Vulnerability is the key to connection and growth, so here comes a random confession: The first self-determined, intentional decision I remember making free of anyone else’s influence was at the spry age of 35 when I decided to go back to grad school and to shift careers from technical writing to coaching, leadership, and organization development. Up to that point I had allowed people in my life of varying importance to influence almost all my decisions to a certain extent. The result: I arrived at my mid-30s feeling like my life wasn’t really my life. I had ultimately handed over responsibility for the direction of my life to others by being agreeable, flexible, indecisive, and unclear.
In movie terms, I became Julia Roberts’ character Maggie in the movie Runaway Bride, relatively clueless to who I was as an individual under my own influence. A serial monogamist, Maggie morphs her personality to take on the behaviors, hobbies, habits, and tastes of her current beau…right down to the way she takes her eggs, which changes with each relationship. Thus, the eggs became the metaphor for Maggie’s self-discovery of who she is apart from an ‘other’.
So what? Big deal? Lots of people are perfectly happy living life being influenced here and there to like or do this and that by so and so. True enough. If that’s you, go forth and prosper. If, however, like me, this realization leaves you unsettled, here’s five reasons why it’s time to ask yourself “How do I like my eggs?”
- Discovery of individual identity, purpose, goals, and fulfillment
This is the “take charge” factor that differentiates those who intentionally and thoughtfully engage with their life (those who crack the eggs and cook them up as they like) from those who allow life to happen to them (those who accept what is served up). The pivotal question here is, Who are you under your own influence?
- Increased emotional intelligence
With increased self-knowledge, we’re less likely to get hooked by emotionally charged events because we don’t see them as threatening. If we do get hooked, emotional intelligence helps us to not indulge or repress the emotion, but rather to recognize it, name it, and learn from it but not allow it to control our response. Thus, increased emotional intelligence feels like an increased sense of control (of oneself).
- Stronger resilience and stress management
Self-knowledge brings the added bonus of learning and an opportunity to change unhelpful reactions to helpful responses over time. This type of resilience is vital to effective stress management. Increased resilience (and emotional intelligence) helps you avoid being blind sided (either by emotion, events, or reactions), allows you to bounce back quickly from adverse events, and – more importantly – helps you learn to recognize and avoid those events before they happen.
- Healthy Relationships
When I have good self-knowledge, I make the decision to own my happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment; I am less likely to look to others to do for me what I should rightfully do for myself. It helps avoid over- and under-performing, codependence, frustration, and resentment in relationships. I’ve written more in depth on the Two-Become-One relationship myth in a previous post.
- Increased opportunity and willingness to intelligently risk
When you have a sense of who you are , right-fit opportunity becomes easier to spot and wrong-fit opportunity easier to avoid. That said, self-knowledge coupled with personal accountability leads to self-trust, which increases how much risk one is willing to take. In the face of ambiguous opportunity ( which appears as risk because it’s unknown, uncertain, and undefinable), self- trust means I trust my ability to handle what may come.
Actionable, cultivated self-knowledge goes beyond soft-boiled topics (favorite foods and colors, style choices, and even goals) to hard-boiled topics and questions whose answers require patience, humility, understanding, and focus:
- Personal values
- Emotional triggers
- When are you at your best? At your worst?
- What are your strengths? What are your areas of challenge?
- How do you behave during conflict?
- How do you sabotage yourself?
- How do you communicate? How don’t you communicate?
Portia Nelson captured all of these elements and more in her poem, Autobiography in five chapters . I hope you find it as clear and meaningful as I do. Can you recognize what chapter of life you’re on?
The self-learning process is all about recognizing where you, your relationships, and your life are both congruent and incongruent and focusing on behaviors and actions that bring all factors into alignment. This doesn’t mean that with self-knowledge everything is perfect, all figured out, or finalized. We’re human after all! It does mean, however, that you’re in your life with eyes wide open, actively committed and engaged in owning who you are, what you do, and how you show up and participate.
For now, my only rhetorical question to you is, “How do you like your eggs?”
Want to discover how you can cultivate yourself self and your relationships by getting clear on your thinking, values, beliefs, and goals so that you can commit to meaningful actions that move you toward where and who you want to be? Well, you’re in the right place because as a coach, that’s what I do!
Visit my Let’s Get Started page to learn more about coaching and schedule our first session together.
Not sure if coaching is right for you? I understand. Coaching represents a significant commitment of time and resources. It is important to me that you have all the information you need to make the best decision for yourself. I invite you to read about My Coaching Approach and to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have.
I look forward to hearing from you!