Measuring personal growth progress: burning the boat

About four months ago I came across the concept of “Burning the Boat,” which has occupied my mind ever since. The idea is actually quite simple; Pulling the trigger though, is anything but … particularly when it’s your first time doing it.

I just went on Wikipedia and to my surprise I found a lot more instances than I expected. The one that initially brought the notion to me was that of Hernan Cortes’ Spanish invasion of Mexico, where he destroyed ships, so that his men would have to conquer or die … Going home was not even a remote possibility.

Pretty powerful stuff! It made me wonder if this is something that I could do to prove to myself that I am walking my talk.

Interestingly enough last Friday I realized that I was actually really good at it… except backwards … to give myself a false sense of security:)

For example, I would overanalyze my previous relationship to make myself feel like I am making progress, which kept me stuck, because those beat up thoughts kept burning the very boat that was waiting to take me to empowerment.

Even though I was unhappy at my work, I kept telling myself that I was meant to work in big organizations (i.e. Army or Exxon), even though, all along I always had deep admiration for entrepreneurs … keeping my head down and acting like an “adult” felt safe.

So then I boarded my boat and took the journey to find my true identity. Now that I found my authenticity, it is time to burn the escape route to remove the possibility of taking it back to the stuck, frustrated and feeling sorry for myself place.

Dysfunctional relationship boat was burned when I deleted my online dating profiles and stopped going to events where I thought “good girls were” to spend my time on what truly gives me joy without any type to return on my investment expectation. Took a while, because oh by the way, it’s never instantaneous, but about a year later I am in a relationship with an amazing woman. Talk walked … concept proven!

This gave me courage to burn my work boat. Last Thursday I talked to one of my mangers and told her that unless I am living out my Authenticity Coaching purpose at work, I am going to quit by the end of the year.

Old part of me wishes I could tell you that she said that I’d be reassigned and everyone lived happily ever after.

You know what, the meeting itself was actually very anticlimactic. I basically got the “don’t call me, we’ll call you” response. Interestingly enough, this anticlimactic end to my Exxon career is exactly what made space for tremendous excitement. It felt like a ton of bricks fell off my shoulder. In my mind, the seed was planted and it was now time to shift my full focus to starting my own revolution. After all this is all I can do now as I don’t have a way to make it back to my old identity … better yet, even if miraculously another boat appeared I wouldn’t want to take it! I’ve tasted the possibility and it’s just plain too good to pass up!

So the fact that I am a practiced boat burner … after I get to my desired identity, not before of course … has become a huge milestone in my personal development progress. It took me a while, but now that I feel the inner peace, it will definitely get easier going forward!

Are you stuck between your true and expected identity? If so, how can you burn your first boat?

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