I’m Perfect Just The Way I Am… Or Am I?

are your blind spots holding you back from reaching your achievements

Recently I was sitting with a client and going over the results of an assessment that I love and regularly use with clients. As we began to go over the “Blind Spots” part of the assessment, he turned to me and said:

“I don’t know if these blind spots don’t specifically apply to me or if I just can’t see it because they really are blind spots.”

It was such and open and wise perspective to take. Being open to the fact that you might have more to discover about yourself, that you might not fully know yourself as well as you think, takes courageous honesty.

This has let me to reflect on the nature of blind spots recently – what they are, how they can limit you, and how to move your leadership journey forward even when they exist.

What are blind spots?

In medical terms: A blind spot is a distortion or absence of sight in a small portion of the visual field.

In behavioral terms: Blind spots are actions, reactions or thought patterns that you hold, either consciously or subconsciously that you don’t realize are a choice, where you could choose differently. (For a great blog with more description I just found about it, read more here)

So the next question obviously is, why should blind spots matter to you?

What can be so important about blind spots is that they can keep you working on the wrong thing because you’re not observing the full pattern or picture. There is some part of the equation that you are essentially “blind to,” that isn’t allowing you to solve the right problem.

I’ll use myself as an example. As I grew up, I was trained to be the helper. When I see someone in need I want to come to their aid. When I am solicited by my kids’ schools, I volunteer. That sort of pattern. But what made it a huge blind spot for me is that I feel obligated to help, it feels like a requirement of good community citizenship, and not something I’m choosing to participate in. . . And then came the day I wanted to work out more.

Just like you, I only have 24 hours in a day and I need almost a third of them for sleeping. This means that if I can’t step back and see that some of the thing I do to volunteer or help others (read: drive my kids everywhere) are a choice, I will keep trying to fit exercise into a schedule where there isn’t enough space or free time. To create more time for my personal priorities, I need to see that my feeling of obligation is a blind spot – I’m actually choosing to prioritize community needs over my own.

Does that make sense?

Blind spots can get in the way of you seeing yourself as you really are in the world and fully knowing yourself. They can sometimes lead you to feel less powerful, as if you have fewer options than you actually do. And other times they can lead you to feel more powerful, that there is more that you can, and should, control in your environment.

For the record, as a coach, the biggest blind spot I see is, “That’s just who I am.”

This is the answer clients give when they don’t want to change. Or it’s scary. Or it’s just a lot of work. “That’s just who I am” negates your possibility for change and growth. It claims that your aversion to difficult conversations, or giving presentations, or whatever is holding you back is fixed and immutable. The real blind spot here is that you’ve convinced yourself you don’t have the capacity for real and meaningful change.

I have an invitation for you instead: What is important to you to achieve in your life that you have felt blocked on? If you have a personal or professional goal that always feels just out of reach – maybe it’s time to examine some of the assumptions underlying previous solutions that haven’t worked for you. Could there be a blind spot getting in your way?

How Can You Challenge Your Blind Spots?

I’ve seen a number of ways that people can challenge their blind spots. Of course one of the most effective ways involves going through a time of personal turmoil or tragedy…But since I’m not going to recommend that, let’s discuss some more enjoyable ways to tackle your blind spots.

A Helpful Assessment Test:

While any assessment isn’t a wholesale answer to what your current blind spots are, a great assessment tool, along with someone knowledgeable to help you debrief it, can be eye-opening. Popular assessment include the Myers-Briggs, DiSC, and Enneagram, among many others.

Sometimes seeing how accurately the assessment tool’s report is about your behaviors and beliefs can give you additional insight into yourself. When you read about yourself in a report, you realize there are some decisions you are making on autopilot instead of using fresh eyes and considering other points of view. Many great assessments not only help you discover interesting things about yourself, but can also give insights into areas you might not have realized you could and should pay more attention to.

A Trained Listener, Coach or Therapist:

While it’s easier to talk to our friends, spouse or family, many of the people close to you share some of your same blind spots. That’s why you get along so well with each other!

The benefit of a trained advisor is that we’ve been trained in objectivity and recognizing stories as one version of the facts, not the only possibility. When I listen to my clients, I can connect the dots between habits that are holding them back in many different areas of their lives.

The juiciest blind spots to tackle are the ones that are holding you back personally AND professionally – so much more bang for your buck. . . and your hard work.

Ask Your Friends The Right Questions:

When I was starting my coaching practice, one of my coaches had me survey 5 close friends/family and ask some key questions.

I asked pointed questions such as, “What do you think will contribute most to my success?” as well as “What one behavior or belief do I hold that could hold me back from success?”

Asking people who know us well to tell us honestly about the blind spots they are observing can be immensely helpful. This is why corporations invest large amounts in 360 feedback and have time intensive performance evaluation processes.

The key ingredients to success with this method is twofold: survey people who are willing to be completely honest with you, and to center yourself so that you can hear this feedback without defensiveness, rushing to excuses, or anger and hostility.

So I’ll end with my final thought-provoking question to you: what’s an important enough goal in your life that you’re willing to invest the time and energy to tackle your blind spots to get there? 

If this article resonated with you, please share it with a colleague or friend who could benefit to.

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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