The older I get the more I realize how significant it is to learn how to say No to some things in order to say Yes to others. And especially to learn which are the more important things to push back against and push forward toward. Here are two strategies for doing this well.
What does it take to be a great leader in an era when the winds of global and local change are blowing in gale force, where the world is so interconnected that when you make a decision someone on the other side of the world is affected? Leadership has never been easy. There have always been challenges. But these days, the difficulties seem to be uniquely immense. Which means leadership isn't for the faint of heart. It's not just about competence and intelligence.
One of my clients came to me dealing with deep uncertainty about himself. His lack of confidence was at an all-time low. He was de-energized at work and that was bleeding into the rest of his life. He was having a difficult time making proactive decisions. He felt stuck, almost paralyzed in his creative work. And the more stuck he felt, the more he withdrew and didn't give his best contributions. "How do I find my place of confidence and self esteem again?" he asked me with deep sincerity.
He was experiencing what I call Identity Drift.
What Is Identity Drift?
Identity Drift is when
- you begin to lose your sense of self;
- you're not sure who you really are anymore;
- you're feeling uncertain about yourself, little by little unable to recognize what makes you You;
- you find yourself trying to take on qualities and attributes that are no longer yours but are someone else's (you're trying to be something other than what you really are);
- you've lost confidence in yourself;
- you're becoming more and more satisfied with status quo (not rocking the boat wherever you are for fear that you'll get judged, criticized, or devalued, which is more blows to your sense of self worth--so you prefer to simply go with the flow and not creates waves)--you begin to simply drift along with whatever current you're in;
- You've lost your center and place of most authentic power.
Have you ever felt some of those things? If so, you're not alone. Many of us are caught up in Identity Drift.
What Are Consequences of Identity Drift?
The consequences are painful:
- living in a state of high stress and anxiety
- losing your confidence
- lowering your sense of worth / value
- feeling lack of energy
- feeling depressed about yourself, your future, and everything else in your life
- comparing yourself to others and always coming up short
- wishing to disengage and withdraw either emotionally or physically
- experiencing the onset of physiological symptoms and health problems
So what can you do if you find yourself caught in Identity Drift? How do you stop the drift? Here are several suggestions.
5 Ways to Stop Identity Drift
Know your strengths
Because your strengths are based on your natural preferences (specific wiring in your brain), when you discover them, embrace them, and pay attention to them, you are placing yourself right in the middle of your true Self. They are accurate descriptions of who you are and how you best live your life. Leaning into your strengths places you in alignment with authenticity.
Identify how you're currently using your strengths in your every day life
The more aware you become of how you're using your strengths, the more competent and confident you become. Paying attention and developing awareness are key.
Keep a diary in which you record evidences of strengths-based behaviors you engage in during the day
Increasing awareness and consciousness of your strengths increases exponentially when you keep a record of you behaviors and actions that manifest your strengths. And every time you write a note describing an action, you're increasing your sense of self and your confidence in your abilities to live well.
Stop comparing yourself to others
Reducing Identity Drift comes about by focusing on yourself not on others. When we're drifting, we tend to compare and think that we should be more like others (since we're not very clear on who we are). But we need to stop confusing ourselves. We need to pay more attention to how we're strong and how we use those strengths.
Intentionalize ways to step into your strengths more frequently
Start identifying specific actions you can take that are genuine expressions of all your strengths. Write them down. Look at them every day. Set one behavior goal each day based upon one of your strengths. Why? When you're using your strengths in authentic ways you increase your sense of self, confidence, and personal energy. You're aligning more deeply with the way your brain is wired. You're rediscovering some very core pieces of what makes you uniquely You.
When you choose to become the expert of your strengths, you are making the decision to step more fully into who You are. I have yet to see someone who makes this a priority not recover their personal confidence and core power again. The drift lessens little by little until it finally stops.
So go ahead, leverage the real You by embracing what makes you unique and intentionally choosing to live that out, expressing it more fully!
Upcoming Work About How to Build Your Strongest Marriage or Committed Relationship
There is such a thing as Marriage Identity Drift--when two people lose their sense of couple identity--they simply float along without any energy or confidence in their couple presence. If you want to experience my strengths process in your marriage or committed relationship, check out the upcoming workshop I'm giving on this. Go to Events for more information and registration details. Registration deadline is this coming Monday, March 17. Space is limited to 10 couples.
Looking for a Speaker or Coach?
If you or someone you know in your organization is looking for a keynote speaker or workshop teacher for events in your company, congregation, or association gatherings, I would be happy to come speak on this theme or others like it. And interested in strengths coaching? Feel free to email me at email@example.com or look at the Speaking or Coaching pages of this site.
I read last week a fascinating New York Times article titled "Secret Ingredient for Success." The authors interviewed highly successful people about what made them successful and discovered one common element. The discovery was surprising--somewhat even counter-intuitive. Beyond their natural talent and skill, their personalities, their strengths, their passion and vision, how hard they worked, their success came from this quality: intentional, regular, rigorous self reflection. Self assessment. Self evaluation. It's called double loop learning.
