realized quickly the importance of fighting for what I believe in, that these amazing Leaders and staff are worth the fight.  And when the battle is over, the reward is obvious and glorious.

2) You will find people who want you to succeed everywhere

There were moments of reflection where I recognized those around me who were cheering us on even from the darkest corner.  They kept me focused, they kept me real, and they kept me motivated.  They craved our success, they wanted to be a part of this large team, and even on a personal level, they left encouragement and support in a variety of ways. 

3)  When the going gets rough, do what’s right

There were many moments when I was challenged personally and professionally.  I met personalities who challenged my own self-respect.  There were times I needed to lead but wanted to follow.  There were times my change efforts were challenged to the core.  I gathered courage and wisdom, working hard to focus on the outcome of my work and lead the organization to do what’s right for the customers and employees together.  

My mantra throughout (which was often communicated to me through others), was always, always do what’s right.  Fear *not* following your instincts and have the courage to challenge the status quo.  

4) Understand your value

There is a voice that loudly discredited the value I brought to my work.  This voice was shocked when requests came in for speaking engagements, when I was a finalist for a prestigious award, when organizations I coached achieved awards and public accolades, and when Leaders I guided and coached achieved success.  The voice said I didn’t matter.

This voice was purposely, exhaustively silenced. This was the voice of the person I left behind, of the me who didn’t understand the value I deliver every day to the people around me.  This voice ignored the reality that my influence played a significant role in all of these successes.  This voice ignored what reality said.  Shhhh, voice.  Shhh.

5) Ask for help

I thought since I was now on my own, I needed to do it on my own.  There was a moment early in my year when my husband looked at me in earnest and said, “Carolyn, you don’t have to do this alone.”  That was the moment I started reaching out to others for help.  

I contacted former colleagues I adored and people I had yet to meet.  I asked them to share professional tools, think through challenging scenarios, and offer personal and professional insight.  I talked with judges, project managers, developers, IT Managers, other change leaders (a lot of them!), other consultants, chiefs, mentors, my sisters, and my friends.  

I asked for help in a variety of ways, and I was blessed with a more robust toolbox, a positive network, inspiration, and ongoing support. 

I learned to become a team player in a much broader network.  I learned influence is valued and valuable, and I learned that the passion in working toward something you believe in will inspire others.

My first year led to a a great start of a second year of building my consulting business.  

And now, my husband and I also work to help others achieve success in building their business.  We recognize the gifts we were given during our first year and show our gratitude by paying it forward.

And if YOU were one of the many who provided support, guidance, tools, a listening ear, laughter, or just information, I cannot thank you enough. I am a better person and professional because of you. Thank you for investing in my work…and please continue to spread your love and great influence.  The world needs more of YOU.

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