July 2, 2021

Figuring That Shift Out

I wanted to share something with you all that Mark Stanifer wrote recently. 

Mark is the founder of Dare2Live Coaching and recently completed our Figure That Shift Out program and coaching certification. He strives valiantly in the arena of life. He is dedicated to helping others take their own journey into the arena through the powerful tool of coaching, and by sharing his story and experience.

He recently wrote a piece that I thought would be inspiring to you and wanted to share it. 

“Whether you know it or not, the great challenge of your life is to figure out who you are. You’re on a search for identity.” Those words, written by Chris McAlister, appear early on in his book Figure That Shift Out. The book is more than a book. It is really a framework for how to engage life.

As the subtitle states, it’s an invitation to relax into your brilliance. As Chris likes to say, it’s not a discovery of something new. Rather, it’s a re-discovery of what’s true.

I’ve been familiar with the book and content for a few years, about as long as I’ve known Chris. Each encounter with him and others who’ve engaged with this framework left me believing it was something good.

However, the timing for me to engage was not right. Until, a few months back, when it was. My interest to go deeper into the content and a simultaneous desire to guide others through it, made it the right time to experience the 12-week Figure That Shift Out (FTSO) program.

Grounded Identity

As the opening quote implies, the journey begins with grounding oneself in who you are, your identity. This is the first and necessary step in figuring the shift out.

The shift, here, refers to discovering who you are, apart from your work or your relationships. This can sound a bit philosophical, even spiritual. And while there’s an abundance of wisdom traditions that echo this truth, this shift is profoundly relevant to your everyday.

In week two of the process, you are confronted with this evocative statement: “Until you learn to order your internal world, you will fail in ordering your external world.” Said differently, leadership is an inside job. You must get it right there before you can get it right elsewhere.

A full two-thirds of the framework is focused on identity, the first of three pillars. As with any change, awareness is the starting point. The primary awareness generated in FTSO is this: you have a fear about who you are and that fear is driving your behavior in ways you don’t even realize.

Not everyone’s fear is the same. In fact, there are nine distinct versions of this fear. For example, some are afraid they don’t belong and are constantly trying to find belonging on the outside to overcome this fear. For others, their fear is tied to their performance and sounds like this, “Unless I perform well I’m not worth anything.” Another fear, which I understand all too well, is that of not having what it takes, inadequacy.

Perhaps you’re thinking this doesn’t really apply to you because you don’t really have fear. I understand that. But FTSO helps you see evidence of how fear shows up in everyday behavior.

It takes one of two forms, either in proving or hiding. These two behaviors are defined as you might expect. Proving is the effort to prove or demonstrate something about you. Hiding is the act of diminishing yourself in order to avoid revealing something. They are two sides of the same coin, ways to avoid or mask the deeper identity-related fear. (See this article for more on proving and hiding.)

While there are some situations where fear helps you find safety, mostly fear is a punk and a liar. The identity fears revealed in FTSO, despite their promise to us, are not helpful. Rather, they lock us up and drive behavior that is suboptimal at best and sabotage to self and others at worst.

Productive Disorder

There’s a model of change that goes like this: order to disorder to reorder. The early work in FTSO is about moving from order into disorder. It’s an awakening to what is, which is different than what you thought. So that you can purposefully move toward something different, i.e. reorder.

This content, appropriately so, spends a significant amount of time on creating that disorder. But it doesn’t stop there. By week five, the reorder process for living from a secure identity is beginning.

In a unique and very practical way, you are guided through exercises and introduced to tools that address thinking patterns, regulating emotions, envisioning the future, as well as rewriting the story you’ve constructed about the past.

One of the highlights of this is traveling through the process with a guide, someone who has been through it before and is now leading others on their journey.

My own experience with my coach was extremely beneficial, both for me as a participant and as a future guide for others. I’ve done work on my own and I’ve done work with a coach. It is the exception, not the rule when the results from the solo work exceed those from working with a coach. Coaches have coaches too because it works.

Mission & Community

The remaining third of the program moves the participant past the internal identity work and introduces the other two pillars, mission, and community. The order is not an accident. When you’re grounded in who you are, you can show in your work (mission) and the relationships you have (community) in a way that is unencumbered by the fear-based proving or hiding.

Otherwise, you look to solve inside issues through outside circumstances. Said differently, when living from an insecure identity, the underlying motive in work and relationships is to get rather than give. Even those who seem to be the most giving can still be motivated by the fear of not being needed. It all comes down to motive.

FTSO does not spend much time helping you develop your mission. Rather, it goes right to helping you be better at the work you are doing, particularly for leaders.

There’s time for how to better blend your unique set of experience, passion, and expertise and leverage that to improve your leadership. There are also sections for making better decisions and navigating conflict. But all of this is anchored to the idea that in order to discover one’s brilliance, the fear-based motive of behavior must be replaced by focusing first on discovering security in one's identity.

An Invitation

There’s much more that could be said but I’ll finish with these two thoughts. First, the most significant impact for me was uncovering my propensity toward proving and hiding.

That has led to a new mental mantra that is on regular repeat for me: I have nothing to prove and no reason to hide. The impact for me has been significant and meaningful.

Second, the best way to engage with the FTSO content is to participate in it yourself. So, here’s an invitation. Whether individually or as part of a group, there is space for you to figure this shift out for yourself. And in so doing, change the way you live and lead for the better.

If you’re ready for the journey, I’d be honored to be your guide.

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