This post is the first in a four part series that frames The Fulfilled Purpose process.
3 Exercises to Begin Uncovering Who You Were Meant to Be
Figuring out who you are is a lifelong process. We change over time and learn from new experiences, new relationships, and evolving life events. But figuring out who you are today doesn’t have to take a lifetime. Actually, it can be as easy as practicing 3 simple exercises.
Throughout the course of my professional career, I have gravitated towards positions and roles that have allowed me to practice my natural abilities and skills, and tap into the life events I’ve experienced. But I often found myself asking questions like:
“Who am I really?”,
“Why are things so difficult?”
and “Is it 5 o’clock yet?”
It wasn’t until I went through a period of deep self discovery that I understood why.
What I discovered was that I felt most connected and engaged with my work was when I’ve had roles such as “consultant’ and “advisor”, or served as “mentor” and “leader”. These titles, and their associated responsibilities, fit perfectly into the story arc of my life. Not because I forced them to fit, but because it was born out of the self discovery process and tapping into my experiences.
The process of discovering your passion can be as simple as following 3 exercises:
1.Life-Lining Your Story
The first step, and where I start with my clients, is to go through a Life Line exercise.
Draw a line horizontally through a sheet of paper. On the left side of the line write the word born, on the right the word today. Somewhere above the word “born” write “+10”, and an equal distance below write “-10”.
Throughout the course of our lives, we have significant experiences that shape who we are. These are the events that truly matter to us and help to form our worldview, our outlook, and our personalities. Across this line, I want you to mark off those experiences that mark a point in your life, both high points (+10 ) and low points (-10). It may be your earliest memory, meeting your best friend, loss of a loved one, or any thing that comes to mind.
Once you’ve charted the points across the line, I want you to connect the dots and note the more significant points in your life. Anything above +5 or below a -5. As you do this, think about why they were significant. How did you feel when you went through these experiences? Who were you with? How old were you? What was happening in your life around that time? What was the weather like? Seriously, try to get back to that moment and really feel what it was like to be there. It may stir up some emotions, and if it does that’s a good thing because we’ll use that in a later step of the Fulfilled Purpose Process.
2. Rewriting Your Beliefs
By now, you should see a pattern form in the previous exercise. Within that line exists our origin story, and tapping into that story can help us identify cognitive distortions in our thinking.
Cognitive distortions are ways of thinking and acting that aren’t necessarily true. These types of thinking can lead us to believe certain things about ourselves or events in out lives that hinder or hold us back from bigger and better things. A few examples of cognitive distortions are overgeneralization, catastrophizing, and emotional reasoning.
Let me give you an example of emotional reasoning. Until I went through this process myself, I had a disconnect between my handwriting and my ability to communicate through writing . I’ve always had really sloppy handwriting. Seriously, it’s bad. I can’t read it myself sometimes. In the first grade, I was placed in a special group to practice my writing. Deep in the recesses of my mind, and I really held onto this until recently, I equated my handwriting skills to my ability to write. I held back the desire to communicate through the written word because of that “extra practice” I was asked to do at the age of 7. For 30 or so years I didn’t fulfill what I knew was in me because of it. And it wasn’t until I overcame this disconnect that I was able to start moving on the path of my calling.
So, looking at your life line, what stands out to you? Some of the points on the line are very likely valid, but are there others that have formed a belief about yourself that may not be true? Where are the cognitive distortions that have shaped what you believe to be true?
3. Unpacking Your Past
Now that you’ve identified the key moments and events in your life, and identified areas that may not line up with what they actually meant, we’ll move on to the third step in this process.
Learning from mistakes is undoubtedly helpful. However, I think when we look at our life line and search out our passions, focusing on the low points of our lives may not be very helpful at all. Instead, let’s look at the high points and examine the events that became truly formative and understand how they play into discovering your passions.
When I was 3 years old, I remember sitting on the floor of my Grandmother’s den with my father and uncles watching the 1980 Winter Olympics Miracle on Ice men’s hockey semifinal game. If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s possibly one of the greatest events of our time where a ragtag group of American born collegiate hockey players defeated the global powerhouse Russian Olympic hockey team by a score of 3-2. The atmosphere in that room was palpable, as we all clung to the small screen watching the impossible happen. The excitement and pride broadcast from Lake Placid NY spilled over into everyone watching that day. The significance of that game not only left an impact on the geopolitical outcomes that began the end of The Cold War, but left a mark on my life as well.
So is it any wonder, that I decided to play hockey from the following year to this day? And that the experiences of my hockey career, the lessons I’ve learned on the ice, in the locker room, the off seasons, the hotel rooms across the Northeastern US and Canada, have created a passion in me to now coach youth hockey and share that excitement and those lessons with a new generation? And ultimately has led to the desire to coach individuals to greater achievement, with more clarity, direction and purpose?
Making it Stick
Looking back at my own life, and having followed this process myself, I can see how these events have shaped who I am and how my experiences form my passions. They give birth to the things that we grow to love and want to spend more of our time doing.
When you look at your life line, what are those milestone experiences that created your passion? Where are the moments that opened your world to exploration, not only of hobbies and pastimes, but of the path that’s led you to where you are today?
In the next installment, we’ll use what you learned from these 3 simple exercises walk through the process of applying your newly discovered passions to Defining Your Mission, which will help you better understand how to use your passion to create more meaning in your life.
What passions did you discover or rediscover about yourself?
Answer in the comment section below!