What Others Know About You

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“We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.” ~ W.H. Auden

Eleven years ago I met my first Life Coach. It was Jane who saw that my blocks and my direction were closely connected. We worked for some time to rediscover my direction. One early exploratory exercise that Jane invited me to pursue was to ask five people to describe me in short words/phrases.

Some time later I realized the purpose and benefit of this exercise. You see, most of us believe we know ourselves better than anyone else. And to measurable extents, this may be true. Yet when those five people replied with candid feedback, I read and learned of strengths that I did not clearly see or embrace.

There is a lot about us that we don’t notice or acknowledge because it’s simply who we are and how we’ve developed over years and through learning and experience. Yet there are often attributes/personal gifts/qualities that define us as seen (and known) by others!

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There is comfort in knowing how connected you are to your strengths. When confident in/with your personal gifts, you expand the potential by which you can impact others and effect favorable change. If you find yourself resenting what you’re doing or the way you are living, ask yourself if you are utilizing what you believe are your qualities and what others see in and know about you.

Some times tapping into what others know about you (that you don’t fully see) can awaken you to reconnect with a dream, with your heart or perhaps, with a new calling. New self-awareness may even inspire you to let go of what you perceive(d) as a strength, once you’ve adopted an even more valuable virtue(s).

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If the prospect of learning how others see you intrigues, I invite you to consider the exercise I embarked upon eleven years ago. It was revealing and the insight that was shared helped me to consider a new direction (and a more passionate focus!), simply because I sought candid input from people who knew me as well as I believed I knew myself.

Naming your personal gifts is unusual but the more exact the better. It is important in asking for words and phrases (not sentences) from respondents that they be honest, positively and negatively. The preliminary steps:

  1. Choose four people from among immediate family members, a close friend(s), former schoolmate, partner, spouse, colleague, supervisor (past of present). Aim for a mix from among all of these. The fifth source of input is yourself.
  2. Ask each of them (and yourself) to “Describe me as you know me,” “Describe me as you see me,” and/or “Describe me as you remember me.”
  3. Your lists will contain lots of words and phrases. When you have all of them, print (don’t type) them on a table.
  4. If/when you get this far and want to know what follows, let me know; I’ll craft a follow-on post. This involves some time and work. Yet the results can be quite telling. ūüôā

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Credit: Child playing piano / M-IMAGEPHOTOGRAPHY via Getty Images

Jumping Off the Bandwagon

“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~ Albert Einstein

WARNING: This post is not about Robin Williams.

I may lose readers after having read this post and that’s fine. This blog has never been about the numbers game. It’s about stirring your soul… and encouraging you to look into yourself… to realize your potential… and to focus on what really matters — how you choose to use your gifts, live, and contribute to humanity.

Earlier today I scrolled through the WordPress Reader and recent posts on other social media sites. I knew I’d see them but was astounded at how many people jumped on the Robin Williams bandwagon. Then I intentionally paused to process what I’d seen and read.

I have nothing against Robin Williams. He was a creative and talented man. He brought laughter and thought into many people’s lives, in and out of character. He battled his own demons. And I began to wonder, why does it often require a celebrity, fame, or someone with name recognition, to call our attention to social issues, serious needs, and opportunities? Why do people frequently hold up and pay tribute to talented individuals, people with marquee names, upon their passing?

What about mankind’s masses who struggle and are similarly burdened but are not wealthy, famous and/or “successful?”

In the above video, Clark Little tells how he has chosen to pursue his passion. He didn’t do what everyone else was doing. He blazed his own trail. And he’s loving every minute of life. He’s focused on and using his personal gifts to fulfill his potential. He’s not a lemming; expending energy on simply doing what many others are doing.

Sure there are lessons to be learned from Robin Williams’s choice to end his life. He has, as have others before him, rekindled and created awareness about mental health and addiction. They are real problems and warrant attention. But does jumping on the viral bandwagon to share a few kind words about him change anything?

So you may be saying, what’s your point Eric? Well, it’s pretty simple. Each of us, however illuminated our names are in lights, has unlimited potential. We possess personal gifts and skills. We have enormous, untapped capacity to live our purpose.

