What if you weren’t who you are? I don’t mean who you are like your biography or your name and identification, but who you are like a personality. For example, if you could design your personality, way of listening, priorities, style of interaction and so forth from scratch, what would you design? I’m calling this a thought experiment, but it’s not really an imagination exercise. Instead, it is an invitation to consider the possibility that you do actually have an opportunity to do this every moment of every day, as long as you can develop the ability to keep yourself present and to interrupt what emerges automatically.
Why would anyone want to do that? Well, haven’t you had moments in your life when you wish you had said something else? Or perhaps more likely, nothing? Or times when you reacted out of hand and said something you later regretted. Do your peers think of you in the way you want them to think of you? Do you think of yourself as the person you hoped you would turn out to be when you were younger? What about your family? Although they know you the best, do they view you in a way you are delighted with, or in a way that you can tolerate?
So in honor of Monday, the day when we all begin our week hoping that we will make the changes we failed to make last week, I invite you to genuinely take this challenge. Design yourself from scratch. Here are some of the questions you might ask during the process of redesign:
- What are my core values as a person?
- What are my guiding principles as a person?
- As a professional?
- As a leader?
- As a parent/spouse/partner/child?
- What are the 3 key qualities that I would like people to feel that I have?
- How do I want people to feel when they are
- Working with me?
- Speaking with me?
Once you have answered those questions, you will have a bit more work to do. You must distill the answers to the question into a sort of condensed whole, so that you can channel it in your reactions. It’s sort of like how an actor gets to know a character. Once you have done that, you need a tagline. Yes, a tagline — just like an ad campaign. The reason for this is that you will need some small, pithy thing you can say to yourself, silently in your mind, as a reminder to your new self. This is meant to be a real-time guide to stop you from automatically acting and help you to behave as you are committed to being instead. For myself, I have one that reminds me to be more curious about others than I am anxious to share about myself. So I remind myself: “Listen. And Learn”. I do not always remember to use it, and sometimes I violate it. But it is useful in my mission to bring greater generosity and humility to my life and to those with whom I interact.
You could easily discard this as a method for faking something. But the reality is that most of us did not design our personalities from scratch, or even consciously. We became the way we are through a messy, random set of experiences, decisions, reactions and learned fears which we mixed with our innate talents and weaknesses. As a result, we are who we are by accident. So this is a huge opportunity and it’s one that you can reconsider regularly as your concerns and commitments shift. The result won’t be fake, it will be authentic to who you truly commit yourself to being. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, as our reflexes are deep-seated. And it won’t be quick to grow into this as natural. But you will find that if you do this honestly and with real introspection, you may design someone you truly love — and your environment will respond. The people you meet, work with and love will not lose who they know you to be, they will welcome the “you 2.0” as a purified, matured version of who they always knew you were!
So, I ask again… If you could be anyone….
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