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

Gucci, Pucci, Prada…

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“Once you label me, you negate me.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

To label or not to label — that is the question. ¬†From a sales and marketing perspective, labels help to distinguish brands. They serve a product differentiation purpose. Labels can also benefit when used to identify or inform, to wit, nutritional labels on food packaging. I read those zealously.

Then there are cases where labels are used to highlight differences in people. We use them often without thinking, even if unuttered. Some examples:

  • right/wrong
  • introvert/extrovert
  • clean/dirty
  • ugly/beautiful
  • Type A/Type B
  • left-wing/right-wing
  • the list is, unfortunately, endless

Label Loser

Increasingly, it seems, we have an unhealthy compulsion to categorize. Between social media, the Internet and other quasi-anonymous platforms, people are becoming more obsessed with telling other people what their label is, supposedly so they’ll better understand and accept them/us.

Or consider stereotyping: how have the labels we placed kept others from truly being who they are meant and blessed to be? How much of life’s joy and goodness have we actually missed because our labels have masked us to what is actually within another person?

I, and likely you, have seen people get carried away with negative labeling. They become their label and the label (sadly, often) becomes their identity. They don’t know where the label ends and where they, the incredible being begins.

Label Toxic

Conversely, it’s rare that people get caught up in positive labeling. Surprisingly, many people are unable to cite a single positive for themselves. Try this: ask a few people, “What are your good qualities or character strengths?” Then notice their immediate reaction(s).

Reinforcing labels need to be nurtured, now more than ever. Why not consider using and promoting labels that describe positive human goals, worthwhile achievements, or an improvement in the human condition? She is healthy. He is educated, They are free!

Labeling Colors

What if each of us abandoned the negativity of personal, social, and political labels? Imagine our interactions and relationships when the differences we highlight and label are an individual’s unique qualities!

For your consideration, here are three exercises that could augment your label assigning awareness:

  1. ¬†When you catch yourself labeling someone, ask yourself, “Why did I do¬†that?” Be mindful that definitions belong to the definer, not the defined.
  2. ¬†Focus on intentionally using labels that positively reflect a person’s attributes.
  3.  When you observe someone doing something positive, label the strengths you observe them demonstrating.

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.

Knowing Your True Self

“Be yourself. Above all, let Who you are, What you are, What you believe, shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish.” ~ John Jakes

As kids, we live authentically, rarely afraid or embarrassed to seek out what we want or to speak our minds. As we age, we often put that authenticity aside while we chase our dreams, afraid that it might interfere with achieving success. But we never let that freedom go completely. We may (and I did) conform to society’s expectations while secretly nurturing our passions. And we may withhold opinions, though it doesn’t change the fact that we had or have them. Yet it’s that youthful audacity that, in part, frames who you become. The authentic you is your true self and, in living authentically, you live your truth, projecting who you really are.

Think about it… the easiest way to live your truth is to leave the expectations of others behind and live the way you feel most valuable. Yet why do many find doing this challenging?

Choosing to live an authentic life requires courage and inner strength. And most of us possess this. It takes being selfish in a healthy way by doing what you know is best for you, regardless of the opinions of others. It means getting completely honest with yourself and making a heart-strong commitment to be true to yourself. Each challenging yet doable, right?

If you value personal pursuits, don’t feel forced into a certain job just to make enough money to keep up with your neighbors. I did this. For decades. And there was little happiness in it. Conversely, if you prize success in business and all that comes with it, don’t let others’ perception of what’s right for you hold you back. Denying your unique truth can lead to feelings of failure or dissatisfaction because you aren’t acknowledging your true self. And many of us have experienced this.

To ponder, here is an action, an exercise, and a factoid associated with being authentic:

  • Embrace your negative emotions. When you numb sadness and pain, you numb happiness and joy. Feeling the depths of your lows enables you to fully feel your highs. To be vulnerable is to be deeply seen. To be vulnerable is to be alive – to exist as your most authentic self.
  • If you really knew me you’d know this: ________________. This is a prompt Tony Robbins gives to seminar participants. Not only does it prompt introspection and allow people to reveal essential aspects of themselves, it also builds trust, credibility and confidence with the person you are sharing it with. Authenticity does sometimes feel scary, but it builds intimacy.
  • Authentic people sleep well. There is something highly diagnostic about peaceful sleep. Someone who sleeps unusually well is a person who is fundamentally in harmony with his or her world. If you consistently fail to sleep well, there can be any number of factors at play that are keeping you out of sync with you most inner central self. An inability to sleep soundly can signal a deficit in authenticity.

If you are unsure of who the authentic you really is, look inward and ask yourself what your purpose, values, and needs are. Honor your strengths and don’t give in to others’ expectations. Finding who you really are and then making the choice to embrace your dreams will take your life in a direction that is meaningful and fulfilling.

You can be your true self regardless of age. The rewards are yours to reap!

Why not choose to be the authentic you?

Exploring Yields Clarity

“The more of me I be, the clearer I can see.” ~ Rachel Andrews

Many people move through life just “doing” without intentional and meaningful thought given to why or what it is that they¬†are doing. This often finds them dealing with¬†fear and worry, rather than purpose and action. When you choose to consciously work on a life plan¬†for ‘what I want to¬†do’ or ‘who I want to be,’¬†the process alone of exploring options can begin to ease anxiety, alleviate fear, and shift you forward.

