Working as I have for over 30 years – first as a corporate executive, then a marriage and family therapist, and now career coach, I’ve worked with thousands of people to overcome virtually every type of challenge that human beings grapple with. From overcoming traumatic childhoods, to repairing crushed self-worth, to leaving narcissistic, toxic bosses and jobs, building stronger communication styles and relationships, finding work they love, and learning to appreciate themselves for who they are, I’ve seen that so many life problems have at their root four critical areas of lack:
1) Lack of self-awareness (of how powerful and amazing you really are)
2) Lack of vision (of what you really want to do and how to get there)
3) Lack of a positive and healthy belief, mindset and energy system that can support a satisfying life
4) And, finally, a lack of fierce bravery to rise up, speak up and stand up BOLDLY for yourself, and change your life
So when I was invited to give a TEDx talk in November for TEDx Centennial Park Women, I realized this was my chance to say something vitally important on the TEDx stage about these four critical human challenges.
In the two months of developing the content for this talk, I thought for many hours about what would be the most pivotal and helpful questions I could pose that would help both men and women realize their full gifts and potential, close their “power gaps” and get moving to building something amazing in their lives. And what I wanted most was to help people finally address their lack of power and vision so they could see themselves as powerful enough to change what they longed to be different in their lives and work.
The crux of the talk is that to change directions in your life – to build something you’ll be wonderfully proud of and will cherish every day of your life and work, you need to See Bravely, Speak Bravely, and Shine Bravely. And the vast majority of people I meet and work with aren’t doing that, not by a long shot. But I don’t judge that. I wasn’t nearly brave enough either for a full 18 unhappy years in my corporate life, until a huge breakdown moment (a crisis, in fact) that changed everything.
Here’s my personal story on how I “braved up” in my own life, and how becoming braver in your life will transform everything:
How Can You Brave Up in 2017 and beyond? Answer three critical questions.
To build your bravery for 2017 and beyond, I’d ask you to take a few hours before the new year, sit down alone with a white pad of paper, turn off all devices and distractions, and answer as honestly and deeply as you can these three questions:
1. What makes you who you are?
Write down anything and everything that has influenced who you have become today. Nothing is too small or too big. Write it all down, including:
- Your cultural ancestry
- The histories of your parents, and the messages that you received (either unconsciously or consciously) from their lives and relationship
- Your upbringing, and the beliefs of your parents, siblings and authority figures
- Your pivotal moments that changed everything
- What you were taught about yourself, about power, gender roles, money, support, religion, spirituality, support, etc.
- The relationships that crushed you and the relationships that healed you
- What you believe about our own worthiness to make a difference in the world
- Your passions, talents, gifts
- What you have always been known for
- What you value deeply and believe in wholeheartedly
Why is this important: In order to build a life you love, you have to gain awareness of who you are, and why.
Greater awareness equals greater choice.
Once you know what you’re made of (and how amazing, special and unique that is), then you can choose what to do with it.
2. What came easily to you as a child, teen and young adult?
Write down all the skills, talents, activities and endeavors that came easily to you during the early years of your life. What made hours fly by? What made you joyful and thrilled to be alive? Was it art, singing, design, athetics, poetry, storytelling, computer design, etc.?
Before you were taught that everything had to be perfect, before your parents or teachers made you feel you had to get an A+ in everything you touched, before you learned that how you performed would impact how good you felt about yourself, what did you love to engage in?
Why is this important: One thing we’re not taught in life is that work doesn’t have to be a terrible struggle, and doesn’t have to exhaust us to the bone. And that we often have great skills that we don’t like to use. On the other hand, the talents that came easy to you back then (and now) are exactly the ones you’re meant to be using in your life. These are your natural talents and gifts that you want to leverage more powerfully in your life and work, so that work will be easy, and not a terrible, devastating struggle.
3. What are the 20 “facts” of you and what you’ve achieved and contributed?
Write down 20 irrefutable, undeniable facts of what you’ve done, accomplished, achieved and contributed in your life and work that you’re proud of, and why those facts matter. Expand them to include metrics, scope, context and outcomes that describe how you “moved the needle” for a person, an organization or a cause. What have you done that has made a true difference to someone and to you?
These facts are the essence of what you’ve done and the impact you’ve made, and demonstrate what value and believe in. These facts are important to share with everyone you meet.
And remember, sharing is not bragging.
Why is this important? So many people today, particularly women, are afraid of speaking powerfully about themselves – of sounding like they are forceful, assertive or bragging. But when you are able to identify and talk compellingly about the true contributions you’ve made and why they matters to you, you’ll begin to attract many more ideal opportunities and wonderful individuals in your life that will help you be of service in exactly the ways that matter to you.
* * * * * * * * * * *
When you are able to answer these three questions fully and deeply, and when you finally own how amazing, important and valuable you are in this world, you’ll stop wondering what your vision is for the future. You’ll know that it involves moving forward to be of service to others in powerful ways, leveraging exactly those talents that come easily and joyfully to you.
As Dr. Maria Nemeth shared in her wonderful book The Energy of Money:
“We are all happiest when we’re demonstrating in physical reality what we know to be true about ourselves, when we’re giving form to our Life Intentions in a way that contributes to others.”
When you’re doing that, you’re proud and happy to be alive, and the pain, suffering, and disillusionment you feel now about your life and career will begin to fall away.
So..what do you want to do differently next year, given all that you know about yourself now?
Here’s to bringing yourself forward in powerful ways, and to building your brave and beautiful 2017, making the impact you dream of.