"In this mode we question every aspect of our approach, including our methodology, biases and deeply held assumptions. This more psychologically nuanced self-examination requires that we honestly challenge our beliefs and summon the courage to act on that information, which may lead to fresh ways of thinking about our lives and our goals." (Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield)
It got me thinking about the way so many people go through life. We just kind of float along, going with the flow, never really reflecting or thinking about life, trying to avoid obstacles as much as possible, taking the easy path as often as we can, the path of least resistance.
And even with our spirituality. We tend to rarely think about it. We just do whatever it is we've always done, never really evaluating or reflecting about it, whether or not we're learning anything new, or whether or not it's actually changing us into better people. We just slide by spiritually.
The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates once said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."
I was especially reminded of the power of this value of self reflection last weekend. I conducted the first of three weekend retreats called "Ignite the Fire of Your Spiritual Life." Our small group spend a total of 10 hours doing rigorous self-assessment and evaluation. The purpose of this process was to give each person an opportunity to take stock of their spiritual life to determine what is working effectively and meaningfully and what isn't.
And we engaged within community--not just doing personal reflection but also sharing some of our reflections with each other. The process of hearing and listening and being heard and listened to is extremely powerful. When people are willing to hold the space for us as we do our work in a way that's safe and affirming and accepting, we are empowered to grow and transform in beautiful ways.
One of the participants texted me the next day and said, "Thank you for a breakthrough life-changing retreat--my spiritual life is already better ... Can't wait to see what more there is to come and I know it will be very good."
That's the impact of healthy and effective self reflection. It comes from being willing to be intentional. To pay attention to your life, your spirituality. To do it honestly, authentically, transparently, participatively.
Most wisdom traditions agree on the process for enlightenment and spiritual wholeness. Confucianism describes it as becoming fully awake, waking up to life, seeing life clearly. According to the Li Chi, the classic Confucian guide to becoming spiritually developed,
"there must be a turning point in life when the maturing individual recognizes that simply being a human is not sufficient to becoming fully human."
Spiritual maturity is not an automatic occurrence. We can't slide into spirituality.
Jesus called that conscious turning point in one's life repentance. "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." It begins with awareness, waking up to our need. It continues with desire, seeing something better--something more--that we want. It involves an intentional turning around to chart a new path to receive that Life. "Wake up so you can experience the depths of God's kingdom that is right in front of you, indeed, right inside of you," said Jesus.
One of the poignant stories Jesus told was of the ten bridesmaids waiting through the midnight hours for the appearance of the groom. All of them had lamps. Five of them had enough oil for the lamps to keep burning through the night. So that when the groom finally showed up, they were awake to be swept up into the wedding party and join the festivities. The other five missed out. No light. Sleepy.
Light. Wakefulness. Clarity. Awareness.
Some of the markers Dr. David Benner, in his book Soulful Spirituality, describes as identifying a mature spirituality include
"being grounded in reality and alive to the present moment, a personal philosophy that makes life meaningful, the capacity for forgiveness and letting go, inner freedom of choice and response, the capacity for reflection on experience." (p. 35)
These qualities don't just suddenly show up in our lives. They're developed. We awaken to them through reflection, intention, attention. Like the five wise bridesmaids, we stock up on enough oil, we trim our lamps, light them, and use them to become fully awake to what's happening inside us and around us. We repent.
I'm planning two more spiritual retreat cycles this Winter/Spring; one in San Francisco again (April 5-6), and another in Walla Walla, Washington (March 22-23). Here's the link for the details: "Ignite the Fire of Your Spiritual Life." If you want a powerful opportunity to engage in awakening your spiritual life in new and transformational ways, I invite you to check out these events. It could be a turning point for you.
The two authors of the above New York Times article interviewed tennis great Martina Navratilova to find out the secret of her ultimate success:
"[She] told us that after a galling loss to Chris Evert in 1981, she questioned her assumption that she could get by on talent and instinct alone. She began a long exploration of every aspect of her game. She adopted a rigorous cross-training practice (common today but essentially unheard of at the time), revamped her diet and her mental and tactical game and ultimately transformed herself into the most successful women’s tennis player of her era. What we learned from conversation with high achievers is that challenging our assumptions, objectives, at times even our goals, may sometimes push us further than we thought possible."
I wonder why so many of us fail to engage in this kind of rigorous self reflection and self evaluation in such a vital area of life, our spirituality? Maybe it's because we simply don't know how to go about doing that. Maybe we're afraid of failing or not achieving anything different than what we already have. Maybe we just don't think about it--we're simply too busy or distracted by the rest of life. Or maybe it's just not that important or appealing to us.
But maybe it is time to shine the light. Time for the secret ingredient. Time to awaken. Fully alive instead of sleepwalking. The best way to success and joy!
“The King’s Speech” is the powerful, Oscar-winning true story of one man’s quest to find his voice and of those closest to him who help him find it. For a description of the story, read my post. As the red light in King George VI’s broadcast room begins blinking to signal the momentous moment for the royal global broadcast, his speech therapist and friend Lional Logue, knowing how nervous the King is, says to the King, “Forget everything else and just say it to me.”
