Blog Post: What Can A 12-Step Program Teach You About Professional Growth?


Nothing makes you take a hard look at yourself like a 12-step program. While I am not finished yet, I am close enough to see the whole picture as it was meant to unfold. Having forced myself to look upon my past, and recognized what impact it had on who I am now, I can now set a course towards an overall healthy future.

There I got it out of the way, here’s why I bring it up.

The tenth step of Celebrate Recovery realizes what you have been through: make lists, admitted faults, reconcile relationships. All while coming to grips that I can’t do this all by myself. After all that, it would be easy to think that you are done. Instead, you’re asked to take the whole process and do it again.

Every. Single. Day.

“We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.”

Agile and lean coaches teach this principle to their teams all the time. The retrospective, which I have written about many times before, asks everyone to stop and ask themselves how things are going. The idea isn’t to question if improvements can be made, but which ones should we focus on next.

While contemplating what I learned in the tenth step, it dawned on me that this applies to all of my co-workers. Looking critically at each day of your life and listing the triumphs and failures is something anyone can use to get the most out of every morning we wake up.

When I began the step, I downloaded the app Day One to my iPhone. I have heard good things about it from co-workers, and because I could set an alarm to go off every evening before my head hits the pillow. Decompressing from the past 18 hours, I can jot these items down and make an action plan on how to resolve them.

Perhaps there’s a colleague I got defensive with when I was questioned. A task I was putting off for my boss because it didn’t seem like very much fun. A pithy email I fired off without thinking everything through. Possibilities are endless. You can imagine the traction it got me when I started revisiting each item and giving each person the dignity they deserved.

Of course, you can take the process one step further. By opening the app in the moment, I’m forcing myself to deal with it in the moment. Instead of spending the next day making amends, you can instead make some new progress instead of righting old wrongs.

The ultimate is after a few weeks or months of this endeavor, sitting down with the list an realizing two things: you might still have a long way to go, but you have come a long way. A daily inventory shows you how each day may have gone, but six months of that list shows a sapling becoming a mighty oak.

Before this idea becomes too daunting, just try this tomorrow. Write down one awesome thing that happened and one struggle you had. For each idea, ask yourself the root of that event, and if there are any action items. Be honest with yourself. Growth doesn’t come from you babying your own life.

Transparency shows the world you are real, genuine and intentional about being a part of their lives. Couldn’t we use more of that in our offices, our work and our world?


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