December 20 2019

Do you know who you are?

I believe that in order to be a great leader you need to be confident about who you are and what you stand for. You need to know and like yourself.

When you know and like yourself you can trust yourself and then you are comfortable exposing your true self to the world – you don’t need to try to cover up your flaws and pretend you are someone you are not.

I spend a lot of time with my coaching clients helping them to get to know themselves. Robert Dilts suggests there are several levels at which we can ‘know’ ourselves.

At the most superficial levels are environment, behaviours and skills – all easily changed for most of us. If we notice a behaviour we don’t like we change it. If we notice that we are lacking a particular skill most of us will do something about it – buy some training, read a book or look on you tube?

Going a bit deeper we have ‘beliefs’ and ‘values’. Beliefs are just things we have chosen to believe to be true. Most beliefs are easily changed – I used to believe in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy. Sadly those beliefs have now changed.

Values – or guiding lights as I prefer to call them – are the things that are important to us about the way we behave. If we have a value of ‘fairness’ we will strive to be fair as we go about our daily lives. We may not always live up to our values but we are keen to keep trying. Our values and their order of importance do change, either consciously or unconsciously, as we live our lives. An illness may see a value about health marching up the hierarchy.

At our core are ‘Identity’ and ‘Purpose’

Our identity is described by big ‘I am ..’ statements. The things about us that we feel truly describe the person we are. Identity statements will never change no matter what the circumstances or the role we are currently playing. Our identity statements remain true whether we are stranded alone on a desert island, looking after a sick child or at work doing our job as a high flying executive. Over the past few years of coaching I have heard many great identity statements: I am a homemaker, I am a game changer, I am an empathiser, I am a storyteller, I am part of nature, I am intelligent, I am a scientist, I am courageous, I am curious, I am loving, I am beautiful, … these our deepest beliefs about the person we are.
Purpose is the reason we exist, our mission on this earth, the reason we get up in the morning or the thing that makes our life worthwhile. Purpose has an element of doing. I have not yet met anyone who does not want to feel that their life has caused the world to be a better place. How we want to make our difference is our purpose. Most cultures and religions have a word for this. I love the Japanese word ‘Ikigai’ meaning ‘reason for being’. Your ikigai will be something you love or are passionate about, something you are good at, something that pays you in the way you want to be paid (might not be money) and something that the world needs.

It is easy to see the life purpose of Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa. For most of us our difference will be smaller but no less important. I have enjoyed many a happy hour thinking about my own purpose which I now describe as ‘To help people; to dare to dream, to believe their dreams can come true, to achieve their dreams and to enjoy every step of the way. That is a purpose that makes me feel good.

Why not spend some time over this long break thinking about who you are and why you are here?