For a long time, you focused on your career to a point in which your dedication to work has caused a loss of identity.
And now, this pandemic has created space for realizations. It pulled the plug on a life and career that falsely defined you all these years.
You can sense that it doesn’t fit anymore and something needs to change.
I’ve addressed this point in a previous blog post: Who are you? And I feel like this time; you might want to consider this a bit more.
There are already a lot of conversations about how the world as we knew it will not exist any longer. What is coming will be different.
To best prepare for this is to start reflecting on how you want to show up in this new world. This means beginning to realize who you are as a person and what you need to let go that doesn’t fit anymore.
Only when knowing yourself better, including your fears, triggers, mindset, and behaviors, will you be able to understand who you are and perceive others more clearly.
Spending some time now for self-realization will help you anticipate and prepare for how you want to show up in this next phase of your life
So, what are these things you need to start exploring? There are two general areas.
Moving away from being in Reactive/Protective mode
Embracing and practicing a Creative/Self-Aware style of living and working
What’s the Reactive/Protective mode?
The reactive behavior stems from a mind that wants to merge with society, or in this case, our career, or professional title. As we grow into our occupations, in this long process, we somehow give up our independence in order to go along and get along. We play with expectations of us and adjust our lives around them.
As we do this, however, over time, we start losing our identity and become subject to external influences running our lives more that we recognize. We continuously react to these circumstances without realizing it and shut down our creative behavior.
Over time we build more strengths around a reactive mode, and as it becomes natural to use it all the time, our creative skills become too risky to use and become less developed. It’s okay to build reactive strength; however, it’s identifying with that strength that becomes a problem.
The more we define ourselves by our results, the more likely we fear failure and miss on opportunities to collaborate, build teamwork, or delegate with authenticity. We develop self-protective tendencies, fear vulnerability, and can become rigid in our adaptation and communication with others.
A few behaviors and characteristics that represent Reactive/Protective are:
Being defensive and judgmental
Attached to our thoughts and holding on to our beliefs
Rigid and controlling of situations
Negative emotions of fear, resistance to change, anger, anxiety, and shame
Limited in our thinking, we have repeated conversations running in circles
We become our own worst enemies
How to shift to a Creative/Self-aware mindset?
The first thing to do to shed the Reactive/Protective mindset is to let go of old assumptions that have been running our lives.
Second, we need to start looking more authentically at ourselves and our current unbending behavior.
Here are a few practices and characteristics that represent Creative/Self-aware:
We are curious and open to what is, and accepting of change
We can relate to others and situations
We feel spacious, expansive, interested and flexible
We have positive emotions of empathy towards self and others
We show compassion, forgiveness, gratitude, and acceptance
We more quickly find the meaning behind situations
We are creative and find many possible solutions to problems
We understand our thoughts and struggles, to overcome them and participate in the world more effectively
To achieve this, self-awareness and self-inquiry are crucial. You need to start asking yourself: "If my identity is not part of all the outside expectations that I grew up with, what do I want? Who am I? What do I really care about or stand for? What are my core values?"
As you ask yourself these questions, don’t go to your mind for answers. Instead, go to your heart and give it some time for answers to appear. Paul Prendergast, in his book The Deep Heart, calls it Meditative Inquiry: Here are his steps to implement in a meditative/reflective state. Allow these questions to sit in your heart area and give it a few minutes for answers to appear:
Ask yourself if you really want to know.
Clarify your question.
Allow your attention to settle down and in, so that it rests in the heart area.
Pose the question and let it go. Don’t go to the mind for an answer.
Be open to a response that can come in any form.
Let it in.
Act on it.
Transitioning to Creative/Self-Aware is an essential transformation of adult life and leadership. It can be challenging and takes time. Looking into the mirror might reveal parts of yourself that are hard to acknowledge. And yet, what’s the alternative? Pushing it out of the way a bit longer, only to meet it again later when challenges have become more prominent and unmanageable?
It is hard to let go of everything that has defined us so far. Our worth, values, successes, and reputation are all tied to that identity and how others see us. But who are you? For yourself, for the people who love you and for this new world imposed on us, who do you want to be?
As you become less defined by external expectations, you get the opportunity to envision and build your future self from the inside out this time. Your actions will become an authentic manifestation of your inner purpose, fostering self-trust, self-confidence, and emotional power.
Here are ways for you to prepare for this shift
Values: Take time to identify and clarify your core values. What are the principles that fuel your sense of purpose and passion for life and work?
Practice meditation or self-reflection: Explore disciplines that can help you shift from external demands to cultivating your inner life and understand who you are at the core.
Be authentic and seek feedback from others and listen without getting defensive. Understand what patterns and creative themes surge about what you want to understand and practice more.
Claim your purpose and define your identity. Write it down and create a vision for it.
Attend classes and subscribe to programs that can help you with these themes. Put them into practice with people at home or work.
Work with a coach. They can lead you to self-reflection and open perspectives you didn’t realize about yourself.
Take an assessment like the Leadership Circle Profile: that will help you identify your reactive and creative tendencies around multiple competencies.
Also, here are some books suggestions:
· Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
· Synchronicity by Joseph Jaworski
· The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz.
· Mastering Leadership: Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams
· The Deep Heart: Paul Prendergast
· Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
· Feeling Good and The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns (Highly recommended)
Going through this process offers many rewards, and with dedication, you can get there as well.
So, what are you going to do?
Roberto Giannicola - Executive Coach & Facilitator - www.giannicola.com
References used in this article include:
Mastering Leadership: Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams
The Deep Heart: Paul Prendergast