The questions then: Are you? Are you acting in your own unique way to effect change? Change that you desire and value? Are your actions genuinely aligned with what really matters? If they are/you are not, what are you waiting for? Are you your own leader? Are you creating moments that are meaningful, even if there is no fame, fortune or popularity involved?

When young, ducklings follow the brace because it’s instinctive. Humans, too. But what makes our species special is that we don’t have to paddle or flock in formation. We can soar in any direction we want. And create amazing outcomes, singularly.

Moments… Big and Small

“I believe that life is a journey, often difficult and sometimes incredibly cruel, but we are well equipped for it if only we tap into our talents and gifts and allow them to blossom.” ~ Les Brown

I suspect you’ve had many big moments in your life. Perhaps a significant graduation; the birth of a first child; Paris for your 25th anniversary. But do you remember the small moments, the ones that flash before your eyes? Quite often, it is those tiny¬†moments that are far more significant – like wiping a tear from your grandmother’s eye when she buried your grandfather or actually listening to someone distraught about a matter you couldn’t affect.

Have you ever known someone whose personal challenges didn’t prevent them from supporting those around her/him? Were you aware that her/his suffering enabled them to be even more of an emotional bedrock for others? Maybe it has something to do with their having gained perspective on the important ‘stuff’ – things that really matter.

Not everything matters, though we mistakenly think it does. I invite you to reflect on the small, significant moments that have made up your life. Not summiting Mount Fuji but breaking bread with a homeless person. Try to remember. Think about what you saw, what you heard, what you felt. What was really happening in those moments? Even more importantly, what did they do for someone else?

You’ve likely been invited to answer this question: If you could plan it, how would you spend your last day on Earth? Spending some time with this exercise (by writing down your ideas) will help you focus and yield perspective on what really matters most to you. The question is fairly generic, but your answers will be telling. Dr. Kent Keith in The Paradoxical Commandments said, “Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.” Keith also said, “Give the world the best you have and you might get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.”

People search for what is meaningful in their lives, especially when they are broken, confused, frustrated, or simply bored with life. If you’re not passively part of a moment, you’re creating moments. And many of them are small, seemingly insignificant. But to others, they may be huge!

In a 2011 conversation, a chronologically gifted woman taught me that no matter what I end up doing with my life, I ought to make it significant. Even if your body or your mind is tearing itself apart, consider engaging your senses – your gifts. Start by being present. Look into people’s eyes and see them. Ask what matters to them. And celebrate moments with them.

In my work I invite people to look at their own lives and the day-to-day activities that fill them. Then I ask: How many of those activities have really mattered in terms of the true reason for your existence? (And yes, I recognize this depends on one’s definition of “true reason.”)

One simple suggestion today, an old-fashioned one… Consider demonstrating the importance of a relationship by calling someone just to see how they’re doing. To be honest, I receive very few calls from people who don’t have a self-serving agenda. Those who do call because they genuinely care about me, stand out. Think about it, how often do people call (not text or email) you just to say hi or to find out what’s going on in your life?¬†Your call may end up being a significant moment for them.

Creative Spark

“The ‘Muse’ is not an artistic mystery, but a mathematical equation. They are those ideas you think of as you drift to sleep. The giver is the one you think of when you first awake.” ~ Roman Payne

Most of us possess a flame inside in the form of strong ideas, gifts, and desires to create. It is this flame that ignites our own unique forms of creative expression, fields of interest, and adventurous curiosity. Inspiration is an intangible yet inseparable part of the creative process. And most all creative possibilities are related to the muses that inspire us.

The ancient Greeks believed that all creation, whether artistic or scientific in nature, was motivated by goddesses who served as the literal embodiment of inspiration. These were the Muses – the givers of creative spark. We still rely on muses to aid the creative process, though ours may take many forms. People we meet, intriguing ideas, movies, books, nature, and cultural ideals all have the potential to awaken our imaginative minds. When touched by our muses, we understand that we are capable of producing our own kind of greatness.

