It’s amazing how much time we spend on the outside looking in.
What if we flipped the lens?
Think about it . . . even the most well-intentioned personal development efforts measure where you’ll be against where you’ve been, aligning strategic actions to promote smooth and uninterrupted progress along a predetermined path.
External controls internal, convincing you to pursue what society has portrayed as a rich and purposeful life. Developing new skills and abilities is embraced as a process of “making you” happy and successful.
Now, imagine a view of personal development from the inside looking out.
Progress in pursuit of unlimited potential would move beyond the scope of measurement, part of an amazing learning journey with no foreseeable destination. Internal influences external, aligning inherent desire with instinctive ability.
Developing this natural acumen is championed within a simplified, universal understanding:
Everything you need, you are today.
Looking For Proof
Call it what works best for you: destiny, divine inspiration, the Creator’s ultimate blueprint, etc.
The importance is in knowing that you have been provided everything you need, from birth, to experience the life you want to live.
This includes an inner creativity, a childlike innocence that lives in the moment and inspires us to be who we want to be and do what we love to do.
Looking for proof?
Think back to how easy it was for us to play as children.
We weren’t painting to win a contest; we were painting because we felt happy. Sometimes that happiness was expressed while painting on the wall in the hallway that leads to the kitchen . . . we’re not here to judge.
But the same goes for running in circles, singing, dancing, riding a bike, or even building a tent out of blankets around the swing set.
We were living each moment and experiencing a life of joy through expression.
That’s who we are and what we’re capable of achieving, even today.
Flipping The Lens
Remaining connected to this creative spirit becomes increasingly difficult as the noise from external influences becomes louder and louder.
Changing how we approach personal development, flipping the lens to view life from the inside looking out, is a great first step.
That’s not to say it’s an easy step.
Overcoming years of subjectivity related to the perspectives, opinions, beliefs, and desires of others will demand resilience, diligence, perseverance . . . and several other twenty-five cent words that all point to a bumpy ride.
But what would you give for a chance to pursue something you are inherently passionate about, that makes you happy, and brings you joy each day?
Your answer, as well as your starting point, will be unique. These three flips will guide you along the way:
Flip #1: No Regrets, Only Experiences
Depending on where you are in life, it can be easy to fall into the trap of saying, “It’s too late”, or “I can’t believe I’ve wasted my time.”
Don’t do it . . . there are no regrets, only life experiences that mark avenues of curiosity you’ve explored. Each experience is a moment in time along a timeless continuum, providing you valuable insight into where you’ll turn next.
Believe me . . . I know. My trail of career experiences leaves most people asking, “What the?!”
This includes my father, a retired career Marine, who just the other day reverted to, “You know, if you hadn’t left the Coast Guard, you’d be a . . .”
I think we’re up to a 12 Star Admiral in his mind by now.
Mine is a deeply intrepid spirit. Even as an 11-year-old, I would walk out the back door in the morning, and explore the Arizona desert until dinner, at times wandering as far as two miles from home.
There was always something new to discover, a fresh and exciting experience to tell a story about.
That spirit has guided my career choices, each representing a curious new challenge and contributing to an overall understanding of life from multiple perspectives.
Those perspectives chronicle where I’ve been and unlock the potential for my writing and speaking to relate across multiple and diverse walks of life.
This begs the question:
Had I not traveled the path I chose, and instead pursued writing and speaking from the very beginning, would I still be as happy today?
The answer is yes . . . and no.
Yes, because I derive great joy from both writing and speaking; they are my chosen means of expression.
No, in that my experience adds depth to an inherent desire to express, allowing fluidity among concept and context, bringing even greater value and joy to life.
So, don’t do it . . . shelve any regret, and let’s begin working on your next discovery.
Flip #2: Ask The Right Question
Sometimes, even the most compassionate question needs to be flipped to discover what’s inside.
I would never fault someone for asking, “What would make you happy?” within the context of a Personal Development Planning conversation. It demonstrates progressive thought and an appreciation for the role of happiness in living a rich, purposeful life.
Try flipping the lens and instead ask, “When do you feel most happy?”
What’s the difference?
Many will assume what is implied by the inclusion of “make” in the first question: that happiness is something that can be made or produced.
For example, if you ask a small child what makes them happy, they’ll ramble through the list with ease, beginning with a sweet treat and winding through to their favorite toy, game, bike, etc.
Ask them when they feel most happy, and you may not get a response. Children find it difficult to verbalize emotions, so be prepared for spontaneous dancing, running, possibly singing, or maybe a big hug.
Follow the same sequence with an adult . . .
They’ll ponder what makes them happy and respond from an external spectrum of choices such as money, respect from co-workers and their leader, a better position, trust in their abilities, a loving relationship, hobbies, or activities.
Push them to go deeper and consider when they feel most happy . . . and then be patient. Adults may also find it difficult to verbalize their emotions, so be prepared to accept what is offered . . . up to and including a big hug.
Regardless of the identified source, you’ll have an established foundation for an appropriate next step.
Flip #3: Balance Through Perspective
While happiness bubbles up from an internal source, a little perspective now and then can help us achieve both personal and professional goals.
My work with individuals will include asking them to identify strengths, things they’re good at and love to do.
Blending in a little perspective from selected external sources such as mentors, diagnostic assessments, and future job descriptions help add just the right amount of balance to ambitious dreams and desires.
Remember the exercise begins and ends with you.
These external sources identify elements of who you are through opinions, preferences, and competencies . . . it’s still your choice to decide who you want to be.
Nature Is Our Muse
The other day, I was clearing an area commonly used as an over-ripened fruit drop zone. It’s an alternative to composting, and appreciated by the nocturnal fairy tale creatures that reside on our property.
I noticed what appeared to be an errant weed or random sprout near the base of an oak tree. Tugging on it proved otherwise.
It was a discarded apricot that had remained on the surface and somehow began sprouting as a next generation apricot tree, perfect within its imperfection (pictured above).
The insight was immediate and palpable: Despite a less-than-ideal environment, the internal drive of the apricot was powerful enough to seek nutrients it needed to grow and develop.
You have that same internal drive.
Begin by identifying who you are and who you want to be. Resist the influence of external voices or less than ideal circumstances that can distract you from what makes you feel most happy.
Embrace each experience along your path; seek balance through a trusted mentor, diagnostic assessment, or future job description to nurture growth and predict future success.
Because while beginning life was an amazing accomplishment, our little apricot friend was facing a tough road at the base of that oak tree.
By staying true to its roots, and with a little help from some friends, it has everything it needs for tomorrow, today.
This in Tall Tim, and I am At Your Service!