“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”
― Lao Tzu
Throughout history, religious and mystical teachers have emphasized the importance of knowing yourself. They have universally recognized inward inquiry as the path toward wisdom and outward fulfillment.
In the 20th century, psychology ushered in a new arena for this inquiry. Psychology – and its effect on our social consciousness – kick-started the now 10-billion-dollar self-help industry, which provides everything from genius insight and guidance to quackery.
Sadly, the personal development industry often sells ineffective solutions to the human condition. This is because personal development authors and leaders don’t consider the actual mechanism necessary to produce the solution desired. For example, an author or leader might stress the importance of knowing oneself, but fail to realize that most people don’t know what this actually means.
The greatest example of this disconnect is the longstanding insistence that telling one’s story and understanding one’s past is sufficient to create change. This thinking states that someone who told their story and rooted through their past and – yet – things had not changed for them must have some part of them left uncovered.
Jung, whose insights penetrated far past the interpretations of his work, said: “I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”
A camp of psychologists called Behaviorist challenged this insistence. Their work began by extrapolating how to create change based on the behavioral patterns they observed in mice. They focused on changes to behavior in place of changes to understanding.
While the field of psychology learned quite a bit from these differing approaches, I believe they each largely missed the mark in their attempt to help a person thrive within the human condition.
Fulfillment doesn’t simply come when we change our behavior nor does it come when we excessively comb through our past. Rather, it’s the result of the wisdom gained from internal inquiry expressed through our day-to-day experience.
Jesus said, “He who has not known himself does not know anything, but he who has known himself has also know the depth of all.”
Unfortunately, the path to apply this knowledge is nowhere to be found in religious texts. There have been many superficial maps that guide the way to self-knowledge. Most often, these maps are dictates for social conduct. The actual guidance is only spoken about in mystical traditions.
The way I see it, wisdom is the key that opens the door to our selves and self-knowledge. We’re able to create inspired lives that make a difference when we rely on and apply our wisdom.
So, how do we apply our wisdom and access our deep self-knowledge?
I say start with Self-Love! To me, self-love is the total acceptance of ALL of who you are.
Yet – if I had a dime for every time someone asked me: “How can I start loving myself” or “What does self-love even mean?”
If you Google self-love, you’ll get a lot of answers like “do what you love” and “pay it forward.” While these practices help, they generally don’t get us there because they emphasize behavioral shifts alone.
You can read this quote and quite likely it touches you in some way. “You can search through the entire universe for someone more deserving of your love and affection than yourself and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself as much as anyone in the universe deserve your love and affection.” Buddha
You KNOW it’s true. But how do you actually get there?
The mechanism for getting there begins with looking inward – to begin the search for your deeper nature inside yourself. This, however, is only one half of the process. As you look in, you must look outside yourselves and begin to take normal and prescribed action in your world. At this juncture you either gain more wisdom and fulfillment or more pain based on how you apply the information you receive. You can see what happens next as guidance in the direction of your true nature or you can see it as another obstacle.
The truth is: there is no difference between “loving yourself” and “being yourself.”
When we use all of our interactions with the world to guide us in the direction of our true and deep nature and then choose to express our nature to the world, we experience the deepest form of self-love possible.
When we do this with others, it is loving them.
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
― C.G. Jung
When it comes to the “true self”, one fixed point for contemplation is the relationship between your ego your essence. The terms “true self,” “ego,” and “essence” are broad and have many associations attached to them. So, for this week’s newsletter, I’m going to talk about how you can make your ego work for you as a tool to help you fully unearth your true self.
We need to have a working connection with our true self to feel a sense of success and fulfillment. Put another way, it’s only through our connection with our true self that we’re able to feel satisfied by the positive outcomes of our efforts.
Our ego is both an obstacle and an ally. On one hand, if our ego runs a-mock and rules every decision we make, it would be impossible to experience our true self. On the other hand, our ability to fully access and express our true self emerges with the help of our ego.
Personal development work requires that you become aware of your ego and your true self. Further, this work teaches you how to use the many aspects of who you are in a productive way.
