During the last three years, I feel I have grown substantially as a leader and a person.
I was anxious about coming back to the firehouse after being assigned to headquarters for five years. After my divorce, my professional and personal life imploded. I was a hot mess and found myself in dark places where at times, I even considered ending my life. Two things kept me going; my little man and a voice inside my head kept telling me I have more to offer this world.
My mission was to get to know who I was as a person. This mission terrified me, but I needed to make a change in my life. I was ready to be brutally honest with myself and get down to my roots. There would be no blame; I was on a journey of accountability and discovery.
No longer was I going to let an angry former spouse or co-workers, who knew nothing about me, define me.
The thought of suicide was at my rock bottom, and I now had a solid foundation to build my life. Not to mention my adorable little man who needed me. So I took a deep breath, and I got to work on myself.
I started seeing a psychologist before I decided to leave my unhealthy marriage. She is an amazing doctor who helped start to put things in perspective for me. I continued to see her for a couple of years. On a side note, anyone who doesn’t think that sitting with a professional to empty your cup and get tools to deal with life. Email me, and we can talk.
Rock bottom was the perfect place for me to start because I was scared, and my feelings were raw. Fear, loneliness, shame, guilt, and sadness had all become roommates in my head. I knew the road ahead of me was tough, but I was determined to be better.
Here are the first three steps I did to get to know me.
Step 1: Strengths
Focusing on the positive is important when getting to know yourself. We often sit and start the squirrel cage spinning about what we need to improve about ourselves. Instead of spending your energy working on your weaknesses, focus on your strengths.
I stumbled upon a book called Strengths Finder. I bought the book, took the online assessment, and then received the results in the email. After I received the results with my top five strengths, I reviewed them in the book. The book StrengthsFinder 2.0 is a great place to start.
The whole process didn’t take very long, and the results were not shocking and what I appreciated about reading my strengths was the insight into each one. The book also told me the people with strengths I needed to match up to make me more successful.
Another step I took was to ask my friends, family, co-workers, and supervisors to select the top five strengths to describe me from a long list of strengths. The top five varied, but there was a theme, so I ranked the top five most popular from everyone.
Step 2: Be Honest
One of my all-time favorite movies is the Runaway Bride. The movie is fabulous for so many reasons;
- It pairs Julie Roberts and Richard Gere for the first time since Pretty Woman (another all-time favorite).
- A classic 90’s chick flick (RIP Garry Marshall)
- Maggie Carpenter (Julie’s character) is relatable.
- Who doesn’t love a feel-good chick flick?
If you haven’t watched the movie, for some reason, the cliff notes are: Maggie keeps leaving her finances at the altar. Ike (Gere’s character) is a journalist who gets fired by his ex-wife for being a chauvinist. Ike decides to do a story on Maggie and falls in love with her. Maggie then falls for Ike, but they have troubles along the way, and you will have to watch the movie to see how it ends.
My point to all of this is a scene in the movie where Ike calls Maggie out, for now, knowing how she likes her eggs and not being honest with herself. Maggie then gets defensive and calls Ike out for his issues. Here is the scene.
This scene had an impact on me because I felt I was Maggie! In my relationships, I became a chameleon to whomever I was dating; I went all in. I have been elk hunting, backpacking, fly fishing, golfing, snowboarding, and even tried gaming. While I have learned to love some of the above activities, the only reason I initially tried them was that it was the hobby of the guy I was with at the time, and I wanted him to like me.
“Just be yourself. Be honest, work towards a goal, and you’ll achieve it.” Emraan Hashmi
I spent a good chunk of my 20’s and 30’s not knowing what I like because I was so concerned about pleasing who I was with at the moment. No wonder these relationships never lasted; I wasn’t genuine to myself.
To be the best version of a leader, friend, lover, and parent, you need to know who you are, and that requires you to be brutally honest with yourself. I didn’t enjoy Elk hunting for one second. Hiking in the cold dark woods with a high-powered rifle strapped to my back was awful. And sitting in complete silence dressed like a tree for hours is not for me. I am fairly confident I wouldn’t be able to kill the elk or drag it out of the woods. And a quick note, I am not against hunting; I love elk meat. The hobby isn’t for me.
My suggestion is that you take a hot bath, turn on some music, pour a glass of wine, or make yourself some tea and write down what makes you happy. What do you love? How do you like your eggs? What makes you happy? BE HONEST. Don’t worry about what anyone else may think; this is your list.
After your happy list, make yourself a list of what you know you don’t like. Salmon? Mayo? Raw Onions? Classical Music? Please write it down.
Step 3: Vision
You know what your strengths are, and you have been honest with yourself about what you like. Now it’s time to envision what you want your life to look like moving forward. In my previous post, Three Steps to take when Preparing to Trim a Tree describes visualization power.
The bottom line is that you need to have a vision for your life moving forward. Having a vision is powerful. And what is amazing is that once you focus on your vision, the universe begins to align.
Toni Collette said, “the better you know yourself, the better your relationship with the rest of the world.”
So give yourself grace. Taking the time to get to know who you are and what you want to do with the rest of your life is a process. Stay committed to the process, work on your strengths, be honest with yourself, and have a vision for the direction you want to head. These are the building blocks for the next assignment.