It’s November which means that my birthday is coming up and I’m starting to think about who I am, where I’ve been and where I want to go to. Over my career in the Air Force I was often reminded that one of the most important things we need to know about leadership is knowing ourselves. This is often easier said than done. Sometimes we get caught up in the idea of who others want us to be or who we feel we should be instead of getting to know who we really are as individuals.
Knowing ourselves isn’t just something we do once in our lives when we’re young and then leave it at that. As we get older we learn and grow. Our priorities change and shift over time. That doesn’t mean that we are abandoning our values or what we believe in. It’s just a natural part of life that comes with experience. Because of this, we need to recognize that there is no finish line that we cross at some point where we “know ourselves.” Every so often we should engage in some self-reflection to stay connected with ourselves as a whole and complete person.
Knowing Ourselves – November Challenge
That’s what November’s Leadership Challenge is all about. We’re going to ask you to reconnect with yourself and dig into a few questions to really get to know you. To get started, find a quiet place where you can be alone without any distractions or influence from anyone else. This should also be a place where you feel comfortable being yourself. if you feel like the expectations of others at work or at home might impact the outcome of this exercise, maybe find a place outside where you can be comfortable with your thoughts. For this exercise we’re going to ask you to answer three big questions about yourself.
Knowing Ourselves – Who Am I?
The first question I’d like you to think about is “Who Am I?” People have been asking themselves this question since the beginning of time. It’s not an easy one to answer, but here are some smaller questions to get you started. What do I like about myself? What am I really great at? What are the areas I would like to improve for myself, not for others? When I think of my highest self, what am I like? Write the answers to these questions down in your leader’s journal.
Knowing Ourselves – What Do I Believe?
Human beings have asked for millennia “What do I believe in?” This is a question that only you can answer for yourself. Despite the expectations of others, your beliefs are your own. While others can influence what we think we believe, we often know when an idea doesn’t align with our own core beliefs. Ignoring this misalignment can often cause conflict within ourselves and with others.
This is another huge concept. Ask yourself these questions to get started. How do I view the world and my relationship with it? Do I see it as mostly a good place, a bad place, or a neutral place? How do I fit in with my family, my friends and my community? How do I approach my interactions with those people and the universe? What values or beliefs come to mind as I think about how I fulfill my role? How do I want to represent myself to others and the universe? Make sure you capture these beliefs in your journal as well.
Knowing Ourselves – What Do I Want?
Our last question is a little more tangible and easier to answer. “What do I want?” Although your answer may be different after going through the first two questions than if we had asked you this one first. So what is it that you want? Are you looking for a fulfilling career? Do you want a caring and supportive family? Maybe you want to be active in your community or a leader in your industry? Do you want to start your own business and take an entrepreneurial journey? Is there a cause or group of people you’d really like to help? Are there parts of the world that you want to see in your lifetime?
Don’t think of these in terms of setting goals and building action steps to get there, just think of them as things that you would like to do just because you want to. Write all of this down in your journal and think about how all three of these questions help you get an idea of who you are as a human being.
Knowing Ourselves – Going Forward
There are no wrong answers to any of these questions as long as we’re honest with ourselves when we’re answering them. This is pretty deep stuff and sometimes it’s hard for us to face up to it when we first think about it. If you find that you’re not really able to answer these questions right away, don’t worry about it. Put it aside and come back to it later. As I mentioned, these are ideas that we all have to come back to now and then so it’s okay if you didn’t answer all of life’s questions in this one exercise. What’s important to take home from this is that we should make some time to connect with ourselves and understand who we truly are as individuals without the pressure and noise of the expectations of others.