There are several common problems that people encounter along their path of personal development. The main problem is that – once we realize that we’ve previously been totally consume by our ego – we forget that we’re actually part of something much greater than ourselves.
As Eva Perakkos says:
If she’s right and we do indeed forget to draw on the infinite richness always ever-present outside ourselves, what can we do to change this? How can we live from our true self more fully? How can we connect to our true self so that we can create richer and fuller lives?
I propose that we look at the ego as if it were a tool. Think of it this way: if I can use a hammer, then it can serve me. If I think I’m a hammer, then I will be used by something else to serve some other end (and most likely hit up against something quite hard in the process.)
The only way that we can stay conscious of our ego is to employ it.
Again Eva Perrakos puts it very well:
Here’s the catch! If you’re not careful, you can easily fall under the spell of your ego and confuse it with your true self.
You can’t get rid of your ego, and you can’t ignore it either. And if you stop using it to help draw out your true self, you’re likely to fall under its illusion.
So. How can you make your ego work for you? Well. You can draw on the will of your ego to focus yourself on removing obstacles to your true self. You can also work on strengthening the lived experience of your true self so that it becomes less and less of a concept and more and more of an indelible part of your every-day experience.
What this means is that you’ve got to train your ego to sense and support the expression of your true self. The truth is that you really can feel into your true self. To do this, you need to use your ego to plug into the wants, needs and full expression of your deeper self and remove the obstacles to it along the way. All the while, keep your eye on your ego so that you do not fall under its spell.
Awareness, of all kinds, is not the end of the road. Rather, it’s part of a cycle. Once we have an awareness we need to learn how to apply it, live it, work with it.
After years of working my tail off, I realized that if I didn’t take care of myself one of two things was going to happen. Either I was going to compromise my health or I was going to compromise my results.
Self care became my battle cry. Over time, I learned the undeniable merits of self-care. I also came to understand that practicing self-care can sometimes be difficult to fit into a busy day-to-day schedule. When I made my practice of self-care a priority, both my health and my ability to get better results increased. This was a win-win for my life.
My strongest suggestion to help you be your personal best is: Self Care, Self Care, Self Care!
Self Care is an investment in your personal resources. Whether the achievement of your goals requires a lot or a little of your resources, you need to take care of your most important tool – your self.
Here is a list of 10 self care techniques you can use to be your personal best.
Give a Damn. Make a Difference.
Dr. Kate Siner
Change can be a great thing. A new routine, or a new perspective, can really revitalize your life and sense of well-being. But what about the times when change presents a challenge? How can you build up your energy and joy when changes in your life leave you feeling drained?
For this week’s newsletter, I’m going to talk about how you can bolster your happiness in your everyday life. Because, the truth is that when you’re connected to your sense of joy, you’re better equipped to work with change when it comes your way.
We all too often forget that happiness takes practice. The good news is that small things can make a big impact on your sense of well-being.
Here are 5 small things you can do to cultivate happiness in your day-to-day life, no matter what comes your way.
1. Start Positive
2. Look for It
3. Get Clear On What Makes You Happy
4. Say “Thank You”
5. Slow Down
Life is always a mix of things. No matter how bad a day seems, there’s always something in it that’s positive. Use the list above to help you focus in on the good that’s present in life’s simple, daily events. These simple things can add up quick and drastically increase your happiness.
In our culture, we have access to so much that we often lose sight of how luck we really are. We sacrifice our joy and we obscure our enjoyment along our quest to do or have more. We amass culture and commodities, yet, we have no time and sometimes no ability to appreciate them.
There are things that we can do to change this and these things are simpler than you’d expect.
1. Slooooow Things Down
2. Pay Attention to What You Really Love
3. Recognize that Trade-Offs Aren’t Such a Bad Thing
It’s easy to feel disempowered when reading the news, driving down the street, or simply moving through life. We read about the recent terrorist attack in Paris. We get stuck in traffic next to a driver who yells profanely at the person who cut him off. We find out that a family member became sick. And we slowly emotionally withdraw from the world around us.
