“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think,” says the great author A. A. Milne. These aren’t just words. They are a reminder that the way out of any tough time starts with you.
Most of us have been led to believe that we don’t have what it takes to get up when the world pushes us down. We have been taught that we are weak and should therefore rely on others, our institutions or even our faith. But there’s a common denominator in all of this: any movement forward starts with you. For that, you must learn to know yourself and believe yourself capable, even in difficult times.
Most of my clients come to me not believing they have what it takes to achieve or address the thing that has brought them to me. They can’t see their way out of a challenge. They can’t achieve something that always seems out of reach.
My conversation with them starts by shifting their focus from the external (the thing they want to achieve or address) to the internal (the strengths, talents, passions and values that make them who they are).
A large part of why life seems so difficult for many people is they are unaware of how expansive they are – braver, stronger and smarter. We can’t rely on some of amazing attributes to help us through tough times if we don’t know them. That requires self-discovery and self-awareness. So, I guide my clients to start their work by developing a larger understanding of the abilities they have available to them at any moment, and to employ those abilities as needed. When they do this, they start to realize that many of life’s events that had been able to derail or distract them can be more easily handled.
Here are several of the activities I recommend to my clients to expand what they know of themselves.
- Take a personality or abilities assessment to provide practical language of your abilities, including an introduction to abilities you may have been unaware you possess.
- Journal your thoughts and feelings as events happen. Over time you will see your true nature and abilities come through in your thoughts.
- Answer questions like
- What do others applaud me for?
- When I feel confident/successful, what am I doing?
- When I am fully engaged and having a great time what am I doing?
- When I make a difference that matters, what am I doing?
- If you were to introduce yourself to someone new, what five of my attributes would I share?
- When you find yourself avoiding or ignoring something, stop and notice why you are acting this way.
- Ask a family member or friend to share their view of your greatest abilities and where they see you using them.
As you gather information, summarize it so you can start to see an expanding understanding of yourself. Now with greater personal awareness, look at a tough situation and ask yourself, “Which of my abilities will help me here?” This shift from feeling challenged about the situation to addressing it head-on by using your expanded abilities activates your energy, confidence and success.
Sure, there will be some extremely tough events in life – some larger than any of us. But most of what we feel are challenging situations take on this feeling because we fail to see that we are braver, stronger and smarter than we believe ourselves to be. We just need to know more about ourselves.
It is up to you to navigate yourself through all of the situations in life, both the easy ones and the tough ones. The easy ones build your energy. The tough ones require your energy. Fuel yourself with knowledge about who you are (through self-discovery work) so that you have it ready to go when life asks more of you.
By Jay Forte
Consider reading Why Everyone Needs a Snapshot