Over the last few months I have been doing my MBA and I have to admit I have found it a challenge. The challenge for me has been based on a number of key elements and ones that are both personal and idiosyncratic to me as, something that is trait based, as well as elements that are more aligned to learned behaviour that has been part of my professional journey over my career so far.
From an early age I have felt almost inadequate academically. I have always struggled with learning and have, with the first test I had, the 11+ (and the subsequent ‘failure’) felt as if I were at a disadvantage compared to others. This inadequacy has lasted for most of my 47 years and to this day it still haunts me. If you underpin this with a wider sense of negative self-talk, I have created a rather volatile mix of low self-esteem.
The other element that have played a part in my MBA challenges have been learned behaviours and practices that have become hard to break. These take the form of power and control over my ‘life’ as well as work practices that are based the premise that more is more (not less is … you get the gist). Deep down there is a strong self centred opinion that the only way to see the corporate world and therefore the wider world around if from MY perspective. This has led to the following:
- A heightened sense of ‘inability’ and ‘inadequacy’ compared to others.
- A holding onto what you know rather than widening out the horizons to learn something new.
- A grasping onto the things that you know have worked in the past (ideas, opinions and judgements) and applying them to the new situation/ subject whether this is relevant or not.
- A skimming of the surface, bouncing across new ideas and plans in order to be able to do he bear minimum to ‘get the job done’ because there are always more relevant things that ‘could‘ be done.
- Getting trapped in narrow and myopic subject matters that interest you, drilling into them, again whether they are relevant or not.
- Wishing for change and future successes, but without accepting the fact that this needs a long term strategy and a plan.
- Failing to acknowledge the need to understand a subject matter in order to confidently report on it, but also walking away from anything that you don’t feel confident in.
- Failure to read and comment on the ‘question’ posed rather than answering the question that you WANT to answer.
All of these have led me to ‘get by’ in life and keep beneath the surface, but all of these have add to the sense of inadequacy and insecurity at my ability. However…
The MBA has (honestly there has been more than this but this one is fundamental) helped me grow and I am perhaps more importantly, now observing my ‘behaviour’ with clearer, open eyes.
Mindfulness and meditation have certainly aided in this growth, but self-reflection and self-referential feedback, has helped me to realise that there is potentiality for growth and the ability for a human to continue to learn as they mature.
I have over the last year, through the colleagues, peers and lecturers that have shared their time with me, grown. Through the wider connections made and conversation had on the likes of LinkedIn, social media etc I have found that other people are equally growing. I have observed that growth is available to us all and what we need to do is push through the discomfort and dissonance of past experience to achieve this.
Somebody recently said on a podcast that I listen to that
Suffering + Rest = Growth.
I would slightly argue with that formula. I think that the premise is right but it is more subtle than that. For me it is more:
Discomfort (big, small, critical, minor) + reflection (self, external, internal and societal) = Growth (potential and actual).
The key is that you see the challenges that you are faced with as opportunities that may or may not lead to a positive outcome, but irrespective of that you ‘give it a go”.
Will I ever be happy with what I have achieved, perhaps not. Could I have always done better, perhaps I could. The key aspect for me is that every moment of every day I step up to the start line, no matter what is happening in my head, body and heart and I put myself in the race. That is the biggest lesson that the MBA has taught me and it is down to the cohorts, lecturers and the authors that have also put themselves on the line as well (for themselves and for me).