Let’s be candid, who likes being stuck in a rut –¬†living a life smothered by society’s expectations? In all likelihood, if you’re not clear about your own purpose and being it, you are¬†probably going to feel trapped in an unsatisfying life experience. Wasting time doing things that you really don’t want to be doing is not going to allow you to fulfill your potential and express your uniqueness.

If you want to live an extraordinary life you must know who you are. To clearly know who you are, you’ve got to explore within yourself¬†and be open to¬†possibilities that¬†you can discover about yourself. The prospect of doing this exploratory work is usually met with one¬†of two reactions: either ‘I’m all in’ or ‘I’m scared to step into that unknowing.’ Rarely in my work do I find people who¬†hover¬†in between.

If you really want to change your life for the better or you are unclear about what’s next, there¬†are many steps you can take to refocus and redirect your path. But I’m not going to share those steps today. Instead I’m going to pose three questions for you to ask yourself. After all, self-knowledge is your greatest knowledge! Answering these questions will help you to¬†discover your unique passions, strengths, values, and desires.

Why this exercise? Because I don’t believe you want to be ‘lost,’ frustrated, anxious, trapped¬†or unfulfilled. Call me crazy, but I think you would like to have greater clarity about your self, your potential,¬†and your¬†journey.

These¬†questions aren’t about the “self” that others want you to be or the self that acts to fit in and conform with what society accepts. They are intended to have you think, without limitations, about the authentic you.

  1. What do I absolutely love in life? List anything that you love about the world and the people in your life. Think about activities that get you excited and make you feel most alive: sports, learning, teaching, gardening, travel Рanything. Within your love for these things lies deep passion.
  2. What are my key values? Spend some time searching your soul to come up with a list of your basic values. Are you the type who values honesty, green living or a deep love of nature? Do you value charity over letting others find their way on their own, or is it the other way around? Knowing what you truly stand for is an integral component of good decision-making and being in integrity.
  3. What does success mean to me? Be very specific. “I want to be rich,” is not an answer – just what does rich mean anyway? Try to come up with at least three answers to the question of what success really means to you personally. One of the biggest obstacles to success is that most of us have never consciously explored what that means to us, aside from some vague idea of fame, fortune or other worldly success. Knowing what success really¬†means to you allows you to weigh your choices more accurately.

The world needs the unique you, your clarity of purpose, and your vibrant contribution. You can be this by knowing who you really are, doing what you love (your passions), and living by your own set of values.

Don’t¬†you want to be¬†clear about these?

Awakening to Awareness

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” ~ Carl Jung

Defined, awareness is a state of being aware; or having knowledge of something. Awareness can be something you notice, want to tell others about, or already know. It can also be the perception of a situation or fact.

What do you¬†think of when you¬†hear “awareness” mentioned?¬†Many would likely answer: the environment, genocide, obesity, poverty, homophobia, political prisoners, diseases like cancer, racism, the list goes on. There is also an entire field of study and practice focused on situational awareness.

People¬†engaged in awareness are often¬†working to change perceptions or policies. They are frequently involved in events for causes that “make them feel good.”¬†Yet, awareness doesn’t accomplish much unless it’s in conjunction with action. For example, while¬†there exists considerable awareness about breast cancer and oodles are spent on event logistics, organizations involved in creating awareness don’t always direct¬†that much toward actual research on a cure. No matter how much pink is worn or displayed, one might question how much more aware can people become?

Awareness is a stepping stone to finding solutions and effecting change. Some feel it’s just another buzzword, like “sustainability,” “faith-based,” “re-distribution,” or “fusion of ideas.” Others believe that for awareness to exist, there is a need¬†to inform and create tangible ways for people to actively contribute¬†– be it to their personal growth and development or to a larger initiative. After¬†all, people who are informed make conscious decisions and choices, and take action,¬†based on information.

There are many ways in which to become aware. Here are three guiding mindsets that pertain to awareness of your self:

  1. Write down your strengths and weaknesses. Knowledge of your strengths (or what you want as a strength) help you convert your weaknesses (or aspects you choose for change). This¬†exercise helps to focus on good and bad habits, opportunities seized or missed, things you said or didn’t say, etc. Put it all out there, in writing,¬†for yourself to see. This is an essential exercise.
  2. Admit to yourself that you are not perfect Рthat imperfection is okay, and that you can choose what you want to do or change. Admit to the weaknesses that are holding you back. Then, acknowledge the obstacles in your life that you want to change for the better. Revisit this process frequently so that it becomes a habit. Realizing the roadblocks that are hindering your journey is a precursor to taking action.
  3. Listen to your heart; your compass. Approach actions in your life, work, and relationships by asking yourself: How can what I am doing and being best serve myself and others? The act of thinking about how you can make a difference, will inspire you and your actions. Awareness of the heart encourages us to try new things, to invest in ourselves, and to find our true voice.

With all due respect, all the yellow bracelets in the world isn’t going to cure cancer.¬† But conscious¬†awareness,¬†focused effort,¬†and¬†intentional action –¬†might. The same holds true for your own life.