23. Awareness of Yourself – How To Show Up
Let’s look at your life job description as a person, as a parent, as a professional, and as a creature of God. It’s what you’re put on this earth to do. Your life job description applies to all five areas of your life: professional, financial, personal, family & friends, and spiritual.
To help you begin to think in terms of your specific abilities, let’s start with a homework assignment. This exercise will help you gain a broader picture of your patterns and put them in perspective. From the ten Families, list those abilities that best and most truly describe you. List them on a sheet of paper: Nurturer, Refiner, Olympian, etc. Now answer these questions: How do these abilities positively impact your business and life? How does each negatively impact your business and life? Your answers to these questions can generate perspective and awareness because you know your life and yourself better than anyone else.
Examples of positive impact: Because I’m a Refiner, I’m always improving on what I offer my clients. Because I’m a Nurturer, I comfort and encourage my family when they’re hurting or discouraged. Because I’m an Olympian, I keep going until I succeed. As a Scholar, when I’m given a project, I gladly do the background research and make sure I understand it thoroughly. My Engineer ability helps me set up the systems that make my office run smoothly.
Examples of negative impact: Because of my Nurturer ability, sometimes I take on the needs of friends unwisely and set myself up to be disappointed when they don’t reciprocate. Because of my Refiner ability, I can be overly critical of my children. As an Olympian, I volunteer to take on so many challenges that I don’t get the rest I need. As a Scholar, I get lost in the process of learning and do not get my work done. As an Engineer, I sometimes resist changes that would be beneficial.
People usually don’t see the pattern of how they bless others. They more naturally see the pattern of their pain, the negative impact. As a Nurturer, I realize that I have created co-dependent relationships time and time again in which I have set others up to disappoint me because I didn’t articulate my needs. I don’t normally think about myself as warm and friendly or see that people like me because I’m a helper.
I firmly believe that once you become aware you can never regress.
Themes and Physics. Here we’re not talking about managing your abilities, but simply becoming aware of what your themes and physics are.
Your Themes are what you’re designed to gift others with personally and professionally as a parent, spouse, teacher, and as a contributing member of society. They’re the core function of each ability. Together, your Themes make up your life job description.
Appropriately, what you gift others with is also what you need back from others to rejuvenate you, to enthuse you.
Your Physics refers to the interaction of your attributes with each other. And actually, physics is the science that deals with matter and energy and how they interact. For you to have the success and significance you’re designed for, you must obey the laws of physics. Your dominoes have to be lined up properly for the chain-reaction tumble to work. If you’re an Aesthetic who is also Analytical and has a Structural attribute…you need to create a safe place so you can find clarity so you can create the structure you need to take action. Without safety as the first domino, none of the other dominoes are triggered. Without the second domino, clarity, movement stops because structure can’t be designed properly. As a result, the other dominoes won’t fall correctly, and the big finish never happens.
Awareness of your physics is important…to figure out where you’re stuck and how to get unstuck. Why am I paralyzed? How am I frustrated? Where does my rage come from? Focusing on where your frustration, depression or anger originates permits you to become aware of what’s not falling into place.
For example, if you spend a great deal of time thinking about things, but don’t feel safe to move forward or safe in a relationship, an essential ingredient to creating movement is missing. Consequently, there will be little or no movement…and certainly no optimal movement.
Refueling your tank. This is about the importance of play.I often tell people who are Ethical or Relational, “I’d hate for you to love me the way you love yourself because you put yourself last, you disappear, you become invisible.” In talking with many people, one problem consistently puzzled me: Why are people so remiss at taking care of themselves, rewarding themselves, or ensuring an environment that nourishes their enthusiasm? Many of these same people are confident and competent in most areas of their lives. So why are they terribly inept at enjoying a significant life? Over time, I began to realize that your adult self supervises your work. Your child self supervises your play.
Before the age of seven, children reason with emotion, not logic. They readily believe authority figures and can embrace false concepts. As adults, we continue to believe that many emotional rationalizations are logical. In fact, we believe they’re logical to the point that we don’t stop to ask, “Is it logical? Where did it come from?”
I’ve come to realize that, regardless of age or status, there’s a quiet vulnerability within each of us. That is our inner child.
In the dialogue between the adult self and the inner child, the adult must supervise the child to assure that the child gets enough play, rest and reward. Seven-year-olds are emotionally volatile. They can be afraid, hurt, sad, pouting, angry, acting out, or violent. Most of all, they need to be parented.
