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Learning about what matters to you is key to the decisions you make in your life. Author Jennifer Nash shares how she re-discovered her values during a workshop.
As a successful career professional and a new entrepreneur, Jennifer thought she was content with her life until she realized all that she had sacrificed to get there — friendships, finances, and family.Through the workshop, she learned that being vulnerable and open to change helped her deal with uncertainty better.She shares three activities that helped her learn more about herself — a life-wheel concept, a journey map, and reframing your thinking.
Three exercises to help you get to know yourself better.
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Early this year, I attended a three-week long workshop to help me improve my productivity and wellbeing. Walking into my first session, everything seemed normal. I met 19 other people from across the globe, we introduced ourselves, and then, we were asked to complete a self-reflection exercise. We were each handed a sheet of paper with a circle printed at its center. The circle was divided into eight equal segments: Career. Romance. Health. Family. Relationships. Spirituality. Fun. Finances.
Inside each segment, we were asked to write a number to show how “satisfied” we felt in that area of our lives, with one being very dissatisfied and 10 being very satisfied. I worked through the circle. Four for fun, two for family and one for finances. It had only been a few minutes and I was already having an existential crisis.
I had just started a new business, experienced great success in the corporate world, and was a newly minted PhD from a top research school. But none of that seemed like a big deal when I looked down at my sheet.
“Jennifer?” the facilitator called out. “Would you like to share your results with us?” My face burned. My body shrank down into the chair. Being vulnerable in front of 20 strangers — whom I’d known for less than two hours — felt like stepping into the center of a combat zone.
I am a very private person. In the corporate world, I was vigilant about putting on my game face and not letting coworkers see me sweat. I was still figuring things out as an entrepreneur. One year into my startup, I was struggling to attract the right clients, market my services, find a balance between my work and my personal life, and avoid burnout. My financials didn’t seem to be on track either.
With nowhere to hide, I (reluctantly) began sharing my results. A couple of minutes in, I saw gentle nods from the other group members. It didn’t feel like judgment. It felt like they understood me. I was surprised. Something inside me shifted. I had let my walls down a bit and I felt better. Later in the workshop, I had an epiphany. What if, going forward, I dared to reveal more of the emotional parts of myself that I had so carefully kept locked away?
Throughout the rest of the workshop, there were several other activities, including yoga classes and meditation sessions, that challenged me to reveal my vulnerabilities. Each person in the workshop took away their own golden nuggets. For me, it was realizing that being vulnerable and open to change reduced my desire to control uncertainty and enabled my ability to be in the present moment. For others, it was taking a leap of faith by finally deciding to start their own business, gain a new skill or think differently about safety versus risk.
When I returned back to my life after the workshop, I brought these lessons with me. I began to delegate my workload. I hired a small team to support my business rebranding. When faced with challenges, I reached out to trusted friends, peers, and experts for guidance instead of trying to accomplish everything on my own.
I wish I’d learned this lesson earlier in my career. When you’re just starting out or transitioning to a new organization, it’s hard to make sense of the workplace. It’s not easy to know what you value. I hope this article helps you learn more about yourself, identify where to focus your time and energy, and become the best version of yourself.
During this workshop, three exercises in particular helped me gain clarity and learn more about myself. Now I want to share them with you with the hope that you find them just as useful.
1. Complete a “Life-Wheel”
The wheel concept was originally created by Paul J. Meyer, founder of Success Motivation Institute, Inc. Draw a circle and divide it into eight wedges. Name each wedge for a part of your life, such as work, relationships, health, finances, friends, family, fun, learning, personal growth, etc. Then, for each wedge, draw a line from the center of the circle and mark 10 dots. The innermost dot is 1 (low satisfaction), whereas the outermost dot is 10 (high satisfaction).
Now, for each wedge, highlight a dot to indicate how satisfied you feel about that part of your life. Then, connect the dots across different wedges to create a “spider diagram” that will help you get a sense of where you’re satisfied, where you’re dissatisfied, and which areas need more attention.
For those areas needing more attention, write down three small steps you can take today to start improving those aspects of your life.
2. Create a “Journey Map”
Divide your life into four developmental phases: childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, and present time. Look back at your life and reflect on the most significant events that occurred or decisions you took. It could be anything — starting school in a new city, applying to college, moving out of your parents’ home, voting for the first time or dealing with the death of a loved one.
For each event or decision, include the following seven data points on your map:
Your age at the time of the event or decision The name of the event or decision Why did this event or decision stand out to you? What did you believe to be true about this event or decision at that time? What was the primary emotion you felt about this event or decision? Which emotion do you feel now about the event or decision? What do you believe to be true now about this event or decision?
As you look over your map, what patterns do you notice? Where did you feel the happiest? Where did you feel most fulfilled? Where did you feel most stuck? Which beliefs or behaviors do you need to shift or change to move forward?
Write down three new beliefs or behaviors that will help you move toward your ideal future.
3. Change your thinking
Review your life wheel and your journey map. Notice the words or phrases “can’t,” “don’t,” “won’t,” “couldn’t,” “not __ enough”, or “have to ___.” Some examples are: “I can’t do that,” or “I’m not smart enough,” or “I won’t be successful,” or “I couldn’t be a professional musician because I have to make a living.” Recognize these as limiting beliefs or negative patterns of thinking that you have acquired throughout your life.
Pick a limiting belief that stands out to you or one that occurs most frequently. What benefits has this belief given you? How does it help or hinder you in achieving your ideal wheel shape or future? Determine whether or not you are ready to let it go. If you are ready to let it go, acknowledge the positive benefits it provided you in the past and then release it. For instance, “I need to keep tabs on all my teammates.” While this belief may make you a helpful colleague, it can also translate to micromanagement.
What positive, new beliefs do you want to replace it with? Write them down. Repeat this process for as many limiting beliefs as you’d like to change the programming.
When you gain clarity on who you are, where you want to go, and how you want to show up, you are able to rediscover yourself, let your inner light shine, and reveal your authentic self to the world.