From Gold Star Mentality to Chronic Discomfort

It was almost 20 years ago when I went to a leadership program that focused on self-awareness. For the prior 4 years, I had been involved in other self-awareness programs. Once I was introduced to the idea of working on myself, interrupting old patterns, and so forth, my quick learner self got it really fast – or so I thought.
When the facilitator of the program started sharing the self-awareness stuff, I sat in the program thinking “I know all of this.” I kind of felt superior to the other people who seemed to be hearing some of this for the first time. After the first self-awareness segment, I stayed behind and more or less told the facilitator that I had done all of this before – so since I knew it all, what should I do? She gave me a funny look and said, “Well, just try to experience it anyway.”
With my Gold Star Mentality hard at work, I came back in the next day determined to prove and show that I already knew all of this.
It would be years before I was even aware than my proving mindset (which I call my Gold Star Mentality) was keeping me in a comfort box and seriously impeding my ability to learn and grow.
The program was part of a series and I kept coming back for more. My real intention was to prove myself self-aware in order to get the Gold Star, be done with it and move on. It wasn’t until the fourth program that I dropped the pretense and was vulnerable enough to start learning.
That’s where the chronic discomfort comes in. Slowly, I began putting improving in front of proving.

Not everywhere and not all the time, but more often than not, my choice is to drop the pretense and work from a beginner’s mind.
It’s true whether I’m learning to throw pottery, get back on the horse, water ski, work with my clients, or anything else where I want to get better.
It’s uncomfortable as hell – because that’s the way it is in the learning zone.
We are so conditioned to pass the test and get the reward. We are taught to prove our learning to the teachers and the system so they can keep their jobs. We are supposed to show our knowledge so we can keep our job.
There’s a huge problem with proving that we are good enough. The rewards are short lived AND we stay the same, playing to the crowd hoping to get the next reward. We never become who we were born to be.
Where do you seek the Gold Star? What reward does proving yourself get you? In what domains do you need to go into learning mode? What kind of problems are you trying to solve that require skills you don’t yet have? Where do you wish you could tell people what you really think? Where are you willing to move into discomfort for the sake of your growth and learning?