Growing Our Human Potential

An Introspective Journey – Our Identity, Part 2

So, how did you do so far? Learn anything? If so, I would love to hear from you. Okay, let’s continue…

what I thinkThough often difficult, force-ranking can help explain why certain changes impact us more than others because it allows us to understand what we think is most important. This exercise can be transcribed to nearly all aspects of our life and guide us to more easily prioritize our activities, values and life as a whole.

When I did this activity, the response I ranked with a one was, “I am growing to become a happier and healthier person.” Further down my list was the response, “I am a facilitator.” Ranking such responses in order of importance showed me that I valued growing as a person more than being a facilitator. This did not mean that being a facilitator was unimportant, just that it was less important than my growth.

Gaining this insight helped me understand the struggle I had been having with my job. If I had completed this exercise a couple years earlier, I most likely would have ranked my job as a facilitator close to the top. At the time, it represented something that was important to me, which was strongly influenced by what many others had expressed to me regarding the value of having a good job with a big company. Personal growth more than likely would not have even made my list. Now, not only was it on my list, but it was what I had ranked most important. This discrepancy caused inner turmoil, but it helped me realize that my failed relationship had not only impacted my primary relationship but everything about my life. This change was so transformational that it was causing me to re-examine my entire life!

two facesAnother reason for the difficulty in prioritizing our responses is the internal struggle we can have in choosing what we truly believe to be most important compared to what we are led to believe should be most important, largely based on what society and those whom opinions and beliefs we tend to respect have told us. This idea was exemplified when some participants volunteered to share their responses. One participant in particular reacted strongly when a woman declared that her “I am an individual” response was more important than her “I am a mother” response. “How could you say you are more important than your family?” the off ended participant asked. The woman revealed that she was losing her identity as a mother and was trying to discover more about herself, which she considered more important at the time. “How can I be there for my family if I cannot be there for myself first?” she replied. While we may know what is right for us, or what we need to value most in our lives at a particular time, others often have different opinions and are readily forthcoming with them. In this instance, I reminded everyone that the activity was personal, a reflection on where we were at that moment in time, and that there were no right or wrong responses.

Our society plays a strong role in influencing the development of our personal ethics, values and priorities. Determining what is most important to us can be a difficult process, one that involves our awareness of various factors—our family, friends, heritage and society—that may influence our decisions. Learning how to detach ourselves from these factors is crucial in being able to objectively determine what is important to us. Consider what factors influenced your choices in prioritizing your responses. Try setting these factors aside and repeat the prioritizing of your responses, noting any differences.

I believe inWe can use the ranked responses to consider why certain changes affect us the way they do. The more value we place on an aspect of our identity, the more likely it is that a change affecting that aspect will be highly impactful. For those who held their job in the highest regard, the decisions being made at our company were of considerably high impact. Others, who ranked their job relatively low on their priority list, still felt deeply affected by the changes because they threatened things they considered very important that were related to their jobs, while not being their jobs specifically. They realized the changes would affect their ability to support their family, for example, which was very high on their priority list.

The exercise helped everyone, including the participants who neither ranked their jobs as a top priority, nor felt losing their jobs would affect other related things like supporting a family, in that it gave them perspective on how a change that only minimally affected them could dramatically affect their peers.

Step 3: Being aware of what we place a high value on can help us determine the level of impact a certain change will have. During a period of change, it is important to recognize what is in our control and what is not. For this step, place your responses into one of the three categories, as introduced in Richard Leider’s book, The Power of Purpose:

  1. Having: The state of experiencing the perceived benefits of money, security, status and other materialistic and tangible things.
  1. Doing: Activity that stems from the day-to-day flow of events and demands. It is how we spend our time working towards achieving goals and making things happen for ourselves and others, and includes the roles we play such as spouse, parent and manager.
  1. Being: The basic experience of being alive and whole. It is the experience we have when we are “living our values,” and when we are on auto-pilot because of our commitment to a purpose. It is the experience we have during deep prayer or meditation, the experience of being clear in the mind at being at ease. It is the experience of being fully awake and conscious, of choosing a definite approach to our lives and acting on our approach on a daily basis.

Review each of your responses and label them according to Leider’s descriptions. Once you have completed that, reflect on how many of your responses fell into each category, specifically looking at the “having” and “doing” categories. It is common to find that many of our responses belong in these two categories, which makes sense if we consider our responses when asked to tell about ourselves and who we are. We generally describe our job, where we live, if we are married or have kids, and what our hobbies are. Until we take time for self-discovery, we do not tend to look deeply within ourselves to understand our true values, purpose and guiding principles. Only through self-discovery are we able to reply to the question of who we are with more of our “being” traits than our “having” or “doing” traits.

Dealing with change often comes with the realization that everything we are with respect to our “having” and “doing” aspects is really out of our control and subject to change. Even if we place high importance on such aspects of our life, such as a job or relationship, such things can vanish without our influence or force. Our spouse can decide to leave or the company hampered by an injury. Our car may be stolen or our child may be killed in war. The only things we really have control over are our attitudes, beliefs, values and choices—things that comprise our being.

Authentic SelfI hope that this activity helped you to consider what you question what you believe is most important to you. With this understanding we can then relate this to our life and consider the question, am I being my authentic self and doing what I believe in and stand for? We are all limited to some degree by our current circumstances, roles and responsibilities, but are we finding ways to be who we truly are in what we do, how we are, and what we focus on. Only you know this answer for yourself!

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