Throughout our lives, we experience so many negative things that it can seem impossible that our actions could make a positive difference or have a lasting impact on this ever-changing world. We ask ourselves: how can one person change the world – how can I stop hatred, face adversity, and create social equity? When we don’t come up with an answer, we resign ourselves to the “fact” of negativity. We stop ourselves from seeking solution.
The hard truth is, though, that apathy is noxious. Giving up in the face of adversity leaves us feeling like a half a person.
Yet – as many brilliant leaders have shown us – you can’t fight your way to a better world. When we use anger and angst to resolve a problem we only create a new problem or compound the old one.
We need different tools to create the change we desire. These tools are love, truth and compassion. They make up a set of holistic and healing approaches to adversity that transforms the world around us. The best part is that these tools have always been with us.
I believe that the entire world benefits when you choose to build your life with these tools. Bringing love, compassion and truth to each situation you face takes practice, though. And this is why I developed my LifeWork Virtual Program – which offers weekly practices that help you cultivate awareness and develop skills that make your life easier and more rewarding.
These practices are instrumental in creating positive change in the world around us. For this week’s article, I’m going to talk about three of these practices today.
“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” Buddha
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” Jesus Christ
“No man is a true believer unless he desireth for his brother that which he desireth for himself.” Muhammad
While none of these skills are easy, they are all quite simple and in the reach of every single one of us all the time. We don’t need to start a movement or become a politician to have an impact. We only need to focus on being a better person and sharing this with the world.
I will leave you with this quote from Rumi. “Listen with the ears of tolerance. See through the eyes of compassion. Speak with the Language of love.”
When life’s choices and challenges come our way, we easily get distracted and stop pursuing our goals. When we do this, we lose our mojo and feel purposeless or disenchanted with life.
I’ve talked about how clarity around your vision, mission, and values helps you identify what you want to do and why you want to do it. And I’ve talked about how setting goals and reframing obstacles are essential practices for creating a meaningful life. Yet, today, I’d like to look at this another way.
While personal development tools are vital to transforming life challenges into meaning-making experiences, when you think of yourself as your “personal brand” you’re able to make better decisions and make your challenges more fruitful.
Establishing a Personal Brand
There’s a lot of talk about “personal brand” in business. “Personal brand” refers to the practice of marketing yourself, your career, and your history as a brand. It’s often used as a method to increase your hire-ability or to grow your business. However, it’s as important to consider our “personal brand” for our private lives as well. In truth – if I had it my way, there would be a lot more similarity and synergy between people’s work life and their personal life.
You’re able to make choices, transform obstacles and create a sense of purpose when you have a clear sense of who you are and what you can and can’t do. This is not to pidgeon-hole you into a fixed personality or role. Rather, when you know who you are and what you can do, you’re able to use that information to guide you towards the achievement of your goals.
I would like you to ask yourself the following questions. These are taken from Tom Collinger’s presentation on branding for leaders. I highly suggest spending some time with each one and write down your answers. Consider these questions from as many angles as you can think of: personal, emotional, relational, work, and more.
What are you good at?
What are you not good at?
What do you like?
What do you not like?
These very simple questions begin to show you dimensions of who you are. They also give you crucial input on what you contribute to the world around you and what you need to feel fulfilled. So, for example, if ¾ of your life is taken up by things that you don’t like – even if you’re good at doing them – you will not be very happy.
Things that you’re not good at can be things you avoid doing or things you know you need to get help with. They can also be things that you need to practice and get better at.
The most important thing these questions point to is your skill-set. When you have a strong sense about what you’re able to do, you can begin to build out your value. If you’ve ever suffered from not liking yourself, critical thinking, or worrying about the future, then chances are you’d benefit from knowing your value.
When we know our value we’re able to adeptly work with whatever life throws our way. We feel more confident and more prepared. We make decisions that work for us and therefore feel better about our lives. We know where we “fit” in the scheme of things and can enjoy a sense of significance.
Day-in and day-out, I talk to people who want to find their life purpose.