Discussing the inner child, a friend said, “So, it needs to grow up!” But the childlike part of you is wonderful, and it would be a great loss if it were to grow up. Your inner child is not intended to grow up. All your life, it remains an important part of who you are. Your adult self can be irritated because the child in you has needs…it’s vulnerable, insecure or slows down the adult’s momentum. To create movement, your child within has to be addressed. You can negotiate when to play.
Start with the simple. Master what is childlike in you and negotiate with that. Don’t try forcing it to grow up. Don’t censor it or tell it to be seen and not heard. Negotiate with your child self: We’ll celebrate when we accomplish this goal. When we move forward in this area, we’ll take a day off. When we finish our phone calls, we’ll go out to dinner.
By celebrating accomplishments, big and small, you create small islands of remembrance, little acknowledgments of positive experiences. If the adult part completely dominates to the exclusion of the inner child, I promise you that burnout either has occurred or will occur. It is the child at play in you that rejuvenates you, that refuels your enthusiasm.
Your child within helps you remember who you are, how to play, how to sit on your Creator’s lap and snuggle up. If you don’t embrace the seven year old in you, and negotiate with that child to allay fears, sadness, anger or resentment, you will not derive the enthusiasm to counteract the burnout that your adult faces on an ongoing basis. Each of us needs to have our gas tank refilled. Your inner child is in charge of putting the nozzle into the tank and filling you up. It’s okay if your child self doesn’t have finesse about playing your way to success and significance. What’s unacceptable is your adult self not guiding your inner child to become competent and confident. That’s an important key to playing, accomplishing, achieving, rejuvenating and recharging.
A well-known author and speaker works out of his home. He has a recess bell that reminds him, his wife and children that they need to take breaks. He has successfully negotiated with himself by implementing that childhood practice. For recess, he takes an afternoon siesta or plays with his children or jumps in the pool. The bell is to remind them of enjoyment, slower rhythms, and playful times. After recess, they go back to doing what they do, refreshed, building their confidence and competence. The recess bell is a clever and very powerful device. Everyone needs recess. After all, Newton discovered the profound in the simple. According to legend, it hit him on the head in the form of an apple. The concept of gravity came to him while tapping into his childlike nature, as he rested and rejuvenated under an apple tree. When was the last time you sat under a tree like a child?
Why is the entertainment industry so prevalent in today’s culture? Movies, music, television, video games and computers fill our lives. Multimedia has become the modern recess bell. It allows us to stop what we’re doing, create space, play, be amused, be entertained, and be engaged. Although I have a busy schedule, I always make time for my movie club because it transports me from my daily life, takes me to another place, and lets me experience a fantasy. It engages my mind in a way that is new, different and refreshing. If my nose is held to the grindstone of work without respite, I forget the enjoyment of it, lose my sense of humor and become less effective.
However, we cannot remain at recess all the time. Our lives would unravel. In brief bursts, it revives us, allowing us to return to our work with new energy. When your recess bell rings, what do you do? Do you ignore the bell and keep working?
The right fuel. The more energy you use, the more often you need to refuel. And you need quality fuel. Junk fuel allows you to get by while you keep promising yourself you’ll rest, stop and play whenever there is a natural break. Or it can be the roller coaster experience. I know someone who goes into semi-retirement whenever he amasses some money. Not a safe environment to build on! It creates pressure, mostly negative, because of credit card debt and poor financial management.
When searching for the tangible and intangible rewards that fuel you, remember that your rewards are specific and unique to your design. A reward for one person may be toxic for another. What’s fun for someone can be oppressive for someone else. You need to engage in play that truly nurtures your soul on a regular basis. For me, it’s a movie club. For someone else, it could be sketching under a tree. For the Introspective person or the nature lover, it might be going to the mountains to experience fresh snow falling. It invigorates and rejuvenates and gives you the intangible fuel to power your significance. We each must figure out the types of play that re-energize us best.
In the book, Winning with Integrity – Getting What You Want Without Selling Your Soul, Leigh Steinberg writes, “This is a book about the process of negotiation – which means that this is a book about life.” To me, this includes negotiating with yourself on an ongoing basis. In my life, stress means instability. When I am feeling stress and out of balance, I insulate myself with sweets. Ultimately, if I don’t negotiate with myself, I then insulate with fat to avoid the feeling of free-falling or imbalance. Proper high-octane fuel for me is proteins, grains, fruits and vegetables, and the right sweets at the right time…all proactively chosen by me. Stability in my bank account, relationships, home, and business also fuels me.
