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By Allan Cox
When did you last stop to take a 360-degree view of your life? Do you have an inkling your compass is pointed in the wrong direction? It’s time to listen to the inner voice that’s calling you to action, urging you to live in a more authentic way.
By the time executives get married, take on a mortgage, raise kids, cope with the crabgrass, climb the corporate ladder, do their best to manage career pressures, build their net worth and get into their 40s, they’ve lost touch with what they believe in and care about most deeply. I’ve worked mainly with executives, but the same is true for people who haven’t chosen careers in business.
Whether we work to live or live to work, people get swept along by life and often eventually realize they aren’t quite who they thought they’d turn out to be. Self-image is often a lie; we aren’t who we tell ourselves we are. Many of us are like fine, old furniture that’s been painted over.
Therapists have a saying: ‘To know the dream, you have to know the dreamer.’ I invite you to try this activity, designed to help you scrape off the paint to rediscover your authentic self, the dreamer underneath. This material, initially, may seem soft, but the truths you’ll learn about yourself are
. Consider this: If you get one insight from this activity – something of real merit that you can apply to your life – wouldn’t it be worth it?
Soul searching and reflection lead to the joy of discovery. You only need a quiet mind and a little time to start
discovery. All quieted minds are waiting minds; not all waiting minds are quiet. If your mind isn’t quiet, genuine thoughts just won’t come. Slow down… wait. Start the process and trust me that you will get into a groove; fresh ideas and sparks will fly.
Get a pen and notebook. Contemplate the following questions and ideas, writing whatever comes to you. Don’t labor over this. Spread the task out over a reflective week or two. Follow your intuition and let come what may, for intuition is the source of all true knowing and understanding. My experience is that my rational voice sometimes lies to me, but my intuitive voice never does.
Think back on a rich time in your youth. What did it have that’s missing in your life now? Relax and take time to remember. Remembering is not living in the past. It’s learning from it, what has been forgotten, and refreshing it for the present. If some event in your past flashes pure delight, that flash is you. Act on it and you’ll capture what’s unique and worthwhile in you.
Write down the most memorable events of your first 10-15 years. Bullet the high and low points. Mull them over, for better or worse. Have you be remaking history through your memory? Assigning blame? Making excuses? Check it out.
Whom do you love and ‘owe’ gratitude? Who / What scared you? Your expanded thoughts and feelings are what count.
When did you soar? What are your special gifts? How will you go about expressing them now? They haven’t gone away.
What are your emotional strengths? They are many.
Do you participate? Are you there, really
? Engaged? Are you idling when you should be in gear?
Ask your spouse, closest friend, and blunt sister to answer these same questions about you. They know you well. Remember, the best insights often arise when you’ve let your defenses down.
Now, set your notes aside for a week and then come back to them. Your next mission is to use them to write a biting statement of purpose, uniqueness, and method. 75 words max. First sentence brief, inspiring, and memorable.
Reinventing yourself is a task of reclamation, not revision. The Tao Te Ching says, ‘Just realize where you come from: this is the essence of wisdom.’ As you reflect, again and again, on what you’ve rediscovered about yourself through this activity, remember Zeno’s paradox: You walk halfway to the wall, then halfway again, and again… You never quite get there, but you get darn close.
When you think you’ve discovered all you can about yourself, take one more step toward the wall. Life requires endless variability and flexibility; change must be our constant. Use your notes and statement of purpose to start your new, unique path. See where your imagination, head and heart take you.
About the Author: Allan Cox is a CEO advisor, poet-blogger and author of ten books including, “WHOA! Are They Glad You’re in They’re Lives?” Discover more insights and exercises for personal and professional growth in his books and at
. Find Allan on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Scribd and Red Room.