I make a point to pay close attention to what my clients, associates and colleagues say as they describe the purpose-driven life they seek to live. As I see it, my job is not simply to respond to what I hear, but rather to figure out how I can help those around me get what they really need to feel happier, healthier and more successful.
When people talk about finding their purpose they often also talk about identifying their passion. They want to have a sense of meaning in their life. They want to make a contribution.
I plan to get into great detail on what life purpose is REALLY all about and how to FULLY LIVE a purpose-driven life in my upcoming Morning Mindset series. So, if you’re in the midst of finding your life purpose, this series is for you! Feel free to sign up here and I will contact you as soon as it’s ready to go!
5 Myths About Life Purpose That It’s Time To Let Go Of
Myth #1 Your Life Purpose is Your Vocation
Solution #1: Ask yourself: “Am I trying to trying to figure out my life purpose or my next career move?” Allow yourself the space to see your life purpose and your career as separate things.
Myth #2 Your Life Purpose Can Only Be One Thing
Solution #2 Don’t try and narrow things down too soon. Ask yourself why an idea appeals to you rather than if it’s the right idea or not.
Myth #3 You Must Find Your Life Purpose Before You Start Living It
Solution #3 Do what you love to do. Discover more things you love to do. And make time to reflect.
Myth #4 Only a Fortunate Few Live Their Life Purpose
Solution #4 Figure out what you care most about, what you love most to do, and what you value the most and proceed from there.
Myth #5 You Should Be Able to Figure It Out On Your Own
Solution #5 Find the support you need! Sometimes you need outside eyes to see to help you see within yourself.
So, if you’ve been coming up empty as you look for your life purpose, it’s time to de-mystify your thinking and try on these solutions. Most important, though, is to start with what you LOVE.
Recently, I was asked in an interview: do you have any advice for people who struggle with fear?
The interviewer pointed out that everyone struggles with fear as they move towards what they really want.
And I have to agree. Whether it’s a fear that stops us in our tracks or a low-level feeling of anxiety, our ability to deal with fear can make or break us.
So, for this week’s article I’d like to start a conversation about what fear is. At it’s most basic level, fear is a biological response. When we feel afraid, certain chemicals flood our brain and, in turn, motivate our behavior. When we’re able to understand our fear at a cellular and bodily level, we’re better equipped to manage it’s effect on our everyday lives.
If you struggle with fear, I highly recommend that you check the book, Rewire Your Anxious Brain. It’s one of the resources I used for this newsletter.
How You Can Break the Spell of Fear
Let’s be clear here – fear is a response to an actual threat. Anxiety is a response to an assumed or possible threat. So, check in with your feelings. If you’re truly afraid, listen to your body. Maybe you’re headed in the wrong direction or maybe you need to take extra measures to protect yourself. If you’re anxious, this is a different story.
Skills that help us deal with anxiety most often effect the frontal cortex of our brains. This is important. When we change the way we think about a given situation, we can feel more confident and less fearful. Recently, neuroscientists have concluded that the amygdala – an almond sized part of our brain involved with our experience of our emotions – plays a vital role in the way we respond to our environment. And because of this, new approaches to working with fear are emerging.
The amygdala causes a very quick physical response to certain stimuli. It drives you to be hyper-attentive to your surroundings and provokes a fearful response when it sees a potential threat. This has a powerful effect on our feelings of anxiety. Yet, it should be noted that the amygdala has helped us survive throughout time by attuning us to potential danger.
However, the amygdala can sometimes produce unwanted symptoms. The most noticeable of these being panic attacks. The chemicals released by the amygdala influence the way our brain works. When your amygdala is hyper-active, you may experience a feeling of chronic anxiety and changes to the way you think.
So, if you’re feeling stuck and unable to move forward in your life or business, if you find all sorts of reasons not to do things you know you should do, if you overwork yourself to the point of ineffectiveness, or if your avoid important steps forward, you’d benefit from cultivating a greater understanding of how your body’s response to anxiety might stymie your efforts towards success.
There are two main components to clearing up this primal fight, flight or freeze response. The first is learning to relax the body and the second is building new neural pathways around certain stimuli.