I suspect many people progress along their own journey, unaware of the presence of their muse. This lack of awareness can be compounded by the fact that we may have one muse that remains with us throughout our lives, multiple muses that inspire us concurrently, several muses that come and go as necessary, or a single muse that touches us briefly at specific moments. You will know that you have found your muse when you experience a force that makes you feel courageous enough to broaden the range of your creativity.

If you surround yourself with people who support you, keep a pen and paper close by, immerse yourself in culture, and brainstorm frequently, you will soon reconnect with your muse. Then you can consider these actions, specific to your creativity:

  1. There are 7+ billion people on planet Earth, but only one you. You are a walking phenomenon, an anomoly of sorts. You were born for a reason, for a purpose, and meant to be here. Acknowledge your individuality and know that your dormant talents were given to you as a gift. Determine your uniqueness, your strength, and your voice; then begin to introduce it to the world.
  2. Everyone struggles and struggles are directly tied to the human condition. Struggles make you relatable and are what help you connect with your audience. By sharing where you have failed and how you have overcome, you are transparent and reliable. We must be confident in telling our own stories about our challenges, success, and experiences. This is part of creative expression.
  3. Muses have difficulty being heard when they are affected by negativity, criticism, fatigue, fear, and panic. Try to eliminate these elements from your life. If you are unable to totally eliminate them, try to find productive ways of channeling negative energy away from you, or learn to redirect it into positive action. Remember that muses are not always attractive, socially acceptable, moral, or lovable.

Once you have identified your muse, embrace it by giving yourself over to the creative inspiration it provides. No matter what you are moved to create, you will find that neither fear nor criticism can penetrate the joy that goes hand in hand with the act of taking an idea and turning it into something everyone can use and enjoy.

The Very Real You

“Only the¬†truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

I help¬†people to create shifts from success to significance. It’s how I¬†earn a living and it’s immensely fulfilling work. One of the essential principles in that shifting process is discovering and being who you are at your core – the authentic you.

A while back I made a commitment to myself to live authentically. When I made this decision, I knew within my heart that it was time to shed anything and everything that was not in line with who I felt I truly was. I wanted to just be me and to live my life as I envisioned. This meant letting go of many old habits and beliefs. I gave up trying to change myself in order to win the approval of others. And I stopped giving my time and energy to activities that did not fulfill me or align with my dreams and values.

But the biggest change was when I decided I was going to use my personal gifts and natural¬†talents¬†to do work I loved. So I quit my cushy corporate job, cold turkey, and launched¬†my¬†Professional Coaching business,¬†7+ years ago. I now live¬†a life and work with purpose and meaning. But many people don’t. They have a monotonous¬†existence and will continue to do so for ‘x’¬†years until they’ve saved (hopefully) enough money to finally stop.

When those individuals¬†conclude¬†tenured¬†working¬†lives (even if they’ve been successful) they’re often unsure who they¬†are or what they’ll next do. Many wonder how¬†the pursuit of success¬†got in the way and blocked their hopes and dreams of a different, more fulfilling life.

But promise and possibilities await each of us. And with good reason. We live in a world that is calling us into a search for authenticity, a quest for balance. In our work, people are searching for meaning as much as money. In our relationships, people are asking for spiritual and emotional connections, not just the physical presence of another. In our families, people are looking for ways to grow happily and love deeply.

In our finances, people want to spend money mindfully, achieving abundance and moving beyond greed. In our world, people want to live in harmony with the environment. In our daily lives, people are looking for ways to make a difference. In our hearts, people are looking for their essence, what makes them unique, and what it is that we hold in common with others.

More and more people are redefining what success means. They’re shifting¬†from traditional standards of work and money toward a more significant life focused on personal fulfillment, social conscience, alignment with personal values, and creating a better future for everyone.

If you aspire to¬†a more significant life, even if you’re of a younger generation, there are simple actions¬†you can take today to live more authentically, Here are five:

  • Accept yourself for who you are, don’t deny it or discount yourself.
  • Get completely honest with yourself. Make a commitment to be true to yourself.
  • Discover who you are born-with, the core-self in you.
  • Ask yourself: What are my personal gifts and qualities? Then use them, fully!
  • Don’t let the world turn you into someone who you are not.