“The most exhausting thing we can be is inauthentic.” – Anne Lindbergh
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my final assignment ever in my MBA program is for Me, Inc, and encompasses my vision for myself, my Platinum Standard, the guidelines for my life, and the plan to make it all happen. It’s proven to be the most important assignment I’ve been handed and one that could not come at a better time: when I’m planning on uprooting my career, possibly my life, and starting fresh.
We were asked questions that automatically lead to deeper self-discovery, like: How do you define yourself, What are your top five values that touch every aspect of your life, What excites / angers you most in the world… It also asks us, if DVR’s were not invented, what show we would race home to and why? …Friday Night Lights (family and football, that’s why)….
The whole purpose is to ask these questions and dissect what it is that makes you tick. We have to know who we are if we want to become something more, and we have to know where we’ve been in order to get to where we’re going.
One of the questions asked is how others define us. So today I put friends and work acquaintances to the test, asked them to be as honest as I would be with them, and tell me how they perceive me. It’s an exercise in determining the impressions we give off to people, and may not even realize it. Really, I was looking for the negative, because as I wrote to them, “we all know how cool I am. No need to state the obvious.” I wanted the nitty-gritty. The most common answers reflected that I was open, honest, sarcastic, direct, and hilarious (those are my blog readers). The ones that made me step back were “I would want you on my team,” “a contrarian when necessary,” “sometimes too quiet,” too often “thinking about when the day is going to end and WTF am I doing here,” quick to laugh,” “takes no prisoners,” “hard on yourself,” and my favorite, “I imagine that you are not a good companion when stuck in a traffic jam.”
Then I remembered last year when I was signed up for a public speaking seminar through work. Moderated by a life coach, our small group was asked to reveal much about ourselves, and boy, did we. Amidst the open discussion, we picked one word that we wished people would use to describe us. Mine was Charisma. The life coach immediately warned me that charisma happened too few and far between, and that it was an impossible endeavor, unless I was Bill Clinton. When it was all done, she was to come up with one word that described each of us. Her word for me was Poise. I saved the email she wrote to me later: “Get yourself through school and then settle into your strengths and watch heads turn…you are moving toward charisma – so as you settle, move into your warmth. It is there just under the surface waiting to be released and shared with others.”
I haven’t read that since March 2009, and it hit a chord today, as all of these perceptions of me came in. Warmth. I am a firm believer in Jung’s idea of projection, and the idea that when we see a negative trait in others, it is a mirror-image of our own negative trait. I recently described someone I love as cold…and here I am being told to move into my own warmth. I was seen as poised, direct, passionate, charming, relentless, and a force to be reckoned with – but not too many “kinds” and no “warms.” I’m grateful for all the stellar things people said, but perhaps the whole purpose of this assignment is to notice the ones they didn’t. That’s what makes it the best homework I’ve ever been asked to complete.