I think one of the greatest acts of courage a person can demonstrate is to be themselves. Resisting the forces at work that attempt to make you into something you're not is exhausting and draining.
That’s why forging the habit of self-discovery is a discipline every great leader has to learn to master. Knowing who you are determines how far you go with your influence. I think the opposite is true as well. The less you know about yourself the less influence you can have. The ability to read the room and your place in it critical. That's why the greatest habit a young leader can learn is the habit of self-discovery.
Adam Braun, founder of the innovative nonprofit Pencils of Promise, says “[Your] self-discovery begins where your comfort zone ends.” It's not easy, you just have to be vulnerable, you need to be honest and have honest people surrounding you.
For the new, young Christian, the younger you are the harder it is to know who you really are because you haven’t had enough experiences, enough trials, enough pleasures to know what you like and what you don’t like. But don't let that discourage you. You still have history, past moments, passions, taste and relationships in your life that speak to who you are and what you're about.
How do you learn who you are? Here some fast points to get you thinking:
1. Get Rid Of The Other ME’s
As you’re discovering yourself you will discover there are a few “me’s” you have to avoid:
The ME I don’t want to be. This "me" is shows up in bitterness, unforgiveness, etc.
The ME I pretend to be. This "me" shows up in insecurity, vanity, dishonesty, etc
The ME others want me to be. This "me shows up in people-pleasing performance, perfectionism, etc
There is a ME that God wants you to be. That is the true you. Recognize the voices of these other "me's" and simple get rid of them. Like assassins they will do everything in their power to sabotage your true identity so take them out first.
Henri Nouwen writes, “Spiritual greatness has nothing to do with being greater than others. I has everything to do with being as great as each of us can be.
2. Be yourself more often
Stay true to who you are. Secure and self-aware leaders exude confidence and give confidence to others. In a changing world, the habit of self-discovery is critical for the stability of your career, your relationships and your organization. So if your relationships, environments, title or job changes...you don't. You stay true to who Gid has called you to be. It’s not about what you do but who you are. Which means your identity precedes your activity. Human being first then human doing.
3. A better “me” is a better “we"
Great leadership starts with self-leadership, which means you know yourself. This is paramount. “Who am I?” is the foundation to “How do I ___________?” Everyone wants to be great. But few are willing to put in the hard work to get there. You can’t take people to where you’ve never been so you’ve got to push yourself to get to where you want to go first. When you discipline yourself and create habits to advance yourself, you have pioneered a trail that others will follow. Essentially proving the point that a better “me” is a better “we." Your self-leadership will always benefit those around you so lead yourself well.
4. Know who you’re not
The best thing that you can do is invite honest feedback into your life. Who has that permission to be honest with you, your career, your personality and your future? We all know that girl on American Idol who was told “fulfill your dreams” and “you have an angel’s voice” only to have J-LO and leaving Seacrest to clean up the mess. Don’t be that kind of voice to those around you…you are not avoiding a conflict but promoting a bad future for those in your life who need that honest feedback.
Enlist a team of people around you to be honest with you and that you can be vulnerable with. Do this regularly and ask them what you’re NOT good at. It’s hard to receive criticism. I know. But think of it less as criticizing you and more of creating you…into a better person. Teachability is a trait that is hard to master as a young leader so be intentional with others and cultivate a posture of teachability with others. Give those you trust in you life permission to be honest with you and watch your gifts be brought to the surface.
5. Take a Test.
Self-discovery tests are great tools to help identify who you are and what you're good at. It doesn’t matter if you prefer StrengthsFinder, Myers-Briggs, DISC, or any other reputable one. Pick one or two and get started. get started. Know very clearly your areas of strength. Thick of these tests as excavation tools. They are unearthing what is already there. They will highlight areas, give you language and
Once you have a few results in hand, review them next to each other and look for words, phrases and patterns that come to the surface. This removes the emotion out of it. A printout can’t “hurt you feelings” but will still be honest with your identity, gifts, and passions. And keep doing it every few years to to see how your gifts and passions have changed.
6. Schedule regular get-aways. You need to put into your calendar times to "work in" your calling and "work on" your calling. Basically, you have to pull out of the hustle and allow yourself time to work on yourself as a leader so that you can get back to working on your projects.
Book appointments with people you trust that you have given permission to speak into your life. Run your current schedule, projects and life by these people. They will give you insight as to what you need to work on.
These must be personal retreats where you focus on reflection and introspection. Go alone to a quiet place if possible and unplug from your phone, e-mail, and social media as much as possible. Be intentional about answering specific questions about who you are and how you’ve changed since the last time you did this.
Self-leadership is a constant process. Self-awareness is the evolution of self-leadership. Knowing who you are means leading yourself first and leading yourself well...it starts with you.
7. Keep Learning Because Self-discovery is not a one-hit-wonder.
Self-discovery is about excavation and not production. Producing who i am for others comes from outside pressures. You mold yourself for the expectations of others. Excavating who I am comes from the inside. It’s already there and is embedded into my personality, etc. It’s about unearthing who I am and what I’m meant to do. Once you feel you have discovered your identity, you’ve probably changed. So self-discovery is not a one-time perception but a lifetime of excavation.
Schedule identity-discovering exercises into the rhythms of your life. If you aren’t intentional about identity, you’ll ignore it because YOU are too important to be too busy to be overlooked or ignored!
What practices do you have that you could add?