On being different…

I’ve written about “being different” before, but from another perspective, more, let’s say “business oriented”. This time it’s more personal. I want to share with you a lesson I learned this evening about personal identity and having the courage to accept and communicate to the world that you are who you are, even when “you” are perhaps, in more ways than one, different from the norm. We all take on roles in this life – professional roles – marketing specialist, trainer, coach, sales person, manager and personal ones – mother, daughter, friend, husband. What I have just realized this evening is that once we’ve communicated that particular role to the world, others start having certain expectations that we fit the role. There is something akin to dogma surrounding different roles. There are “right” and “wrong” things that mothers, coaches, friends should do or should avoid doing. Once you are “qualified” to be in a certain role, it’s as if you’ve just, inadvertently, joined a community of people, all sharing that role. You have a child, you’ve joined the community of mothers. You are a qualified coach, you’ve joined the community of coaches. You’ve joined a family through marriage,  you’re part of a whole new community of in-laws and cousins and friends of the family. And that community has standards, rules, regulations, procedures that you must follow, if you want to be accepted by that particular group. What happens when you trespass others’ expectations from that particular role? What happens when you don’t behave as you are supposed to, within the role? What happens if you craft your own, personal version of the role, that is different from anyone else’s? What happens, for example, if a high-profile finance consultant decides to wear blue-jeans and a t-shirt to work? Will he suddenly become less competent in managing his client’s finances? What about a sales-person who cares more about customer satisfaction than sales targets? Or a mother who decides to offer a completely different education to her...

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Self-Honesty versus Self-Criticism

I just had a wonderful meeting with a friend I hadn’t seen in a very, very long time. We used to be colleagues in high school and it’s been fascinating to share how our lives changed and where they led us. We laughed together at our old high school selves and wondered at all the lessons we’ve learned over the years. One thing led to another and we started discussing how we’ve changed and grown over time and what life led us to discover about ourselves. It’s been amazing to realize that very different life events led us to similar conclusions. One of these has to do with the title of this post. We both acknowledged that we’ve become more honest with ourselves over the years. We both also admitted that we’ve been, quite often, self critical. Amazingly, while self-honesty always led to some leap in our development, self-criticism most often had a reverse effect. While we were speaking about this I realized something extremely important – there are several essential differences between self-honesty and self-criticism and, too often, people confuse the two and end up sabotaging themselves instead of knowing and accepting themselves for who they truly are. Here is my perception of those differences: Self-honesty is an act of courage, requiring you to confront yourself with the WHOLE you – with all the good and the bad. Self-criticism is an act of judgement, meaning you’re blaming yourself whenever you’re not living up to your own standards. Self-honesty implies acknowledging your “shadow”, accepting it is part of you and that it doesn’t, by any means, diminish your inner “light”. Self-criticism means rejecting your “shadow”, thinking of it as bad and unworthy of you and striving to eliminate it in order to live up to some fake, unrealistic ideal self. Self-honesty is accompanied by compassion for yourself, by acceptance, understanding and kindness towards yourself. Self-criticism is self-demeaning, bringing along a lot of negative self-talk and intolerance for your own weaknesses, vulnerabilities and mistakes. Self-honesty...

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The Drama Triangle – Where We Run When We Hide From Ourselves

Why, when and how we hide from ourselves is a theme that has been on my mind for some time now. And, as it happens more and more often recently, just when I needed to understand more about this, synchronicity brought my way several people who gave me the opportunity to look in a “mirror”, confronting my own truths about running away from myself.  These were either people whom I had met recently or old friends who suddenly started a conversation about their fears of confronting themselves, thus prompting me to reflect on the topic. And since the Universe seems to be giving me so many opportunities to learn more about this, I thought I’d better share my thoughts with you all, just in case you too are preoccupied with this or simply have a valuable perspective on the subject. So…what’s going on with this idea of “hiding from yourself”?  Knowing yourself is a journey that might take you to some really dark and potentially threatening places. What we often do in life is that we tend to avoid going to those places. And we do that by hiding from ourselves. Hiding, denial, or running away seem to be strategies people tend to adopt whenever they are confronted with something that undermines their good opinions about themrselves or threatens to reveal some inner aspect that might render them vulnerable. Decisions such as leaving a job that no longer makes you happy, an abusive boss, an unproductive relationship – all these force you to confront your own fears. What I noticed is that, whenever they reach such crossroads in their lives, people tend to blame outside circumstances for their unhappiness, instead of confronting the truths that lie within. Many of you might have heard about a psychological concept called “The Drama Triangle” , which I also mentioned in a different post. It basically states there are three places where we tend to go when we run away and hide from ourselves – the role of the “persecutor“, the role of...

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What Are Your Values? What Is Your Mission Statement?

Mar 17, 11 What Are Your Values? What Is Your Mission Statement?

Posted by in Mindfulness, Thoughts/Ideas

There is an exercise that we use in life and executive coaching that I’ve always found extremely valuable and think might be worth sharing with you all. Take 10 quiet minutes to think about 3 things: 1. What are you really good at and love to do? List all things that come to mind, anything that you know you are really good at and enjoy doing, hobbies included. If you are a good cook, put that on the list, if you’re a good listener, put that on too. When you run out of ideas, give yourself an extra minute before going to the next topic – that minute might bring on some new insight. 2. Whom do you admire? Make a list of all the people who mean something special to you, whom you admire for one reason or another. They could be family, friends, but also people whom you’ve never met, but still look up to. 3. Why do you admire those people? Try to think of the reasons you admire each person on list number 2. Make a paralel list of the qualities and behaviors you admire in the people you look up to. You should, by now, have three lists in front of you. Take a look at them, try to take a mental step back and see the big picture. Don’t worry if none emerges right away. It will, after you’ve given it enough time and thought. There is always some sort of subtle connection, some theme that unifies all the things you really enjoy doing and are good at, the people you admire and the reasons you admire them. After this inner interogation you should be able to create a short statement that truly represents you and what you stand for and also you should be able to list the things you truly value and that guide your choices in life. You should also understand better why you feel so bad in those moments when circumstances force you to...

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Einstein’s Mad-Men and the Dangerous Trip Down the Decision Pyramid

Einstein reportedly said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. By this definition many of us might qualify as insane in one or another compartment of our lives. So why is it so hard to turn around when we find ourselves on the wrong path in life? This question and the idea for this post came to me from one of my readers, Dana, who wrote in a comment on my previous post on “Authenticity” about the layers of “fears” which prevent us from being ourselves. She said that, like peeling an onion, we must first rid ourselves of these layers and then, step by step, find our own unique voice and identity.  This nice “onion” metaphor made me think of other layers we need to shed in order to find our true selves and gather the courage to turn around when our personal or professional road turns out to be a dead end. Some of you may remember another post I wrote about a month ago on “cognitive dissonance”. I was describing this mechanism that makes us basically lie to ourselves in order to feel better about our “not so right” thoughts or actions. Now I’ll take this idea a step further and tell you the story of how cognitive dissonance may get us trapped in a vicious cycle of bad decisions and turn us into Einstein’s “mad-man”, who keeps on doing the same old thing and hopes, against all odds, that the result will be different. Imagine decision making like a pyramid, where the tip is the initial moment when we make a decision – “although I love painting and I’d really like to make a profession out of it, I’ll follow my parents’ advice and go to Economic School to get a degree, since art isn’t really profitable”. Once we’ve made a decision in discordance with our inner beliefs we’ve taken one step down the pyramid. Cognitive dissonance kicks in...

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