Image of butterfly with text: "3 steps to becoming"

3 Steps to Becoming

Are there areas of your life where you know better, but aren’t doing better? Same. Are there skills you can do but can’t do them consistently? Me too. Are there aspects of leadership that require so much effort and focus for you, but seem so effortless to others? So frustrating. These can feel like signs we aren’t good enough or committed enough, but they might be signs that we are in the midst of our own process of becoming.

I watched my daughter learn how to tie her shoes. She knew how to do it before she could do it. Then she could do it when she had time, and we weren’t in a rush, but when things were hectic, it just seemed impossible. Now, she can tie her shoes on the soccer field while organizing her teammates into formation while the other team sprints into place and tries to get the ball in before she is finished. She went through her own process of becoming related to tying her shoes.

A recent coaching client discovered that slowing down in the moment helped her be more present, intentional, and empathetic as a leader. She learned that slowing down would be transformative for her. Then, she began to practice it. She could do it in leadership situations that were lower stakes, one-on-one, or where she felt more comfortable. When the pressure was on, she was in front of a large audience, or she was less sure of the relationship, she found herself speeding up and unable to slow down even though she knew it would help. She was in her own process of becoming.

My research on identity development and coaching clients has illuminated the three steps to becoming are knowing, doing, and being.


Knowing often comes first. Learning is the action we take toward knowing. At times, our learning is relearning or unlearning. Exploring our self-awareness to uncover what we need to learn, re-learn, and unlearn is a process toward knowing in which vulnerability is a key component.


Doing often comes second, at least at first. Practicing is the action we take to develop our doing. Practicing self-management can help us reflect on our actions to see if they align. Practice with intention, focus, and repetition can help us become more comfortable, more skilled, and rewire our brains. Accountability is the key component of doing, helping us to learn from our own reflections and the feedback of others.


Being comes as a result of ongoing knowing and doing, where we are Integrating toward being. Knowing and doing inform each other as we continuously reflect and practice (praxis). Internalizing moves us from effortful learning and practicing to an integrated state of being that can often feel second nature. In this state, we can bring new knowledge, insights, or skills into our lives in a less effortful and more effortless manner and do so consistently across contexts. In this state of being, we are not focused on consciously recalling how our teacher instructed us or how a role model did it. This integration brings us toward greater authenticity.

Becoming => Knowing X Doing

As I shared above, knowing often comes before doing at least at first, but often they are in conversation with each other. Knowing is not a single moment but an ongoing process, practice is a part of the knowing and vice versa. My daughter had to know how to tie her shoes and then practice and struggle and then return to the instructions from us and then keep practicing. She got pretty good at it. Then she got a different pair of shoes with different laces and needed to return to the learning as she practiced in this new context. The leader I described previously found slowing doing in one-on-one contexts very different than in group settings, and even harder before large audiences. Learning and practicing are less linear chronological processes and more conversation partners who need each other to deepen our becoming.

Want to work more closely with Keith?

Leaders and organizations turn to Keith as an authentic educator, trusted leader, and unconventional scholar helping them advance leadership, learning, and equity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *