Episode 2: Discovering Your True Self
Unfortunately, too many people live their whole lives never knowing who they truly are. Instead, they live their lives according to what they’ve been taught about who they are or what they should do in their lives. In this episode, Dr. Lisa Lentino describes the second phase of her process for living your ideal personal and professional life – discovering your true self. Lisa walks you through concrete strategies for discovering who you are at a deeper level which is your best guidance system for discovering your passions and what you were ideally meant to do.
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Discovering Your True Self
Step 2 To Living Your Ideal Life
Are you ready to live a more passionate life? Do you ever sense you are meant to do something more or different with your life? Then I’m excited that you are here because in this episode, we’re going to be showing you how to discover your true self and life’s purpose.
I’m excited to share the second phase of my process for Living your Ideal Life, Discovering your True Self. In the last episode, we talked about the process of freeing yourself from the database of your mind. In this episode, we’ll talk about how to discover your passions and your true purpose. Unfortunately, too many people live their whole lives never knowing who they truly are. Instead, they live their lives according to what they’ve been taught about who they are or what they “Should do in their lives.” In other words, they lived their lives trapped in the database of their mind.
Imagine there’s a spectrum with your true self at one end and a database of your mind at the other. People fall on all parts of the spectrum. Some staying trapped in the database of their mind their whole lives, while others are blessed to discover their true selves and follow their passions. The database tends to trap us because it speaks in words and with such authority that we all too often accept what it says as absolute truth. If it says we’re not smart or talented, we just believe it. Thinking that it knows us best or knows what we’re capable of. It’s important for us to remember that our mind’s database reflects all the relative health or dysfunction of our parents, friends, school, society and media. It doesn’t know our innate purpose or who we are at our core.
In order to live your ideal life, you must learn to listen to your true self. As you may recall, the metaphor I’ve used to refer to your true self is that of an acorn. Just like an acorn comes into the world with the full potential of an oak tree, it’s never going to be a maple or a pine no matter what. You came into this world with a unique set of potentials that only you could bring. In terms of your personality, strengths, talents and the ways your mind naturally works. The tricky thing is that your true self or the acorn doesn’t speak in words. Instead, it speaks in energy shifts, your gut feelings, intuition, things you’re drawn to versus those that deflate your energy.
Turn Your Attention Inward
It speaks in ideas that just naturally pop into your mind, personality traits and your core values. I want to give you some concrete strategies for discovering what’s in your acorn. Let’s begin the process by reading this quote of mine, “Close your eyes so you can start seeing, cover your ears so you can start hearing.” I like this quote because it brings your attention to the mistake many people make in trying to learn about themselves, namely looking in the wrong direction. Many people look to their environment, how they compare to others or external markers of success when trying to figure out who they are instead of looking outwardly. The key to learning about your true self, the acorn, is to turn your attention inward.Close your eyes so you can start seeing, cover your ears so you can start hearing. Click To Tweet
Let’s talk about several strategies to help you learn to do that. The first strategy is listening to your body. Our bodies are a tremendous source of information about our true selves that many of us don’t remotely tap into to the extent we could. Try this technique. When you’re engaging in certain activities or even just imagining doing so, draw your awareness and attention to how your body feels. Do you feel lighter, more positive energy going through you or does even thinking about doing that particular activity feel like a weight on your shoulders? Is it something you feel drawn to do or do you have the opposite reaction? Such energy shifts in your body can be very informative in helping you discover what you’re ideally meant to do.
For example, I once had a client who had the opportunity to work for a year in Singapore. His body language clearly indicated how excited he was at the opportunity. Known to seeing his body language, I reflected back to him that there was an adventurous spirit to who he inherently was. He looked at me a little perplexed and asked, “Wouldn’t everyone jump at that opportunity?” Meanwhile, as he was telling me about it, I was having a visceral reaction like, “There’s no way I would live for a year in Singapore.” I’m definitely someone who’s more adventurous with ideas than living long-term in a foreign land. Fortunately, for this client, his job allowed him to travel around the world and was a good match for his adventurous spirit.
If on the other hand, he had been in a career that did not allow any travel or exploring of different cultures, he would likely have felt stifled in some level of angst or agitation. That’s how it feels when you’re trying to do something that’s not a good match for your acorn. I would feel something similar if I had a job where I had to travel all the time or be away from home for extended periods. Whereas I’m very content with a career that does not have much travel but allows me the opportunity to explore ideas and different philosophies and approaches. The key concept to understanding is that when something’s a good match for your acorn, you will experience feelings of excitement and positive energy. When it’s not, you’ll either feel no significant reaction or whatever kind of feeling or weight or negative reaction in your body. Just learning to listen to these energy shifts can greatly increase your ability to navigate life more in line with who you really are.
Watch The Non-Verbal Activity Of Your Mind
The next technique is watching the nonverbal activity of your mind. When you’re trying to learn more about your true self, an important skill to develop is learning to observe your mind’s nonverbal activity. What I mean by the nonverbal activity are images that come to your mind, dreams, things you can see or ideas or inventions or solutions that just pop into your mind as in moments of epiphany. Also, watch what your mind naturally does in certain situations. For example, I’ve had clients who could walk into a room and see how it could be redecorated or who think it’s a game to bargain shop for outfits where everything coordinates to a tee from their earrings down to their shoes. Other people may walk into the same room and be totally oblivious to the decor or choose to be comfortable or practical rather than making sure everything in their outfit is coordinated.
I know other people who might think it’s a game to try and figure out how a chef made a particular dish when out at a restaurant, while their partners are just content to enjoy the dish with no thought as to how it was made. Some people, when looking at a particular product or how a company does business, automatically see ways the product can be improved or more effective strategies the company might use. I’ve also known people who thought it was fun solving biochemistry equations or programming a computer, while both those activities would make my head hurt. The ideas that float in your mind naturally and those activities that have fun playing with, are important clues as to what you are most ideally designed to do.
Discover Your Strengths And Weaknesses
Our third strategy is discovering your strengths and weaknesses. One of the unfortunate things I’ve noticed in working with people is that often their strongest talents or skills are the ones they overlook. Because people’s strengths come so naturally to them, it involves relatively little effort. Many people assume that everyone must be able to do the same thing or think in the same way. Therefore sadly, those talents are often viewed as no big deal, rather than the gifts that they actually are. I’ve seen people devalue talents like being able to speak multiple languages, learn musical instruments by themselves, solve complex math equations quite eloquently, solve problems creatively and remain composed under pressure. There have been many times, I pointed out strengths to clients only to have them be confused that not everyone was able to do what they could do. Learning about your relative strengths and weaknesses is one of the few occasions where I would encourage you to look outside yourself for some feedback, either from other people or from different types of assessments.
The reason I encourage this strategy is that it may be likely easier for other people who know you well to see your talents than it might be for you. If people compliment you on something you’ve done, be careful not to invalidate it or discount what they’ve said. Instead, see it as a possible strength that deserves further exploration. Also, there are many types of assessments ranging from academic, athletic, personality assessments like the Myers-Briggs and those tapping into multiple intelligences or skills like leadership abilities. While such assessments can be a great starting point for learning about your relative strengths and weaknesses, I caution you against blindly accepting any external criteria, be it an assessment tool or someone else’s opinion about you as definitive. Instead, observe the feedback you might be getting, but also check in with yourself internally to see if what you’re hearing about you fits or not.
Avoid Labeling Yourself
The next technique I want to share is to avoid labeling yourself. When learning about who you really are, be careful not to describe yourself using broad brush strokes or labels like, “I’m smart or not. I’m creative or not, I’m trustworthy or not or I’m athletic or not.” One of the problems with labels like these is that they don’t allow you to get you to know yourself deeply enough. They define you in a much too shallow way. For example, while I have a Doctorate in clinical psychology, if you put me in an organic chemistry or accounting class, my head would hurt. Am I smart or not? Instead of blanket labels, isn’t it much more informative for me to discover that my mind definitively prefers the big picture analytical thinking related to psychology rather than the linear mathematical thinking that chemistry and accounting require?Your values reflect what's most important to you. Click To Tweet
Similarly, consider people’s tendency to label someone as creative or not. There were so many different ways someone can be creative. Where some people may be creative to artistic endeavors or crafts, others may be creative in the ways that they can solve mathematical or chemical equations. If you avoid using blanket labels and focus instead on describing your capabilities more specifically in terms of what situations and in what ways you may be smart, creative, athletic, musical, quiet or outgoing, adventurous or reserved, you’ll get a much richer understanding of who you are and what you’re meant to do.
Reflect On Yourself As A Young Child
The next technique I want to introduce you to is to think back when you were a kid. Reflecting on ourselves as young children can be a very rich source of information about who we truly are. If you think back to your earliest years, ask yourself or those who knew you best then. What were some of the activities you enjoy doing most and how would people have described your personality? Were you someone who is drawn to imaginative of play, making music, building, being active or more solitary activities like making puzzles or drawing? Would people have described you as energetic and outgoing or more soft-spoken and someone who can easily entertain yourself? Were you naturally neater, more precise and a rule follower or did the household clearly know when you are around because you left a trail wherever you went? Are you comfortable challenging authority? As you got further into school, first ask yourself, “Did you enjoy school?” Why or why not?
Observe Your Reaction To Things
Were there certain subjects that just came more easily to you or where you didn’t have to work hard to come up with the topics or projects or papers? What were those subjects? Why were they easy for you and what aspects of those courses did you enjoy or not? Go through this same process for those subjects that were toughest for you as well. Another strategy is starting to observe your reactions to things. Put in the effort to become more in tune with your reactions to things that occur in your daily life. For example, you may have a reaction to a current news story, a conversation you overhear or an interaction you observed between people in public. In these situations, don’t just stop at forming a general opinion of the situation. Instead, put the effort in to ask yourself not only what your position on the topic is, but why? Ask yourself, if you were in charge, what would you do differently? If you were forced to come up with a solution, what would you do and why?
Similarly, be aware of your reactions to TV shows or movies that you watch or books you read. If you particularly like or dislike one of these. Don’t just stop there. Dig a little deeper and ask yourself what was it that you liked or disliked? What characteristic value or viewpoint about you might your reaction reflect? Do the same thing with people in your life that you particularly admire versus those that you struggle to respect. What is it about those people that you admire versus those you don’t? What is it about the way they approach life or their views and philosophies that you wish to emulate or not? Then ask yourself what characteristics about yourself do you think your reactions reflect?
Become Conscious Of Your Core Values
The next strategy is becoming more conscious of your core values. An important aspect of your true self or acorn is a set of core values that resonate most deeply with you. Your values reflect what’s most important to you and your unique purpose here. They’re very important guides to helping you live a meaningful life. The image I like to use when talking about our core values and our true selves is that of a sailboat. Imagine a big old wooden sailboat. Our core values that originate from our true self are like the ballast of the ship. The ballast located in the bottom center part of the ship helps keep the ship stable and on course. The same is true for your values. Living your life on a daily basis in a way that is more consistent with the values that resonate most deeply with you will lead to a richer sense of meaning and purpose in your life. To discover which values are most central to whom you really are, first think again, back to the people in your life whom you admire.
What values did they live their lives by? Do the same with people to whom you have a strong negative reaction. Then take the time to write down a list of what you consider to be your ten strongest core values. Those that really strike a chord with you. These values are a big part of the ballast of your ship. Living your life in a way that is consistent with them will help you stay on course to a meaningful life. Think of these values as a yardstick against which you can measure your daily life. For example, if one of your values is spending time with family, ask yourself each day if you did something that reflected that value, even if it’s a small thing like spending ten minutes playing a card game with one of your children.
