In her best-selling book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Hay House author Bronnie Ware says the number one regret reported by those she attended as a hospice nurse is, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Why are we so reluctant to allow ourselves to be who we fully came here to be? It seems foolhardy to try to be anyone else—clearly we’re not equipped to succeed.
When coaching clients who say they long to live more authentically, I start by helping them affirm that they have the necessary permission, passion and power to manifest their purpose. Like life in general, the process is not linear. We work all four elements (permission, passion, power and purpose) iteratively in whatever order the client has energy for them. Often, if they can identify and release their passion and power, their purpose begins to emerge. Bolstered by that increased clarity and confidence, they feel able to grant themselves the permission to pursue the authentic life they dream of.
Here are six great exercises for identifying your own natural talents and passions. Do whichever ones pique your curiosity.
- List all the things you object to in your current life and brainstorm the opportunities revealed by those objections.
- List the top 10 things you love about your current life and the top 10 things you detest about it.
- List what attracts you to your current life and what you find yourself resisting.
- List what you’re really good at and what you consider yourself horrible at.
- List what you love about yourself and which of your attributes/habits most frustrate you (and everyone around you).
- List the kinds of projects/activities you adore and those you abhor.
Explore the results of the different exercises to identify patterns which point to conclusions concerning your greatest natural talents and passions. Then brainstorm how your particular talents and passions might be combined into ways you could fulfill your purpose. Here are three great questions to help unleash any remaining blocks:
- What would you dare to do with your life if you knew you couldn’t fail?
- What would you love to do with your life if you knew you could make a living at it?
- What would you do with your life if you didn’t need to make any money doing it?
- What would you start doing with your life tomorrow if you didn’t care what anyone else thought?
If you’ve identified your purpose and you know you have the passion and power to manifest it, but you still won’t let yourself do so, consider whether there’s someone in your life that might feel threatened or reject you if you live your authentic purpose. This is one of the most common barriers people have to letting themselves be who they are at their core. They are afraid they will experience rejection and abandonment by those they love if they are true to themselves. Now ask yourself, when you’re on your deathbed, whether you’ll be glad you lived a lackluster life to maintain the good opinion and company of someone who doesn’t respect you enough to let you be you. If you finally have the guts to say “enough already” by vacating the stressful space that insecure person is taking up in your life, who knows what truly loyal compatriot you might finally make room for!
The second big barrier is fear of failure. But here’s the thing with being stopped by that fear. If you don’t try, you definitely won’t succeed. If you give it your best shot, you’ve got a greater chance of success than if you continue to hide your light under a bushel. And, if the first approaches don’t work, maybe, like Edison, the Wright brothers and so many other famous inventors (who failed many times before succeeding), your seeming breakdowns will point the way to your unique, one-in-a-million, breakthrough solution.
Once you’ve given yourself permission, identified your passions and embraced your power to pursue your purpose, what about a plan for manifestation? If you’ve been following my posts for any period of time, you’ll know by now that I’m a huge fan of simple plans consisting of myriad baby steps toward interim, no-excuses possible, minimalist goals. How and why could such minimal goals ever work? Isn’t bigger always better? Not necessarily.
Substantive, sustainable improvement of any sort is usually grounded in incremental improvement, not rapid leaps and bounds. Celebrate every step forward, no matter how small. If you exceed your no-excuses goal, that will result in even greater celebration. Force and extreme deprivation are not necessary. Excessive goals result in disenchantment, illness, injury and burnout. Easy goals lead to easy success that fuels lasting motivation for a lifetime of even greater success.
Commit to one small baby step that will move you closer to the life you dream of. Letting any shifts be as organic as possible is key to substantive, lasting transformation. Appreciate any progress—no amount is too inconsequential to celebrate. Each step forward is an important opportunity to stop, consider what you’ve learned, examine your new tools, realize your new strengths, and embrace with gratitude the joy that will take you to the next step. Celebrating each success is key to fostering the constructive core energy that will keep moving you forward. Noticing and demonstrating love, respect, curiosity, compassion, and gratitude for any resistance to change is as important to moving forward as celebrating your successes.
Your greatest fulfillment in life will come from living your authentic life. In every situation, love yourself enough to pay attention to every aspect of your life. Respect everything you are experiencing—what you are thinking, feeling, deciding, saying, and doing. Determine whether the energy underneath is love or fear. If it’s love, you are probably on your authentic path. If it’s fear, demonstrate compassion for yourself. Foster gratitude by reminding yourself that everything is an opportunity. Then further neutralize the fear by bringing curiosity to bear. Explore every aspect of the situation, especially your internal landscape, and identify all of the opportunities available to you through this unique experience. As with any new skill, practice will help this way of being become a healthy new habit—your automatic response to every situation.
In summary, figure out what you want, understand whether it’s fueled by fear, transform any fear into love, set your intention, take a baby step, and celebrate each success with a grateful heart.
One of the greatest gifts I can give anyone is having the honesty and courage to see and share myself fully so that we both might benefit from our shared insight, compassion, and good humor—failures, resilience, victories. We are here to help each other grow by sharing without reservation the only thing we have to give—our authentic selves.
In the immortal words of Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself—everyone else is already taken!”