It’s very easy to get in your own way when you declare an uplevel. As soon as you declare a “bigger game,” there is some part of you that understands you are now going to step outside of your comfort zone. The intention of this part is to protect you but, unfortunately, it can create sneaky and persistent self-sabotage patterns that keep you playing small.
Unfortunately, most people operate at a very similar level of performance throughout their lives. They have a perception of who they are, how they function as leaders, and how they contribute. Rarely do they break with that perception and move to a completely new level.
When approaching personal or professional growth, they often choose to focus on aspects at which they can get marginally better—let’s say 10% better—and, in addition, choose aspects with which they are familiar and comfortable. Simply put, that is not upleveling. And because that kind of marginal, 10% approach won’t yield a significant shift, it won’t actually be satisfying.
One of my recent clients in a global logistics company wanted to get a promotion and set his sights on a role that was about 10% bigger than his current role. While it was a good role, he was clearly gravitating toward something within his comfort zone.
In the course of our conversations, he revealed that a much bigger position might be available - it would be at least 50% bigger with larger revenue responsibility, market size, number of employees, the works. But rather than believe it could actually happen, he fell back on a common modes of self-sabotage:
- Thoughts of “that’s not for me,” or “not right now”
As we kept talking, I told him to that he may be getting in his own way and that perhaps the 50% bigger role could really stretch and grow him. Together, we put together a plan so he could:
- Begin to believe that he could handle the larger role
- Focus on what it’s actually going to take to uplevel
- Identify specific actions to build skill and capacity
- Reorganize beliefs and actions toward that bigger role
Within six months, my client was offered the promotion into the 50% bigger role! And I know that his excitement, pride, and satisfaction would not have been as profound if he had just gone for the smaller role. I’m not suggesting that the expanded scope is always better, but when you really challenge yourself and rise to that challenge, your sense of accomplishment is that much stronger.
When conceptualizing your own uplevel, push yourself to think about what truly is next level for you. What would your role, your leadership, your life look like at an entirely new level with entirely different results? Don’t hold yourself back. Don’t stick with what is familiar. Don’t let a fear of disappointing yourself (or those around you) prevent you from moving up.
In addition, don’t let fear distract you from an important truth: part of what keeps us inspired and satisfied is that feeling of bumping up against our ceiling of performance and then breaking through it. The process of getting better and better makes us feel alive!
So challenge yourself to really step up. Expand what you think is possible, and really believe it. Don’t get in your own way by coming up with excuses or other forms of self-sabotage. Instead, combine sincere conviction with precise actions and allow yourself to truly uplevel. It’s up to you.
Leadership Uplevel Practice
Reflect on the area that you want to uplevel, whether it’s your communication, relationships, ability to motivate, etc. and ask:
- Is that area truly aligned with your deeper commitments in the world? With who you want to be as a leader? With the results you want to create?
- Do you really believe that it’s possible? Will you get out of your own way and allow your uplevel to happen?
If you were honest with yourself and answered “not really” to either or both of these, it’s time to reevaluate. Think about what needs to change in order to get to “yes.” Only then will you be able to play at that next level.