What If Your Shell No Longer Fits? Time to Molt!

Do you ever get stuck on a project, with a big goal, or in life? Do you sometimes feel like you’d rather hide under a rock than do that thing you really should be doing? Do you ever feel completely unmotivated or have a procrastination monkey grabbing the steering wheel?

Me too.

I’m supposed to be in the thick of enrollment for my mastermind group for rising leaders: Synergy. I should be loudly telling the world about it in blog posts and videos. I should have a packed calendar with potential clients exploring whether it’s a good fit for them. Instead, it’s crickets. Since I released the program, I just wasn’t feeling it. I was putting it off. Procrastinating. Doing everything but that. Why?

The breakthrough came while I was on a call with my friend this week. She had been feeling stuck for months. I told her about an analogy I sometimes offer my clients -- shedding an exoskeleton.

Lots of creatures like crustaceans and insects have exoskeletons -- a hard outer skeleton that supports their bodies like our bones do and also offers protection from predators. Molting is the process that allows them to grow. Take the King Crab for instance. Over their lifespan they can reach a huge size, with a leg span of up to 6 feet. As they grow, their exoskeleton becomes too tight and their body becomes cramped inside their old shell. It’s time to molt. To do so, their bodies absorb minerals from its old exoskeleton, recycling those nutrients in order to form the beginnings of a new shell underneath. The old exoskeleton grows weak and eventually cracks open, allowing the King Crab with a soft, squishy, partly formed new shell to wriggle out. It takes several days for the new exoskeleton to expand with sea water and harden completely. Without a solid anchor for its muscles to pull against, the crab’s movements are awkward and uncoordinated. It’s a very dangerous time for the crab who is exposed and vulnerable to predators, so the crab will hide under a rock until its new shell hardens. Finally, it can emerge with a shiny, new shell that fits perfectly.

I told my friend, “what if you’re molting -- shedding an old exoskeleton that doesn’t fit any more? What if it’s perfectly natural and normal to feel raw, vulnerable, and unfinished as you hide under a rock waiting for a shiny, new, better-fitting exoskeleton to grow and harden around you?”

Lightbulbs for my friend.

After the call, I had my own epiphany. Despite being only 4 months old, my group coaching program has outgrown its current shell. I had tried initially to enroll for the same thing I had offered before but the program didn’t fit me or my tribe anymore. Despite the fact one of the current members said it was “life-changing”, to me it felt cramped and tight in all the wrong places. That’s why I was stuck. That’s why I was unmotivated. That’s why I felt soft, squishy, and vulnerable. That’s why I wanted to hide under a rock instead of doing the things I should be doing.

It’s completely okay to let go of a shell that no longer fits. I’ve grown as a coach. My tribe’s needs have changed with the times. All those “shoulds” and “supposed tos” that were filling my brain with worry and my heart with guilt applied to the old shell. Once I realized that, the “shoulds” melted away and my gears got back in motion.

I’m recycling the good stuff from the current program, waking up in the middle of the night full of ideas, and doing a ton of research to redesign the program. Yes, the launch will be a bit later than I had intended, but that’s okay because the renovation will be a huge improvement.

So where in your life might you be molting?

Read More

Even if you don’t think you are a procrastinator, this is a great TED talk by Tim Urban exploring what’s happening inside a procrastinator’s brain in wonderfully funny layman’s terms.

And if you are curious about motivation from a neuroscientist’s perspective, this interactive graphic from Harvard University can’t be beat. If I were to guess what was going in in my own brain when I was stuck, my bet is that there wasn’t much dopamine (wanting) or serotonin (liking) released when I thought about enrolling for my group program. Now that I’ve reframed the problem and given myself permission to build a new and improved shell, the serotonin and dopamine are flowing. My prefrontal cortex and substantia nigra are activated. I’m thinking, dreaming, planning, and moving forward once again.

Going Further

My business only grows through word of mouth and referral. I don’t do paid ads or cold calls. So if this blog was valuable to you, please consider subscribing to my newsletter or forwarding this post to a friend.

If you consider yourself a rising leader with a strong do gooder streak, I’d love to talk to you in the next week or two. Pick a spot on my calendar HERE. The question I want to ask, the question that I’m redesigning Synergy around, is: "What didn’t anyone teach you on your path towards becoming a leader that you wish they had?" I'm thinking of basic things like setting boundaries on your time, email/todo list/calendar management, procrastination, and stress resilience. But also high level leadership skills like having difficult conversations, work-life balance, navigating risk and uncertainty, and dealing with imposter syndrome. What topics do you wish someone would offer professional development around that you can’t find elsewhere? What challenges or wishes does everyone in your role face, but never talk about? That’s what the revamped Synergy 2.0 will be structured around. If you volunteer to help me with my research, then please allow me to offer you a gift of service in return -- some free coaching, support for your team or organization, advice, or you tell me!

I’m pushing pause on active enrollment for Synergy until I complete my research. So far, I know that Synergy 2.0 will have multiple ways to participate with options for online videos, Q&A sessions, a mastermind group, and/or one-on-one coaching depending on your needs. Moreover, some parts of it will be completely free, no strings attached. Right now, I’m imagining a January 2022 start, but might shift depending on how long the redesign takes. If you want to be the first to learn about the new program, then send an email to irene@irenesalter.com with “Synergy 2.0 Waitlist” in the subject line or subscribe to my newsletter!

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