“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” (Steve Jobs)
One of the realities about the journey is that your fellow travellers change from season to season, but one thing is certain, you will be with yourself every step of the journey. As the title of this post suggests, this week we begin to turn the mirror on ourselves. Philosophers have through time highlighted the importance of us knowing ourselves. I remember walking into my first coaching session several years back, desperate for answers from the coach and eager to be ‘fixed’, to be given a solution that would sort out my issues, iron flat my insecurities and generally sort me out. I was, however, surprised by my coach’s first question: “So …” – and this is all she said. I was left to fill in the very uncomfortable silence and was challenged to take the time and find the space as well as the silence to know myself more. I soon discovered that the role of a coach is not to give advice, to mentor or to provide one with answers to life’s challenges, but to hold up a mirror so that I can see myself more clearly.
As we turn the mirror towards ourselves today and in the next couple of weeks, we will learn more about ourselves, our personalities and our interests. Several resources have been helpful to me on this journey, starting with Sir Ken Robinson’s book, Finding your Element, which provides a detailed exploration of the best questions to ask oneself to help discover one’s talents and passions. The classic book on personal discovery and career change, What Color is Your Parachute? also proved most helpful.
As we embark on this adventure, I would like to ask you to do the following.
- Be honest with yourself. Honesty is very liberating. I remember how freeing it was when I made the bold step to start admitting I had insecurities, to start realizing that I had blind spots and then to boldly ask people I respected for wisdom to deal with my issues.
- Create a journal. I have for years written a prayer journal in which I have not only written down some prayers but have detailed my learning, battles and victories. This exercise was helpful as I could differentiate the emotion from the reality; I could look at things more clearly and could see progress in my own growth and development. As I was describing my battles, I could look back days, weeks and months later and see how these battles worked out and what I could learn from these. Busyness has caused me over recent months to stop this process, but just this week I have started journaling once more and amazingly enough, I already feel more in touch with myself.
- Take time on your own. One of my biggest challenges is that I love distraction. I am easily distracted by the Internet, Facebook, a good book as well as the needs and issues of others. If you are going to get the most out of your journey, make sure that you take time on your own to think, to ask yourself hard questions and just to listen to your heart.
- Be still. Busyness is the disease of our time. Studying top leaders, I have seen that many of them take the time to be still. Fresh ideas, great innovations and amazing discoveries require that we be silent and work to still our minds. In the Bible, God challenges us to, “Be still and know that I am God”. We can only reach our full potential if we are pause long enough to hear Him and connect with our own hearts.
- Explore your shadow. I recently started reading an encouraging book, called The Tools, which provides some useful wisdom and good tools on dealing with the challenges of one’s own mind. In the book the authors note that we all have a shadow, part of who we are, a reflection of all that we see as wrong with ourselves. My shadow is a small painfully thin 10 year old boy. I can either accept this picture of myself or choose to look beyond this shadow to see myself as the man, father, husband and friend who God created for great things. What does your shadow look like? The amazing thing is that once you shine light on a shadow, the shadow fades away.
I would challenge you to take these next steps. You deserve the time and the space to put the focus on you.
When you look in the mirror, what and who do you see?
NEXT WEEK: Personality 101