It’s a marathon, not a sprint! The challenge of personal change and growth.

A marathon not a sprint

By Robyn Mercer

I learn as much from everyone I coach as they learn from me.  I have spent a lifetime working on my own growth and development and assisting those I coach to do the same. And I’m still doing it.

What I have seen is how hard it can be to maintain desired changes in behaviour and thought patterns.  This was one of the key themes that ran through a recent coaching program involving a number of participants.

My respect for the people I work with and coach is immense, particularly because much of the change we work on to improve leadership skills involves reprogramming beliefs and addressing fears and this is hard and deeply challenging work.

The new behaviour and ways of thinking come about from a willingness to do the work, insight and awareness backed up with sustained action.

For personal growth and professional development, persistent action to make changes to how we think and act and to the environment we put ourselves in, is what drives and consolidates new skills and behaviours.  Self-development requires us to put ourselves out of our comfort zone.

Self-awareness is essential for this process and includes building an understanding of what drives and limits us and whether we are choosing how we respond to situations or reacting from limiting beliefs and established patterns.

Statements focused on intent and self-belief can be a great start.  The challenging work is then taking consistent action to realise sustained changes that become who we are and how we behave.  This takes persistence, strong mental discipline and true courage.

  • A recent coachee has challenged the practice of asking herself ‘what did I do wrong or say wrong?’ when reviewing her day. A new thought pattern of ‘what I did well today is…’? will take some time to embed.  This new pattern will support her and will enable her to notice and praise the positive actions of those around her (at home and at work).
  • Having had two very critical parents still shows up for one manager who has always found it hard to hear feedback at work that sounds in anyway negative. The first step was to realise the connection between the legacy of this parenting approach and the impact it has on her now as a mature woman in a leadership role.  Her action has been to challenge the persistent criticism she still receives from her mother by asking her not to make negative and critical comments.  This is a small and very courageous step that will have big results for how she feels about herself and how she leads.

We celebrate the people who commit to personal growth and professional development and who then undertake the marathon of persistent practice needed to build great leadership skills.

What has been your experience?

  • What have been or are some of the most challenging areas of personal growth for you?
  • How have you managed to sustain changes to build and embed new skills in your leadership and management roles?
  • What supported or sustained you in that process?


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