So I've been unpacking the three parts of that statement--what they say about discovering your unique, personal significance (your voice) and how can you use your voice to put your unique stamp on the world. My last post described the importance of not letting the past define your present and future. Now for the second part of Lionel's statement to the King.
And just say it …
This too is a challenge. One of the problems is, as our internet-based society is showing us, there is no lack of voices shouting stuff all the time. Much of the time it's just noise. People think that because the web gives an instant global platform, all they have to do is shout out and the world listens. Not true. We have to know what we’re trying to say; and to say it so that people truly listen, it has to come from inside us and express who we are so that there's genuine alignment; which means we have to know ourselves, to believe ourselves, to have confidence in who we are.
This is a 3-step process and journey: self-awareness that must be followed by self possession that produces authentic self expression.
I like the way Stephen Covey, in his powerful book The 8th Habit, defines Voice: “Voice is unique personal significance--significance that is revealed as we face our greatest challenges and which makes us equal to them.” (p. 5)
Here’s how he describes finding this Voice. Voice lies at the nexus between four areas of our lives: Talent; Passion; Need; and Conscience.
Talent – your natural gifts and strengths; Passion – those things that naturally energize, excite, motivate, and inspire you; Need – a problem in the world that speaks to you and that you can effectively help solve, including what the world needs enough to pay you for; and Conscience – that still, small voice within that assures you of what is right, truth for you, and that prompts you to actually do it.
“When you engage in things that tap your talent and fuel your passion – that rises out of a great need in the world that you feel drawn by conscience to help meet – therein lies your voice, your calling, your soul’s code.” (p. 5)
Here’s the truth: there is a deep, innate, almost inexpressible yearning within each one of us to find our voice in life. King George VI (Bertie) felt that yearning. The reason he acted out in such anger and rage often was because he couldn’t understand his Voice – he didn’t think he had a Voice or certainly wasn’t worthy of a Voice or simply wasn’t capable of expressing his Voice if he had one – he was stumped, paralyzed by the many impediments in his life, speech being only one of them. But the longing was there. He had a conscience that was prompting him. He began to develop a passion. He certainly was aware of the need in his Empire that the King was called to meet. And little by little he developed and embraced his talents, his unique strengths and gifts. Until finally he expressed what ended up being a very powerful Voice not only in his Empire but also in the world.
Jesus, who was called the Word, spoke with such power because he spoke with his true voice, the voice that came from his personal truth, his identity as the true expression of God. The New Testament writers referred to him as the Word of God. And when Jesus spoke, people were drawn to him, they listened, they were moved, inspired, and transformed. He wasn't just making noise. He had captured his voice and spoke it with authority because it came from his core identity. "I am the truth, the way, and the life," he said. He not only spoke his voice, he lived his voice. His voice found its highest expression in action. The two were perfectly aligned. And people followed, finding their own voice along the way, too.
So I have to enter into self-awareness – to look at these four areas to see what my unique truth is – what the expression of my core self truly is. Have you ever noticed like I have that the closer we get to this truth, the more our conscience begins to activate – I start feeling strongly in my inner spirit about expressing this truth. I feel dis-ease unless I'm expressing this truth. That’s conscience – that’s the spirit in me that is tapping into the Divine Spirit and Fingerprint within me. That Spirit is calling out to be expressed in my personal, unique way. And when that conscience speaks and pushes strongly enough, I have to do something about it. I have to act.
And the first action is the courage of self possession of that truth. I must embrace myself with confidence. I accept myself for who I truly am. I begin to see clearly my uniqueness and I start falling in love with it.
So much so that then I compelled to the next action - authentic self expression – I have to do something tangible about it. I know--I speak--I act.
The Hebrew prophet named Jeremiah described this undying urge to express his Voice. He was a prophet with an almost impossible task: speak truth to people who had lost their voice and their identity and had wandered far from God. His challenge: they didn't want to hear him speak truth. So they persecuted him, laughed at him, ridiculed him, refused to listen to him, and ultimately killed him. He faced the temptation regularly to give up, to stop speaking his voice from God, and take an early retirement. But whenever he was tempted, here's what happened to him:
9 Sometimes I say to myself,
"Forget it! No more God-Messages from me!"
But then the Words becomes like a burning fire inside me,
deep within my bones.
I get tired of trying to hold it inside of me,
and finally, I cannot hold it in.” Jeremiah 20:9
Once I find my voice, my true voice that comes from deep inside me and reflects my personal truth and identity, I am compelled to speak it, even at great cost. That's my conscience working, nudging me to speak, empowering me to confidence and courage. And that conscience won't stop until you and I speak and live our voice, just like Jeremiah, just like Jesus, and even like King George VI.
PERSONAL REFLECTION: Take some time to define and flesh out what each of those four areas Covey refers to would look like in your life. Where do they all converge for you? How does that describe your Voice – your unique personal significance?
Next post, we'll look at the last part of The King's Speech: what do we need in place to be empowered to speak our voice courageously?