Concerning your reward system, sometimes you need to stretch a little. My wife and I both like stability in our world. However, we could easily end up in a cocoon-like environment if we abandoned ourselves to it. We’d lose the creativity and growth essential for our significance. When we thought about it, we realized a lot of our friends were either Expeditious or Rapid. In a sense, our friends kidnap us from ourselves. They plan parties, dinners, movies, game nights and vacation cruises; they remind us to play in a different way. Joan and I don’t plan our play, but we have cultivated relationships that help us structure our play. For example, a group of us now hold season tickets to the local theatre.
As an adult, I value my themes, but begrudge what it takes to make them function well. It’s part of the physics. To whom much is given, much is required. It’s hard to be you if you don’t create an environment for your own humanity…if you don’t create the greenhouse to grow the orchid that’s you.
As I meet successful people, I inevitably find that there is a playful quality in them. The busy president of a large company makes sure he takes the time to play golf, do game nights with his family, and take several vacations a year. He’s learned that part of his movement involves serious growth, getting results and new experiences…but it also involves play, relaxation and engaging his competitive drive in a fun way. Another successful businessman runs marathons to rejuvenate. He experiences the joy of movement as he competes in races around the country. Another couple likes to take bicycle trips through France. The heavier the responsibilities and the greater the achievements, the more they need to play…and refuel.
Consider the Child in Others. There are times when you’re not having a conversation with the person you think you are…your boyfriend, spouse, boss or colleague. You think you’re conversing with the adult part of them, but sometimes it’s the child in them that’s expressing their need.
I know a couple who work together running a highly successful company. The wife is dynamic, but she is almost always out of breath. There are so many shoulds in her life and too many pressure points. She reminds me of the Alice in Wonderland rabbit who ran around muttering, “I’m late, I’m late for a very important date.” When I was consulting with both of them about their relationship on and off the job, I told her I wished her peace of mind. Our conversation stopped, and the husband said, “That’s uncanny because for years it is the same thing that I have wished the most for her.”
She never evidenced peace of mind because her adult self never had a conversation with her inner child about creating peace of mind. I encouraged him to find a picture of his wife when she was seven years old and tape it to the dashboard of his car. The photo would remind him of her inner child with whom he sometimes must deal. He has a conversation with that child when she is feeling overwhelmed, insecure, judged and criticized for not getting all her chores done…for not being the perfect little girl she thought she should be.
You can’t reason with the childlike part of yourself or the child in someone else. You have to determine the emotional need, hurt, or want and allay it. Address that frustration or need. Allow for space, synergy, safety, and nurture to surround that child. The child can then feel safe to negotiate work and play. No matter who it is, despite age or position or accomplishments, you may be talking with the frustrated child within…the hurt child, the ignored child or the child who locks himself in a cupboard because that person has too many serious, heavy things to do.
The Needs of the Child. The Chart 3 in the Appendix is constructed to help you to identify the childlike needs of yourself and others.
How to start moving. Movement gives us experiences and knowledge which in turn gift us with competence and confidence. Movement also gifts us with sensuous experiences, islands of remembrance, and clarity. It activates the fuel for our enthusiasm and reward system.
We all have a gatekeeper, an internal censor. It can stem from past negative nurture or from one of our abilities that has gone out of control. Your gatekeeper can undermine, stifle or paralyze you. Virtually all toxic people have become stuck in one or several areas of their life. Their Integrity attribute steals their joy. Or their excellence attribute is never satisfied. Their Aesthetic attribute may be too injured to dare or care. The Specific attribute can be overwhelmed and frozen, like a deer in the headlights. For some, permitting one or more abilities to take over or seize up has become a habit. This is the nucleus of toxic cancer. How we handle our wayward abilities determines our success, significance, creativity and growth…or our atrophy, resentment, depression, and anger.
Many times, people aren’t aware of their own responsibility for staying stuck because they see a parent, institution, or spouse as the cause. Although other people may play a part, the most important role is yours. Questions to ask yourself are: Am I damning myself, and if so, how? Am I giving away my power, and if so, how? Am I over-owning guilt, and if so, how? The reasons your gatekeeper detains and censors you can be varied; the point is that you’ve given it the power to steal your joy and your significance. You have to learn to negotiate with yourself about any abilities that are out of control and shutting you down.
