The Search for Your Core — The 5 Ways to Discover Who You Really Are
Recently, at the awards banquet for a leadership program I recently completed, I spoke with and received congratulations from members of my cohort and senior business leaders. A lot of people in that room were kind and gracious and showed lots of respect to me. But it dawned on me, in that moment:
I don’t think they know half of what I’ve gone through to become the man I am today.
They asked me my thoughts on the program and how I’m doing. I told them that 2016 was the biggest growth period in my life. It was the year that I decided to bet on myself and get to the core of who I really am. I realized through adversity, challenging circumstances and a roller coaster of emotions that I experienced more personal growth than at any other period of my life.
I began to realize that continuing that journey to get to the core of who I am, as well as helping others get there, is the biggest passion in my life.
Are you on your way yet? If not, what’s stopping you?
What was further crystallized in my mind is this: Life is not lived in theory. Life is lived in practice! We can believe that a particular opportunity or endeavor will be our biggest moment. We can sit there and wonder, but we’ll never know for sure until we give it a shot.
This past year taught me that the biggest growth we experience is in fact during times of the most adversity. Adversity is always the biggest challenge to our faith and confidence! It disguises itself as an enemy, when it is truly a friend. Adversity is what molds us and leads us to mammoth personal discovery.
Adversity is life’s continuous, recurring test.
The test that we are meant to pass is the steeling of our resolve, as well as growth in maturity and self-awareness, to recognize precisely what we are facing mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and how to overcome — not succumb — to the challenge of the moment.
Despite a move that took me from the place I call home, despite setbacks in my personal relationships, despite leaving my job in the middle of last year and facing an uncertain future, I turned inward. I looked introspectively at myself. The day I walked out the door of my last company, I said to myself:
I’m not going to let this get me down. I’m going to turn this into something great.
It was self-coaching at its finest. It was a call to myself to pursue my passions and to reignite the fire inside of me toward writing, coaching and helping others build positive relationships.
So what about you? Where are you? What areas of your life need self-improvement and a shot of motivation?
I started to examine my values, made greater sense of my experiences and gave very deep thought to each year of my life. Trust me, as you get older, it gets harder! But I relied on my memory to comb back through all of my life lessons and to distill the values, passions and moments that have helped to define the man I am today.
I realized there were five particular ways that helped me to get to the core of who I really am. It’s not easy work. It’s perhaps the hardest you’ll ever do. But the reward is well worth it:
“Never let the fear of striking out hold you back.” — Babe Ruth
Don’t be afraid to be open and sincere. Never, ever, ever let the fear of what someone else might think of you hold you back from saying or doing it. If you believe it will advance your mission or help someone else find theirs, then do it. If you don’t, then you have no one else to blame but yourself. Part of overcoming fear and improving confidence is being candid with yourself.
You have to remove bias and judgment, to the greatest degree possible, from the way you view yourself. And you have to get specific about getting to the core of what matters most to you and why.
The other major part is being candid with others. We all need help to get to where we want to be. Once friends, family, business colleagues and other people of influence know how to help us, we are then better positioned to receive meaningful help. I’ve found that candor is imperative in building strong relationships, which go a long way toward helping us reach our goals.
I’ve written extensively about the power of being truthful and honest — not only to others, but perhaps most significantly, to yourself. You have to honestly self-assess where you stand in your life. If you’re going to sift through the B.S. and get to what matters, you need to be bare-bones honest with yourself.
If you’re not, you’ll live a life of delusion where fact and fiction interchange like cars racing one another on a highway.
If you’re not happy with the results, you have to change the process. But you need to know the process that is going to make you efficient and successful, first! This requires honest self-reflection. Look at your current state at this exact moment in time. Then, determine where you want to be. What’s left in between is the path that will unfold. You have to be willing to identify it.
Then, take a stroll.
Every successful person I’ve known is someone at peace with his or herself and brimming with enthusiasm about the work that has made them a success. What are you enthusiastic about?
I write and talk a lot about passion and enthusiasm. For me, it’s a way of life. I’m so confident of my direction as a writer, coach and speaker and the number one reason why, is because I have enthusiasm for what I do. It’s easier for me to see this now because I previously lacked enthusiasm. Which is why I failed.
To get to your core, you have to be enthusiastic about the process and the overaching goals you have for why you want to do, what you do.
How’s your memory? Serious question.
I would never have been able to make the strides I have without making sense of my experiences. This has required a lot of self-reflection and reliance on my imagination and memory. As cliche as it sounds, to get to where you want to be in the future, you have to make sense and be aware of where you’ve been. Then, it’s so much easier for the sequence and logic of your actions to fall in place.
Do the work! Write down your positive and negative experiences at the different intervals of your life. This very simple activity will make a world of difference.
Of all the things that I’ve learned as I’ve matured into a man, ACCEPTANCE is probably the most valuable lesson of all.
I accept my past. I accept things that have occurred. Naturally, acceptance is particularly focused in this instance on negatives, shortcomings, mistakes and failures. It’s easy to accept victory. It’s easy to accept standing in the winner’s circle and gaining the adulation of your peers. It’s easy to accept the fruits of your success — the culmination of self-satisfaction and fulfillment. That’s a reward!
It’s hard to accept failure.
When failure occurs, we can either turn that adversity into something we learn from and improve upon, or we can let it sit in our conscious and subconscious minds, influencing our thoughts, and slowly chipping away at us as it ruins us. Acceptance is mindset and a way of life. Acceptance never means being OK with failure. Quite the opposite.
Acceptance means understanding, processing and moving on from a past event, while learning from it and living with an empowered mindset for every other hurdle or easy day that comes our way. Acceptance is practiced by the most mentally tough, emotionally intelligent people I know. It changes your life and colors your thoughts more positively, so that you have greater peace of mind and clarity of thought.
No matter how much you doubt yourself about past decisions or actions that you took, that you may still think to be foolish, give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Take a breather and realize that things happened for a reason. It is paramount that you do so if you want to get to the core of who you are.
Regret should never be an option for you. I urge you to take the disappointment from failures and convert it into an indomitable spirit that powers the fire and hunger inside of you each day.
We can go on living a life that isn’t true to who we are, but we’ll eventually hit a fork in the road. The lack of rhythm and harmony will eventually catch up to us. Because at some point, you have a choice: To keep going on living someone else’s life, or to be honest with yourself and discover the core of what makes you… you.
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