Look in the mirror. Look deep – beyond your mere reflection. Beyond the roles you play in your life. Beyond what you identify with. Beyond what you are or do for others. Beyond who you like to think you are. Beyond what you used to be.
Underneath all that: Who do you see? Who are you, really? Create a snapshot of yourself, as you are today – and my 3 most effective ways to do that are in this post.
When I first started thinking – really thinking – about the kind of life I wanted to live, I was 32. I had left behind a successful and demanding career in change management consulting. And I didn’t just want a next job in the same field; I wanted to consider more fundamentally how I wanted to work, within the wider picture of how I wanted to live.
I had made life and work choices before: To attend a school where Latin was part of the curriculum. To study Biochemistry at university. To join an international consulting company instead of Swiss Television. To move from Zurich to London.
Yet within these choices, I was then taken over and moved forward by a curriculum, a development plan, exams to pass and grades to achieve. Ways for me to work and behave, all prescribed by the organisations I’d joined.
My choices were all great opportunities to learn and test myself. But they also all contained paths, structures and criteria set by others, that I kind of fell in with. And the professional aspects of my choices by and large determined how I lived the non-professional side of my life, too.
So there I was, aged 32, with great academic and professional experience in my backpack.
And the distinct feeling that I wanted to do something else:
I wanted to create and follow my own path. My own curriculum. My own development plan.
So the first question I asked myself – and that you could ask yourself, if you’re in a similar place in life, and want to create a life you love – was:
What do you want?
Some answers dropped in. I wanted to stop my intense travelling for work. More flexibility in my working life. Time and space to explore other interests and aspects of myself, beyond the high-powered business woman. But I had no clue what these were, and how I could do that.
I didn’t just want to go for any next best thing – I wanted whatever I did next, and however I decided to live from then on, to be right for me. And I realised that, in order to find that, the first question I needed to answer was:
Who are you – really?
I’d never spent much time considering this; I’d just got on with what was doable, possible, or in front of me. So I found I had a bit of work to do in terms of understanding myself better, so I would be more conscious of what was right for me.
And in my life and change coaching today, I always invite my clients to think about who they really are, once they’re satisfied with reviewing where they’ve come from in their life. And before they start thinking about a vision for their life going forward.
This is because:
Our understanding of who we are changes over time.
For example: It’s unlikely that you feel that, today, you’re still who you were when you were twenty.
Knowing who you are will also help you make more conscious life choices – and therefore create a life you’ll love.
Not because of what it looks like, or what others think of it, but because it is right for you.
Now, the word really is quite important in my Who are you? question.
So when you’re asking yourself this question as part of creating a life you love, I would like you to…
Take an honest look at yourself – beyond the surface
Initial answers to the question Who are you? that might come up for you might be: I’m a mother. Or a family man. A manager. Or an outdoor-lover. Someone who puts others before myself. Someone who is well-known and respected in her field. Someone who laughs a lot. Or someone who is often ill.
These views of yourself all form part of the picture, of course – but they are probably not who, deep down, you really are.
We all take on (or are given) roles in our life, in our families, in our work: We might play the role of parent, mentor, peace-keeper, wise go-to person, leader, or joker.
(Think about it:
Which roles do you play in your life?)
Our roles have a place; they keep our families, communities, societies going, and working well together.
A role you might be filling is not who you are.
And the same is true for what you identify with, what you do, or how you prefer to behave around others.
So look deeper. And be honest.
One way of doing that is to:
Create a snapshot of who you really are
There are many questions you could ask yourself to create your snapshot. But I thought I’d share with you the ones that matter most, when you’re looking to get a picture to base your future life upon. Please feel free to add your own, of course!
The key to these questions is to answer them with openness, and honesty. Sometimes, the hardest thing is to be honest with ourselves. And be accepting of what we find.
Perhaps you fancy using the template I use with my clients? I call it the Flower Exercise, and you can download it here, in a free e-booklet guiding you through the exercise:
Or, if you want to continue being guided by this blog post, you might want to have a sheet of paper and a pen to hand – ’cause here come your questions:
1 What’s your essence?
What are you really about? What’s at your core? What’s the one word that says it all about you?
That’s quite a difficult question! It needs you to strip away everything that describes you on the surface. And keep asking yourself who you are, underneath that. You might have to ponder it over time – you’re looking for something that best describes what you always are. Something that’s essential about you, no matter what role or life situation you’re in, or who’s around you.
What you want is a simple statement – images or metaphors often work well for this: Perhaps you feel you are movement. Or a light, shining brightly into the world. A fixer of problems. Someone who makes things happen. A tower of strength. A centre of stillness. Love. An improvisor. Always in between things. Always into the next thing.
What’s your essence? Draw a circle in the middle of an empty page, and write or draw your essence into it.
2 What’s important to you?
What do you really value in life? Go for abstract, single words like: Honesty. Integrity. Fun. Quirkiness. Freedom. Love. Connection. Authenticity. Security. Warmth. Sharing. Learning. Community. Independence. Quality. Beauty. Style. Nourishment. Relationship. Challenge. Strength. That sort of stuff.
If you’re not sure what your words are, think of one important moment in your life: What about it makes it matter to you? What did you get out of it? And what did that give you? Keep asking that question until you hit on one of these abstract words like the ones I’ve listed above.
Then think of another important moment or situation in your life, and do the same exercise. And another one, until you have about 30 abstract words for what you value in life.
Now narrow them down to your top 10, then your top 3. Take your sheet of paper again, and write your top 3 values around the circle with your essence.
3 What do you love?
I believe that, the more we’re acting from a place of what we love, the happier we’ll be with our life. This doesn’t mean that we can create a life for ourselves in which we love everything; there’ll always be things that we don’t love so much, yet have to do. That’s true for every life!
Still, if your life is full of stuff you hate, it’s going to be hard for you to love it, isn’t it?
So it’s definitely worth thinking about what – or who – you love, so that you can pack as much of that as possible into the life you’re creating.
Therefore: Make a list now. Keep adding to it over the next few days. Question yourself, challenge yourself. Because we can outgrow some things that we love. And feel that it’s time for new loves. Be honest.
Then pick your 5-10 Must-Haves from your list, and write them in bubbles or clouds on your sheet of paper – all around your essence and your values.
Well done – you’ve got the basics
You’ve now got your basic – and most essential – snapshot of who you really are. With my clients, I go further than that, exploring additional helpful ways of gaining greater awareness of who they really are. And we also start collecting pointers and elements of their vision for a life they love, as they drop out of their considerations of who they are.
But that’s peeking forward to Step 3 – Tease Out Your New Vision
You can grab a free copy of my Flower Exercise that I use with my clients here:
Over to you now
How did you get on with your snapshot of you? What’s emerged for you? Please do share your comments below!
My next post in this series of posts, 6 Steps to a Life You Love – My Ultimate How To Guide to Changing Your Life, is Step 3: Tease Out Your New Vision
Want to review the previous step? Hop back to Step 1: Look back before moving forward
Want to remind yourself of all 6 steps in sequence? Check out 6 Steps to a Life You Love: My Ultimate How To Guide to Changing Your Life
Why not get my structured, intuitive and empathetic coaching support?
And get your change to a life you love underway.
I specialise in working with people who are at crossroads and don’t know what they want to do next in their life. You don’t have to know what you want, in order to work with me.
Indeed, I can help you explore and find out what that is, and then make the changes you need, in order to move into a life you want and love. All with more ease than if you were to do it on your own. I will guide you through my 6 Steps to a Life You Love process – in a way that is tailored to you. Giving you the space, and the insights, strategies and practical tools for your change.
So you can stress less and move forward in your life – at your own pace!