When was the last time you sat, really sat and asked yourself, “What do I want in this life – in my profession – in my relationships, etc?” I don’t mean for 10 minutes at your counter with coffee in the morning, or the flittering thoughts as you’re driving to a meeting or to pick up a child from school. When was the last time you gave yourself serious time to sit, to think, to write, to get quiet enough for long enough to hear that quiet voice inside speak. Our inner voice is quiet because it wants to trust that we are focused enough to hear it.
For nearly 20 years I have taught workshops, seminars and college courses in the areas of leadership, marketing and entrepreneurialism. My classes usually begin with various extrapolations of these simple questions, “What do you want?; What matters to you? Why does it matter?” During my time with students (whether four months or four hours), we do exercises and discussions to drill deeper into these questions. Even as we create sophisticated financial models or social marketing programs, I still take people back to these essential questions.
They are hard questions. Of everything I ask of my students/clients, these are the questions that bring tears, laughter and make us squirm. These are the questions that can lay the foundation for the life we truly want to live. These are the questions that make us drop the idea of “should” and allow us to dream. They take us out of our comfort zones of complacency. Giving ourselves permission to honestly answer these questions often stirs up a lot within us.
As we really get quiet, answers in terms of material things begin to fade and the deeper answers, in terms of our values and what is most important to us, begin to emerge. We begin to see what resonates deep inside us – and which values we may be holding from our parents, our religion, our society, which we cling to for security, most likely due to fear – not because they deeply speak to us in the quiet of the night. I often ask people to briefly meditate on a list of adjectives and pick five they would like to use to describe themselves. Does that profile say adventurous or thoughtful? Serious or playful? Joyful or organized? One person might write loving, compassionate, organized, funny and social. Another might write adventurous, resilient, passionate, accomplished, open-minded. As you clarify the way you would like to be described, the way your heart speaks to you, then the question becomes, “Are you living a life that brings those values forth?”
We are an accomplishment oriented culture. We can get swept up by the external “should.” I am not saying achievements, striving and accomplishments are bad. They are not. They are essential for us to thrive. What I am asking you to reflect on is the balance between striving/running forward through life and insuring that your forward movement aligns with your inner callings. We often use money/financial security as our excuse to not allow ourselves to do this inner work.
What seems to be a most interesting, inspiringpattern is that as people do the internal work to resonate in this balance of internal values and external outcomes, accomplishments come even easier, yet they mean less. People within this balance have found their peace within. Additionally, when people are in this place of clearly understanding and living through their inner vision and values, when challenging or difficult things happen, they are able to stay grounded. Instead of spiralling into, “I’m upset because…” thoughts and/or behavior, they step back and reflect on the learning the situation provides on their unique journey. This kind of internal peace helps keep people out of victim mode. It helps them maintain their own internal power and stay focused on their values around how they want to live their life. It allows them to maintain healthy radiant energy even if circumstances around them are dark.
So, how do we grow in our awareness of our deeper place? I use 5 simple tools that bring about profoundly empowering and joyful change when done consistently over time.Pick a quality (value) that for the next few months you can breath in and focus on each morning when you wake and each evening when you go to sleep (go back to your initial values – which one most jumps out at you?).
Around your quality or value, create an intention that is forward moving and inspiring to you. For example, if your quality is joy, an intention might be…I breathe joy in and out with each breath, feeling gratitude. Consciously write or voice your gratitude for several things each day.
Commit five minutes each day to quiet your world by sitting peacefully and reflecting on the values you want to describe you. Ask your mind to slow down. Ask your mind to dream. When the thoughts arise, gently go back to your values. From those values, begin to create the vision for the life you want. Write down your vision from a place of being in that moment. What are you feeling? What are you doing? Define one small step each week that you commit to and put into action that builds on your vision. Action builds internal trust. You’re telling yourself you mean it. The journey of a thousand miles does begin with a single step – and then another one…and another one.
Consciously allowing/giving permission to ourselves to create the life we want is powerful. I often ask students to reflect on the thought that if we have trouble confidently speaking our vision and dreams to each other (or to ourselves without feeling a kink somewhere around our throat) how do we expect the world to open up to that dream? I leave you with this thought by Johanne Wolfgang Von Goethe: “Whatever you can do, or think you can do, do it now. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it.” And yes, with just a few minutes each day, your most vibrant life awaits.