“If you were a given a book with the story of your life, would you read it until the end?” This question comes to my mind every time I read an interesting book or watch a movie or a documentary about any story of success . Would I read my own book?
I got up early this morning, slightly after the sunrise of January 1st of the New Year 2020, just as the new decade is starting today, and I started to write this blog post, while sipping on my morning coffee. Ironically, I saw a clip yesterday from an episode of FRIENDS from the year 2002, when Chandler was teasing Ross about his daughter’s naps, who was just a newborn at the time, on what will she do when she is eighteen years old in the year 2020. It feels like it was not that long ago.
The year 2019 was a good year for me, as I went into an interesting self-discovery journey, and still going, starting from the turn of the year in our 2018 team offsite last December, to the ViSoul program in April, until the completion of Harvard Business School’s “Authentic Leader Development” one week course on their campus in Boston, early December. The HBS course was a true revelation and gave me a strong sense of direction and determination, and most of all confidence that all the changes I did in 2019 were the right thing to do for me. The course is highly recommended for those who want to go through such a journey, and you will realize that at the end it all boils down to you having strong self-awareness and self-acceptance. The two pillars for content and satisfaction in life, in my personal opinion.
Now, to reach the above two pillars, you need to start by knowing your own self, easier said than done trust me, but that is what it is all about. Benjamin Franklin once said, “There are three things extremely hard; steel, diamond and to know one’s self.” Knowing thy self means you need to know your purpose in life, the values and principles that you live by every day, and your motivations and passions that move you, which will all, hopefully, lead you into an integrated life, and that is, ladies and gentlemen, is what we all aspire for.
In many cases, we go through life, getting caught up with all what is going on that we don’t stop to check if we are on the right track or not, if this is the job we desire or not, if this is the life we truly want or not. However, once you stop for a moment and be aware of yourself, of who you are and what your purpose is, you will know right away if you are on the right track or not, and if not, you will know what needs to be done.
Sometimes though having that self-realization is not enough, becuase you need to have the acceptance of what you have just realized, and the courage to take action, and it will not be easy, as it will require you go out of your comfort zone into the abyss. Change is always scary, but you know what is worse? Seeing life passing you by, while you are still in the same place, with the feeling of regret for not acting on what you have always wanted to do.
Bill George’s book “Discover your True North” is one of the best guiding manuals in this field. It is a book that will take you through the journeys of many successful individuals and how their crucibles were somehow the ignition to the flair inside of them to lead them to the right direction. As the book rightfully states, to be a leader, is to be able to lead yourself first before leading others, and that require you know your purpose in life, and you accept who you are, and most of all, you are comfortable with being vulnerable.
With that said, I want to share with you my main learnings from 2019:
- Purpose – creating your purpose statement is not just technical exercise that you do. It is not a statement that shows the hard-to-reach-aspirations or the mission statement for corporations, rather it has to be real and it has to be you. There is always the YOU that you want to be, and the YOU that you cannot help but be. Your purpose has to be a mix of both to be realistic and achievable. Psychologists tell us that in our subconscious, we are always worried about how we think others perceive us. Think about that for a moment, we are worried about how we THINK others perceive us and not by how they really see us or we see ourselves. As the famous quote goes, “I am not what I think I am. I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.”
- Vulnerability – The most important quality a successful person must have is the ability to be vulnerable, a quality we lost from our childhood days, as we grew older into adulthood. Vulnerability allows you to be honest with yourself and with others, to be open and raw with your feelings, to admit when you are wrong and to realize your weaknesses and build on your strengths. Today, we are in a serious empathy shortage, and that is because of we are not comfortable being vulnerable, as we are not comfortable to face our emotions. Little that we know that vulnerability is the birthplace for all the beautiful emotions we strive to experience, like love, belonging and joy, as Brene Brown stated in her TED sessions many times.
- Gratitude – Just being grateful for the little things we are blessed with in our lives is a major boost to our happiness hormone, dopamine. We get occupied with our lives issues at work and at home that we forget to appreciate the little things. One of our colleagues in HBS course said that she was able to register the IP for the word “Gratitudist” since it is an important word that is not getting enough attention or credit. We have optimist and pessimist, so why not have gratitudist as the person who is always grateful for what they have. Try this, every night just as you go to bed, write down three things you are grateful for from that day, in a journal next to your bed or on your phone. It could be something as simple as “this morning’s coffee was so good.” You will notice within a week or so, how your attitude and mood changes into a cheerful positive vibe, and how you are able to neglect the unfortunate incidents in life and not allow them to take charge of how you feel. One more thought, have you ever tried to express to someone how grateful you are for having them in your life, like your parents, your kids or your spouse? Try writing a gratitude letter to them, but do not send it or ask them to read it, rather read it aloud to them. The powerful impact this will have on both of you will blow your mind.
Word of caution, as when you are able to master the above, you might feel that you are becoming selfish and that you are always thinking of what is best for you first, even if you are the type that is always there for others and a known giver, the above will make you give and take (aka a matcher). That is ok, and it is actually healthy, as only when you are taking care of you that you will be able to take care of your loved ones even better.
I will leave you with this scene from the movie, Life Itself, when the dying mother, Isabel Diaz, played by Laia Costa, addressed her son, while she was on her deathbed, “… life brings you to your knees, and it brings you lower than you think you can go, but if you stand up and move forward. If you move just a little further, you will always find love.” As she was trying to convince him to stop worrying and embrace life challenges as building blocks to the next level, and to truly enjoy life, you must live it to the fullest and follow your dreams.
Happy New Year to all, and may you find your purpose and have the courage to pursue it.