Relaxation can take the form of deep breathing and meditation. This is best done on a daily basis. Research has shown that a meditation practice of 15 minutes a day can provide quick, measurable and positive change for those suffering with anxiety. When you learn to relax the body and quiet your mind, you’re able to reverse the effects of an activated amygdala. This process supports our efforts to change our thinking when we’re triggered by things that happen in our personal or professional lives.
Building new neural pathways can include efforts to eliminate established pathways that lead to anxious thinking, to train the body to have a different response when exposed to a triggering stimulus, and to create a positive connection to a trigger rather than a negative one.
Eliminating the connection between a trigger and an emotional reaction is the purpose of therapies such as EMDR and EFT. Both therapeutic modes work to create new associations in the brain. To do this, a therapist will ask a patient to recall something that triggers them. Then the therapist provides the patient with an alternate stimulus to break the connection between that stimulus and the anxiety response.
Peter Levine is responsible for much innovation and growth in our understanding about how anxiety can be treated somatically. Levine believes that traumas are locked in the body and may not be available to the conscious mind. This means that the process to free ourselves from anxiety begins when we recognize where we’re holding our traumas and assist the body to release them.
Positive associations to triggering stimuli can be made through guided imagery, imagination, and real time exposure to triggers with a deliberate focus on a positive outcome. Because it takes time to develop new neural pathways, the more ways that we can approach a trigger and build new connections the better.
I leave you with a parting thought about anxiety. The most important thing you can do to help yourself overcome anxiety is to deeply care for and affirm all of who you are. The act of doing this doesn’t just change the brain and alter the chemicals in your system that allow you to feel better and less anxious. Self-care and self-affirmation supports the essence of who you are. And this makes you stronger and more resilient in all aspects of your life.
This week I made the bold move to move to a country farmhouse outside of Providence. This has been part of my plans for the last 10 years and is the first of many steps forward. I always knew that when my son went off to college I’d decide what I’d do next.
Yet, this is easier said than done.
My life is changing in major ways now that it’s no longer organized around raising my son. I’m responsible only for myself for the first time in years. At times, this has left me feeling like I’m 20 years old and trying to figure out what I want from my life all over again.
Rather than coming up with a concrete plan, I’ve decided to explore different options and leave the door open to opportunities that feel right to me. I have no idea if I’ll spend my next 10 years on a farm or if I’ll quickly recognize my move as vestiges of a long-past dream.
One thing is for sure, though: open space and nature connects me to my spirituality and ultimately awakens my best self. So, one way or another, I’ll build the natural world into my plan.
Reconnect With Your Spiritual Self
There are times in our lives where the spiritual aspect of our experience moves to the side-line. And, for some of us, spirituality may not be part of our lives at all.
There are many reasons why this happens.
For some people, the religion they subscribed to ceased to make sense to them. In the process of putting down their religion they put down their spirituality as well. Many people who do this cannot see how spirituality and religion can exist separately.
For others, the day-to-day is so overwhelming that there is little room to attend to the spiritual aspects of their lives. As Maslow clearly outlined: we cannot begin to address our higher needs until we address our base needs for food, shelter, and water.
Some people have never had a connection to the spiritual. They were raised in an environment that did not honor the spiritual and so they did not learn how to connect with their internal sense of spirituality.
Spirituality means many things to many people. Some people might associate it with a magical feeling, others a state of inner calm, and others a sense of being connected. Personally, I define it as the knowledge that there is a consciousness to all things.
People often tap into their spirituality when in a specific state, such as how they feel after meditation, yoga or a sermon. They link their spiritual experience to an event and then seek that event with a measure of satisfaction. Yet, spirituality is not so much a goal as it is a process.
With this in mind, it becomes easier to reconnect with our spirituality in an everyday way, especially if we feel we’ve lost touch with it.
Let go of what doesn’t work so you can let in what does work
You’ve got something to learn from the disconnect
Hit the pause button
Remember, spirituality is a process and it doesn’t come with dogma. So, open up, explore and find your own pathways to your spiritual connection.