What defines you? Who defines you? How do you know when you've reached a defining moment in your life?
One of the most impactful people in my life growing up was my grandmother. The thing that she said to me always was, "no matter what you choose to do in life, be the best at it!"
Just this past summer I made the decision that I want to go back to school and get my nursing degree. Yeah, me a 40 year old woman, working full-time as a Human Resources Manager of a healthcare organization, with 400+ employees, deciding to go back to school for of all things..NURSING! Just the thought of all of the science and math courses (both of which I hate), made my entire body sweat. I was fraught with fear, mostly because I completed my Master's 17 years ago. However, I knew that this small decision, would be one of the defining moments of my life and would have a significant impact on my life's trajectory. I also know that if I could do this, I could show my children that anything is possible, at any age. This was one of my defining moments.
What is a defining moment?
A defining moment is a point in your life when you're urged to make a pivotal decision, or when you experience something that fundamentally changes you and who you are. Not only do these moments define us, but they have a transformative effect on our perceptions and behaviors; those ways that we see the world and people and moreover, how we interact with them.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg powerfully wrote about one of her defining moments, the sudden death of her husband on vacation. Option B, the title of Sheryl’s book, is a road map on how to effectively define your defining moments: face the adversity, build resilience and find joy.
Moments that are truly defining will force you to ask “why," often challenge your beliefs/norms, and force you to behave differently.
How do leaders move forward?
Think of a moment when your true character was revealed, you had an opportunity to excel, or you saw something with greater clarity. Inevitably, the road of life will be bumpy, testing your commitment to your purpose. But some individuals see bumps in the road of life as obstacles, while some see them as opportunities, stepping stones, rather than stumbling blocks.
Leaders quickly recognize their defining moments and move forward by:
1. Being resilient and embracing adversity: The irony of a defining moment is that if you don’t define it, it will surely, and most assuredly define you! View these moments as an opportunity to learn and grow, and do not let them make you stagnant and become complacent. Compartmentalize the moment and quickly find purpose.
2. Acknowledging fear: Best-selling author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss says, “What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.” The beauty of a defining moment is that it usually forces us to face our fears head on and take action. I can personally attest to how scary it is, but also how much better you will become. Acknowledging the fear helps mitigate the potential paralyzing effects. And even though I will say this to you, there is no way in the world that I will ever face my fear of snakes head on...EVER!
3. Quickly recalibrating: Recalibrating is a function of taking an honest assessment of where you are. To move forward, we often need to know why something occurred. But sometimes, we can't identify our why as quickly as we would like. With stillness and meditation come clarity and answers. Yoga is a great way to process an event, calm the mind, and figure out what to do next. Your why is the foundation for building your action plan to move forward. It is essential to think beyond the defining moment and open yourself up to the innumerable lessons.
4. Creating a (solutions-based) action plan: Billionaire magnate, investor, engineer, and inventor Elon Musk is known for creating action plans. From a business perspective, action plans are essential to help us benchmark progress. For me, prior to entering graduate school, I did a personal SWOT analysis to assess my skill sets and gaps. By doing this, I was able to begin my studies with the end in mind, fully aware of what was required of me to complete my studies successfully. Your plan doesn't have to be complex, but it must be specific. It's your roadmap for moving forward, and it lets you know how far you have come.
So long as we identify them quickly and make the decision to move forward, we all have the ability to define our defining moments. Will you?