The Abilene Paradox Life: Leadership Courage

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Peer Pressure

I’m inspired by many sources, yesterday I was inspired by Ryan Meeks Pastor at Eastlake Community Church in Bothell. Perhaps it was because he was talking about my life sweet spot; helping others discover their passion and unleashing their very best, most authentic life.

If you know me at all, you know I’m eternally curious about the art and science of finding one’s passion, discovering one’s calling and the potential you and I have for doing good when we are aligned with that which we most believe in and desire to do! I believe we are here to make a life not merely a living.

What if all of life is an experience in coming to be who we were designed to be and meeting the MASTER designer behind our originality?

I know from experience that it’s easy to lose precious days, months, weeks, years and even decades seeking the applause of others or worse yet buying into group think living and trying not to rock the boat.

As Meeks talked about the Abilene Paradox I found myself nodding my head. I’ve been an Abilene prisoner. I’ve lived the Abilene life, forget moments or situations I lived Abilene for decades. Yes. Decades.

Wikipedia defines the Abilene paradox as “a paradox in which a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to the preferences of any of the individuals in the group. [1] [2] [3] It involves a common breakdown of group communication in which each member mistakenly believes that their own preferences are counter to the group’s and, therefore, does not raise objections. A common phrase relating to the Abilene paradox is a desire to not “rock the boat”.”

What about you? Ever made decisions based on others expectations, peer pressure or societal pressure? Ever went along, agreed, put up and shut up? How many times have you ignored the voice within shouting at you to turn left while everyone else raced straight ahead?

I’ve nearly earned my masters in exceeding other’s expectations all the while ignoring my own passions and desires.

Early in life I followed a path that looking back was more about what everyone else was doing and what was being modeled than my own innate values, unique passions and talents. I followed the road everyone said led to success and guess what – it wasn’t me. It wasn’t representative of the best me- my unique design. It wasn’t success for me…

Humiliated at the end of my marriage I threw myself into over compensating and experienced an entirely different form of the Abilene Paradox as I began living to exceed my kids expectations. People pleasing, care-taking; making everyone else happy became my life differentiator; slowly over time I was more Abilene than Pam.

So yes, maybe I’m passionate about this authenticity thing, the passionate life, discovering one’s calling because it took me so long to become truly courageous in designing my own authentic life. It took me a lot of U-turns before I found my leadership courage, the courage to lead myself.

It takes courage to live your truth, to choose according to your unique design and interests. It takes courage to turn right when everyone else is going left. It takes courage to say, “No” when everyone wants you to say, “Yes.”

One day after navigating the toughest white water of my life, I heard it.

It. Yes it.

The still small voice. The desire. My DNA molecules, my passions, my self. It was screaming. “Your life is slipping away, this is not your path, you are so much more than all of this, when will you listen, when will you wake up?”

It was then I enrolled in the Masters of Teaching program at Seattle Pacific University. It was then I crossed the bridge from building my company to being a builder of people and their dreams. It was then I committed my self to staying true to the inspiration I am, to learning how to write, to coach, to show up as the hands and feet of love reminding people it’s not too late to become what they were born to be.

Don’t get me wrong.

I still feel the Abilene pull. I struggle at times with how odd I am. I want to be more like everyone else sometimes, sometimes I want to go with the flow, not rock the boat and let the pull of the crowd take me to security wherever that is. I struggle with my definition of success and how it doesn’t look or feel at all like what I use to think success was. I struggle with letting others down and being so normal and so well just me.

Leadership courage.

Life courage. It’s essential if we are to discover the Creator’s master design for our lives. Press in. Listen today to the desires within. Are you living your life? Or someone else’s? Discovering your own authentic swing or replicating someone else’s?

Yesterday Ryan said that ” A calling is not something you choose it’s something you discover.”

What are you discovering about yourself? As the months and years tear by are you finding yourself becoming more and more who you are? Is the inside matching the outside? What you believe manifesting in who you be? Is your life defined by expectations; yours or others? Or is it a reflection of the masters unique design for the one, incredible, miraculous; you?

The Abilene Paradox Life: Leadership Courage

Pam Hoelzle

photo credit By Scottdd222

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