Do you ever feel like your dreams are too big to even say out loud?
If so, you might appreciate the following story.
I had my first professionally-induced panic attack when I was 34 years old. That year, I gave birth to my second baby and my career was beginning to take off. I was publishing academic articles, receiving grants for my research, being invited to join boards, receiving awards for my thought leadership and being invited to speak at national and international conferences. Despite all of this professional growth – more likely because of it- my imposter syndrome was FULL BLOWN.
When my new baby was just 10 weeks old, I traveled with her to London to give a speech and lead a working group of PhD’s. My mom and my niece Hannah came along for moral and logistical support. After several days of breast pumping, public speaking, breakout sessions, schmoozing, and managing my familial support team – I broke down. My chest felt constricted, my head was spinning and I knew deep down in my very soul that I needed to get on a plane back home to the states immediately. It was only after 30 minutes of calming back rubs and a little bit of pharmaceutical back-up that my mother was able to coax me off the floor.
When I got back to the United States, I called the nursing intake line at my HMO for support with my anxiety. I wanted to get to the bottom of what was happening to me. I spoke with a no-nonsense nurse who asked me dozens of intake questions. We covered a lot of ground- but one question led to a surprising discovery for me.
Nurse: Do you have delusions of grandeur?
Me: No. Well…maybe? Lately my career has been taking a turn for the better. I’m being asked to speak publicly, give media interviews, and join editorial boards. All of this has me thinking that I might like to really step into a leadership position outside of my current role. Maybe even become an Executive Director one day? Of a small nonprofit. Not too big. Do you think that’s delusional?
Nurse: [Pause] Ma’am do you think you are Jesus Christ?
Nurse: Ok. Then I’m going to put “no” for delusions of grandeur.
After this conversation, I had a new benchmark for delusions of grandeur and dreaming too big. It turns out, if I didn’t think I was the second coming of Christ, I was probably fine.
I have no doubt that the dreams you are dreaming are not only possible but they are a fragment of what you are actually capable of achieving. What would it be like to just say them out loud?
A little about me...
I am a social scientist, facilitator, and professional coach. Through my business: Kate Cockrill Coaching, I support mission driven managers and directors with 1:1 coaching, training & retreats on the topics of career design, leadership development and burnout resilience. My clients include leaders in healthcare, education, research and social innovation.