I hold onto a vivid image from the church in which I grew up. It was a fifty-foot-tall mosaic of Mary with incredible sapphire-blue eyes and with rays of light streaming from her hands. She was standing on the world with her right foot on an open Bible and her left foot on the head of a hissing snake. I was struck by the contrast of her beautiful serenity with the threatening presence of the snake underfoot. For most of us, the hissing snake is the beguiler of Adam and Eve. The serpent’s tactics remain the same, to subtly raise doubt by challenging our trust in the truth and undermining our value as humans. His subversive questions to us make for self-doubt: Are you sureyou’re a good mother? Are you sure you have any value? Are you sure you make a difference? Why can’t you be like your brother? Why are you so sensitive? Can’t you toughen up? Mary revealed an unspoken strength in the presence of the undermining snake. Like Mary, we all must stand up to a hissing snake in our lives. We need to remind ourselves of the truth about us and not heed disguised lies that undermine our growth and joy.
Alicia, who has attended our seminars for years, is a professional victim. She constantly comes to me in tears; there is always something wrong, something that is too much for her. The last time we spoke, she was furious with her husband. He’s the cause of her unhappiness. He’s the reason they’re not moving and growing and becoming stable. During a goal-writing session at the seminar, she was sobbing in the back of the room. The cause of her rage and tears surprised me. It was her husband. Although he had come to the retreat with her, he spent most of his time hanging out in the hotel room. During the goal-writing session, her husband had left and gone back to their room. She was furious with him for not writing his goals.
I gently confronted her. “Isn’t it interesting that you’re upset with him for not writing goals to the point that you’re not writing your own goals?” I told her she was giving her power over to someone else, censoring herself, and deflecting her anger onto that person, rather than focusing on the part she played in this dysfunctional dance. I said, “Go back in and write a goal. If your husband catches up, that’s great. If he gets left behind, that’s his choice.” Her tears stopped.
We can choose to get in the way of our own movement and blame others for sabotaging us. Alternatively, we can opt to get out of our own way and not permit others to sabotage us as we move forward.
Every relationship is a dance…with clients, colleagues, spouse, siblings, and even with yourself. You need to talk about the choreography with your dance partner. If you plan to waltz and your partner is ready to tango, there may be a coordination problem facing you.
When you’re having conversations with yourself, with others and with your Creator, it’s important to know you’re in a dance. The movement of the dance requires finesse, awareness and coordination: you’re watching your step, trying not to step on toes or trip, attempting to move smoothly across the floor. As they dance, literally or figuratively, many people lose themselves and don’t pick up the signals. The dance requires you to be present, flexible, aware of who you are, and aware of your partner.
With practice, we become fluid in our moves. We know when to dip, when to pick up the pace, when to slow down. In the same way, we can learn to be present, to move, and to continuously inventory our environment, our relationships and what role we play in those relationships. If the dance or relationship is uncoordinated, awkward or painful, it is a sign that something is wrong.
Some of you continue to experience the long-term effects of negative nurture you received as a child. The insidious effects of this are demonstrated by the following true story.
I consult with an exceptionally bright woman who has overcome dyslexia to become a dynamic communicator and teacher. She also has the Integrity ability, Justice. When she was in second grade, her teacher told her that she was stupid. Because she looked up to the teacher as an authority figure, she allowed that statement to sink in and affect how she saw herself. Consequently, this brilliant woman developed a pattern of arguing about anything and everything to demonstrate her verbal and intellectual superiority. Even when she completely agreed with another person, the seven-year-old in her demanded to argue the point…to demonstrate that she was engaged and intellectually able. It was an unconscious attempt to justify herself, a reaction to the old tape playing in her head. In her work environment, her argumentativeness made her appear to be a nay-sayer or resistant to leadership.
As a Justice and an Olympian, she’s naturally designed to gift others with values, principals and convictions and she’s naturally determined and tenacious. However, she had a hard time trusting the praise of others when they told her she was intelligent. She abandoned herself to using her intellect and verbal skills for repartee, instead of managing and using them appropriately. The child inside her continued to try to prove to her second grade teacher that she was smart, that she was a good girl, that she was worthy of approval.
After she became aware that she had surrendered her power to this authority figure, she was able to utilize her Olympian attribute to take her power back. The regaining of power solidified her true sense of self. She learned to bite her tongue when she was tempted to argue. Because she’s learned how to manage this ability appropriately, her opinions and advice are sought by many. She’s been able to focus her energy in more productive ways and to create increasing reciprocity, perspective, nurture, and integrity in her life.
The good news is that your design does not change. The better news is that you can change how you manage it, and this can dramatically impact your effectiveness and level of satisfaction with your life. My goal is to help you achieve this as we discuss in greater depth how to manage your abilities.