If ‘fitting in’ is your goal, don’t read this

Hold onto your hats, readers, big news coming.

When I was a child, I occasionally did stuff wrong.

I know, shocking news, huh? Not only did I do stuff wrong, I blamed someone else for leading me astray – ‘she told me to’ or ‘I only did what everyone else did’. The response from an adult would be along the lines of ‘if she told you to jump off a cliff, would you?’

Sounds harsh, doesn’t it? It was a point well made though, encouraging me to think for myself and make decisions without being swayed by others.

I saw this video the other day:

It reminded me of me as child but also of a conversation I had with a client, Richard, some time ago.

Richard worked in an industry with a very distinct career path. By rights, he would spend eighteen months or so in the current role, then would probably move over to another team where he’d spend a year rounding out his skill set, after which he’d return to his original department to take on a more senior role. Conversations with his manager had revealed that this plan was causing some issues for Richard so his manager engaged me to work with him to find out more.

Richard summed up the situation like this: ‘I know this is the way it’s done. Everyone tells me that I should just stick to the path the others are following. It’s tried and tested. I see my colleagues taking those steps – maybe I should just blend in with the crowd.’

‘It sounds like blending in means that in a couple of years time, you’ll be a manager in your current team. How does that feel?’

‘It feels okay.’

‘And is that how you want to feel?’

‘Not really. I want to feel great!’

‘And you can’t do that if you blend in?’

‘I don’t think so. It’s scary to think about standing out but not as scary as the thought of just following the herd, even if that’s easier.’

‘Here’s a quote for you – “I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself”: what do you think of that?’ I offered.

reward for conformity everyone likes you except yourself rita mae brown northern lights aurora

‘That’s it in a nutshell. I don’t want to fit in with the norm just so everyone else is happy. I need to feel like I’ve chosen the right path for me, even if it doesn’t seem like the obvious choice,’ explained Richard.

For the remainder of our sessions together, Richard and I worked on finding that path for him, creating an action and development plan which would help him achieve his goals. His manager was fully supportive of Richard’s plan and one year on, Richard is carving his own path within the business.

Today’s pebble for your thoughts: is conformity right for you?


ps I’m taking a screen break next week: I’ll be back here on 8 September.

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to transform your work or your life, why not email me to see how we can work together?

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2 Responses to If ‘fitting in’ is your goal, don’t read this

  1. Sara Willis says:

    Hi Michelle

    Thanks again for your lovely posts!

    Have you read The Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute? It was recommended and I got it from the library. I found it interesting and useful. A very easy read.

    All the best


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