Old habits die hard. They hang on for good reason. They’ve learned their strategies well. At one time, they served. And, at some point, they outlive their usefulness and their effectiveness.
I find myself in a new situation, a new context that is creating some new demands on my habits. As many of you know, Doug Silsbee, Founder of Presence-Based Coaching, received a stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis seven months ago. Thankfully, he is still with us, and I have recently stepped in as the sole Principal of Presence-Based Coaching. I find myself as the leader of a body of work and business that I helped shape for many years. And I find myself without a partner in this enterprise. My particular habit shape leans toward collaboration, partnership. Creative combinations of two or more that are often a catalyst for the immediacy and fun of emergence and discovery.
The Appeal of Being #2
And within that bell jar, my preference is to be the #2. I much prefer having a #1 around, it’s so much easier! There’s a shield of protection, my role is clear (= supporting the #1). The partner can vet any of my ideas that don’t really work with where we are going.
I get to be big in this #2 role (big for me!), and still my partner takes the front seat. I’m standing on the sidelines. I don’t have to risk too much, and I feel safe and supported, productive and empowered.
Its much more comfortable being a little behind, and over toward the wall. I don’t’ have to get out on the dance floor (although I do love to dance), at least not by myself.
And there’s another upside: I have witnessed my own substantial learning and growth and development from being a #2.
I have followed, contributed, created and have made my own way sometimes. Within the safe parameters of the partnership, I know that regard and support was always there for me in an unconditional way. Even when I made mistakes. In fact mistakes seemed a lot easier when I had a partner to run to for consolation and understanding and acceptance (even if my ego was a bit bruised by what I labeled as “failure”).
Stepping Into #1: The Shield is Gone
As I’m stepping into the #1 role, it’s quite a challenge, quite an affront to my habitual stance. This being #1 means lots of different things to me, including more responsibility, more work, more decisions, more exposure from being on the front line – the shield is gone. I’m the #1 now. These are big shoes to fill!
I’ve been inquiring into this shift in identity, role, relationship. Gratefully, Doug, my former partner, is still here and can serve as a welcome sounding board. We slip into the old, familiar and comfortable roles…at times. And other times, I’m navigating on my own, finding my way. And I’m opening to new possibilities, including new perspectives, new partnerships, new collaborations, and different ways of moving forward.
There are other upsides, of course. I can do things my way. And that feels fun, and a little mischievous!
Commitment to Continuing Doug’s Legacy
I notice my own strong commitment to continuing Doug’s legacy in a way that serves his brilliance and the work we have built together. The commitment that continues the impact the Presence-Based body of work has on others – the communities we are connected to, the clients and organizations we serve, and the bigger context of the world we live in.
It’s been a stretch so far, which reminds me of another habit I’ve come to notice: to compare myself, and find myself lacking (naturally). This comparative judgment is easy to do with my former partner who is quite big in the world and my habit of taking my place a bit behind him.
Sometimes I feel like a little fish in a big pond. I hear my inner voices saying things like: “They want Doug, they don’t want you,” or “You can’t teach as well as him,” or “You can’t explain or articulate in the way he does.” And I am transported back to an old inner wound: “They don’t want me,” accompanied by a familiar whole body sinking feeling and tightening in my solar plexus.
Who Am I in this?
And despite having successfully enabled a substantial turnaround for my family business in my 30’s, this business feels like a different animal. Presence-Based Coaching and Leadership feels more aligned with who I am now. This body of work is closer to the values I hold dear to my heart and to what I deeply care about. In fact, I’m a different animal.
And I know without any doubt that this body of work is important to me. That’s why I made this leadership move in the first place! It fits and fills my aspirations for my work in the world and brings me joy and fulfillment to witness other’s growth and development. I relish being present for those moments when clients or students make life-altering breakthroughs or have insights or understandings that change everything. Or even observing with delight the little awakenings that create some sense of freedom from an old habit that no longer fits (the irony is not lost on me here!).
So as I’ve been contemplating my new role, my shifting identity and what that means, I sense that I am not actually filling Doug’s shoes. That’s not even possible or desirable. I realize I am on a journey of filling my own shoes. And that feels good to my heart.
Three Questions for Self-Reflection:
- Which of your habits might be feeling overused, or out of date?
- What do your inner voices say to you that might limit who you are becoming?
- Whose shoes are you trying to fill at this moment?
If you want to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the above questions. I’m sure our community would too. Leave us a comment below to start a dialogue.
Note: This is my first blog post on “Doug’s Blog,” Notes from the Nexus. It is with intention, and with Doug’s blessing, that I am doing so. May this blog continue to be of service to those who read it.