A few days ago, I met up with a friend who I had not seen for over 10 years, and after finding out that I am now coaching, he asked me what was the biggest insight I gained since I started coaching.
For all you coaches out there, you can imagine how I struggled with this question, for as coaches, our coachees often serve as our biggest sources of learning, and I struggled to choose just one. But I then decided to connect my answer with the common thread I find with everyone I coach, a desire to lead a fulfilling life. Yes, this may mean different things to different people, but after 400 hours of coaching, I found an interesting pattern. Contrary to popular belief, the most fulfilled people do not have perfect lives, no one does. All of them practice some or all of these:
1. They have clarity on who they are: their strengths and values
"To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom."
For most of us, our values remain subconscious, but once we bring them into consciousness or are aware of them, they can serve as an internal navigation system or compass. This not only helps us better understand why we react to certain situations and people in certain ways but also why we also drawn to some people and activities.
It can serve as an external navigation system, supporting us in decision making, deciding what we say YES to and also what we say NO to. For when we live our lives in alignment with what is important to us, it not only adds meaning and purpose but also leaves us feeling more fulfilled.
Its also surprising how many of us are either unaware of our strengths or actually know them but do not use them enough. Over time, I have noticed how those who are aware of their unique strengths and actively seek out opportunities, tasks or roles where they get to use them more, not only helps them feel more fulfilled but also helps them nurture healthier self-esteems. This does not mean that they stop developing themselves or stop developing new strengths and skills. On the contrary, they use their strengths to achieve this.
2. They live their lives in alignment with what is important to them
"To be yourself in a world that is constantly try to change you is the greatest achievement."
When people seek out coaching, its often because they are not content with their current state and want support in reaching their ideal state.
What is most interesting is that once they have identified their values and strengths, most realize that the gap between the two has more to do with the mismatch between what their values are or what is important to them and how they are actually living their lives.
3. They define their own vision of success, not that defined by society
"True morality consists not in following the beaten track but in finding out the true path for ourselves and fearlessly following."
After the seeing the mismatch between what is important to them and how they are living their lives, a picture starts emerging of how their definition of success was not defined by them (even though many believed it was) and more defined by well meaning others. Which is understandable, for if you do not have clarity of WHO you are and WHAT is important to you, its easier to follow the pack rather than define this yourself. It also explains why so many who appear to have perfect lives in the eyes of others, are still unfulfilled as they have created the perfect life for others but not actually for themselves.
4. They have a healthy self esteem
To be human is to be imperfect and to appreciate all the beauty thus brings with it.
Defining your own vision of success and living this, especially if it goes against the norm, can be challenging if you are struggling to believe in yourself. But once individuals understand that no one is perfect, accept and acknowledge their strengths along with their weaknesses, and their sense of self-worth comes from within and is not dependent on the perception of others, this gives them the freedom they need to allow their internal navigation system to drive the direction of their lives.
5. They practice gratitude
Our lives become a manifestation of that which we CHOOSE to focus on.
As a society, we have continuously progressed over time because of our desire to continuously learn and develop and to seek out and solve problems. Being problem solvers is an integral part of who we are and something we should continue doing. The risk of not balancing this off however with gratitude and acknowledgement for what we have and are right now, is that, with time it can also affect our perseverance and resilience.
Gratitude supports leading a fulfilled life by:
· allowing us to bounce back easier from setbacks
· helps us focus on that in our lives which actually serves us and is important to us
· acts as an internal compass to remind us of who we truly are
· reminds us that life was never meant to be perfect and many of the setbacks we have experienced may have served as the greatest sources of our growth and development
6. They focus on that which is within their power to change and change it which is empowering and helps them move forward.
“You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
We all experience challenges in life and venting is an important part of releasing it. However, sometimes individuals become so engrossed in the venting process of placing blame and focus on others and things out of their control, that they become fixated on issues they cannot change or control and become stuck in this vicious cycle.
Individuals however who are able to break out of this cycle do so because they have come to understand and realize that the only thing they can control is themselves. They let go of trying to control others for people can only change themselves. Once realizing this, they shift their focus into solution-oriented mode and start deciding not only WHAT they can change but also IF it is worth changing (is it worth their effort based on what is important to them). Once they do this and start taking active steps to improve a situation, and irrespective of the outcome, they feel empowered and fulfilled. For it is often our desire to feel like we can control some things in a world where there is so little that we can control that feels empowering.
7. They are continuously learning and developing themselves through reflection.
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
I have always believed that our purpose as a humanity is to continuously learn, grow, evolve and develop ourselves to raise our consciousness. To what avail, I cannot explain as I have definitely not reached a state of evolution to be able to answer such a big question.
The smartest people I know also happen to be the humblest. They are truth seekers who care more about what is right rather than who is right. And I am in constant awe not only of their open mindedness but their ability to admit they were wrong when presented with evidence showing otherwise.
Their learning's come not from simply experiencing things but rather from reflecting upon experiences for this is how we truly learn. And with each new learning from reflection, these truth seekers are not only raising their consciousness but are finding fulfillment from moving away from living a life in robotic automatic mode to living a life that is aligned to WHO they truly are.
In so doing, they help others simply by role modeling that which they believe in, and when others see this and the impact and benefits thereof, this in turn nurtures their self reflection and awareness which in turn leads to them making changes in their lives. These individuals are thereby having a positive impact on the world by continuously learning and simply BEING.
8. They practice empathy
Understanding that you do not have a monopoly on truth opens the door to empathy and inner peace.
Often one of the greatest sources of our lack of inner peace comes from seeing the world in a particular way and failing to understand why others do not see it the same way we do. But once we understand that how each human being views the world is unique to them and based on their own individual beliefs, values and assumptions which in turn is influenced by their personal experiences and cultures, something incredible happens. We start understanding where they are coming from and why they feel the way the do. Sometimes this can be used to build bridges, sometimes we have empathy but still choose to part ways. This is also okay. But what this does to us is that with understanding through empathy, we in turn gain inner peace
Every individual I know who has gone on this journey will agree that it is a process and a continuous journey that never ends. I hope, if nothing else, that this serves as a source of self-reflection and self-awareness so that you can start taking the very FIRST STEPS in your journey towards a fulfilling life.
That which we see in others is often a reflection of what we see in ourselves. We all want to have a positive impact in the world. But could it be that the simple act of learning to know and love yourself could have a ripple effect and the possibility of creating an impact far beyond that which you imagined? The kinder we are to ourselves, the easier it becomes to empathize and care for others. The more we accept ourselves, the less we judge others. The more we accept our uniqueness, the easier it becomes to accept the uniqueness and difference in others.