If spirituality is a core value, ask yourself, what did you do during the day that reflected that value? Many of us get caught up in setting goals for ourselves, both long and short-term. While a goal certainly serves an important purpose, we can’t always meet our goals every day, yet we can always do something small each day that’s consistent with our core values. You would be amazed at what consciously living your life on a daily basis in a way that reflects your core values does to grow the ballast of your ship. Ultimately, it will help you end up feeling much more grounded and on course in life.
Reflect Upon These Thought Questions
The final strategy I’d like to share with you is to take time to reflect upon the following thought questions. When thinking about these questions, try not to focus on what you should do or how you should answer. That would reflect more of the programming of your database. Instead, try to answer from your gut of what the voice of the acorn is trying to tell you. Question number one, if you had a totally free day, a blank slate where you could create your ideal day, what would you fill it in with and why? What topics or activities can you talk or read about for hours without getting bored? These are your passions. If you lived in or travel to different regions or cultures, are there certain environments where you feel more at home? If so, why? What was it about these areas that resonated most with you? If you’re at the end of your life, looking back, what would you need to have seen, done or created to be able to say that was a life well-lived? If people were speaking about you after you passed away, what would you want them to be saying about you and how you lived your life?No one piece of the puzzle is any more important than any other. Click To Tweet
I hope the strategies I presented not only help you learn more about what’s in your acorn but that you learned to trust the wisdom of your inner voice. Doing so will not only lead you to a more ideal life but it will also help ensure that the world benefits from your gifts and talents which we so desperately need. When thinking of the unique purpose each of us brings to the world, a metaphor that I like to use is that of a puzzle. When making a puzzle, you understand that no one piece of the puzzle is any more important than any other. Doesn’t it bother you when you’re making a puzzle and you come to the end only to realize you’re missing one of the pieces? Regardless of whether it’s the most colorful elaborately designed piece or a basic solid piece, the puzzle doesn’t work unless all the pieces are present.
Our world works the same way. We all come with a part to play in this world and our purpose here is to figure out our piece of the puzzle and play it to our fullest potential. Just as no piece of the puzzle is any more important than any other, no human being is inherently more important than any other. Although this is exactly what the ego or database would have you believe. I’m not saying that people don’t make contributions that are valued differently by the world. What I’m saying is that you need to separate the worth of the person from how society values or not value their contributions. No person is inherently more or less valuable than any other. Their worth is unconditional, based on the fact that they are a unique human being and have a part to play in this world that only they can play.
The other thing about a puzzle is that not only does every piece need to be present in order to make it work, but remember it also needs to be in the right spot in the puzzle. When you’re making a puzzle and you come across a piece that you’re not quite sure fits in a particular location and you try to jam it into place, a couple of things happen. First, you usually end up damaging the piece slightly, but the other thing that happens is when you actually come to the place in the puzzle where a piece really belonged, it’s not there to do its part. You end up scrambling to find where the misplaced piece must be and then start making adjustments. The same is true for people.
Can you imagine how many people are misplaced in the roles they’re playing in this world because they have followed the voice of the ego or database and done what they “should do” or what their family or society dictated they needed to do in order to be “successful?” Not only are these people not generally content because they never cultivated their true purpose, but the world has also missed out on the gifts, talents, ideas, solutions and inventions, they may have brought to the world if they had only followed the voice of their acorn.
Our take-home message is that our true self is the best guidance system for helping us discover our ideal life, but we must put the effort into listening to it because it’s often overshadowed by the voice of our database. In our next episode, we’re going to be discussing specific strategies for programming our mind’s database constructively, that is in a way that actually helps you create your ideal life. It’s time for you to take conscious control of your mind and learn how to harness its incredible power. I hope you tune in and thank you for allowing us to be part of your journey. Be sure to visit www.TheCoachingConnector.com, there you’ll find several articles to help you discover your true self and our ever-growing directory of coaches. A coach can be a particularly valuable asset in helping you discover your true self. I’m wishing you much success.
Lentino, L.M. (2014). Constructive thinking how to grow beyond your mind. Sudbury, MA: Grow Beyond Your Mind.