Range of Self-Limiting Beliefs

“I am who I am.”

Or if you’re Popeye: “I yam who I yam.”

This is the mantra of people who have a fixed mindset – the belief that we cannot change. I agree with this notion in one respect. I do think we’re capable of growth (growth mindset) to become better versions of our authentic selves but I’ve also realized I have a very limited vision of who I am. In other words, I can be described by this list of, say, 12 nouns and 18 adjectives. I can grow and be better versions of those nouns and adjectives. I’m not any of the remaining hundreds of nouns and adjectives. Thus I really have beliefs that span both the fixed and growth mindset.

That being said, I would also claim that even if I questioned my belief about those hundreds of self-descriptors that, I’m likely not some savant in those areas.

Or maybe I am.

I’ve known of people who have picked up hobbies in their mid- or late-life and have become accomplished and successful in a role that would not have ever fallen into their self-description. For example, I discovered my passion and talent for coaching and development somewhat recently. I had no clue, aside from the scores of times others told me I was good at it.

Yeah, no clue. And I still couldn’t imagine myself beyond those 12 self-described roles.

So maybe it’s not a question of whether I can grow at something, but rather a question of my ability to reconsider my self-conception: “I’m not artistic.” “I’m not crafty.” “I’m not athletic.” “I’m not good at….”

You might’ve read my blog about my Humiliating Art Escapade where I crashed into a self-limiting belief and subsequently decided to identify and challenge such beliefs, specifically in this case about my artistic ability. Fast forward to my gal-group going to Paintnite. Paintnite is this activity where you pay and show up (my favorite) and are led through a painting exercise. No pre-printed grids to guide your paintbrush. In theory, you could paint a rowboat or an alien, but you’re given instructions on how to paint the picture du jour.   Unlike my last paint-by-numbers homework assignment where I grumbled and moaned for a couple of hours, much to my delight, I really enjoyed this activity possibly in large part due to the company of my dear, and extremely supportive, friend Anne. I’m actually thinking of signing up for a class.

So the moral of the story is, regardless of whether you think we can change or not, consider rethinking your own assumptions about yourself. You may enjoy who you discover!

Exploring my artistic side

Having fun exploring my artistic side

Energize Your Life

 

These days I feel like I have unlimited energy.  This is a huge 180 compared to where I was 5 years ago, suffering from fibromyalgia, a chronic condition characterized by fatigue and muscle pain.   Granted, the change may be purely medical – I discovered I was profoundly Vitamin D deficient and I went to physical therapy.  It could also be stress-related:  after the separation I felt so much better.

But I feel like it’s much more than that.  I attribute the energy increase to following my heart.  In other words, I spent most of my life pursuing the ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ instead of trying to feed my spirit and soul.

At the time of the separation, I was so entrenched in should/must that I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted.  The silver lining of a trauma is that it’s like the reset button on your life and you no longer take old assumptions as facts any longer.  What ensued was post-traumatic growth as I started to explore my self-conception, this time starting with a blank slate.  I experimented, I tried, I questioned, I reflected.  Most of all I was curious, open, and non-judgmental about myself and others.

The things that brought me joy or energy, I pursued.  Those that didn’t, I released.  I followed the energy and joy trail until I discovered what fed my passions. Doing the things  that I love to do and that I’m good at makes best use of my strengths, so that I’m working efficiently and at my best.  I’m doing what is authentic and natural to me, which is energizing and satisfying rather than depleting and frustrating.

The best part of this process was that I didn’t have to start my life over from scratch.  Likely most people can make small changes at work or at home to accommodate their pursuit of energy and interests, at least until a transition plan can be created and enacted.

Having energy is one of the most satisfying aspects of my life now.  I am, by nature, a zesty person and not having the physical resources to do what I wanted to do (and I was exercising frequently before, by the way) was frustrating and felt unnatural to me.  I credit my ability to do well in the full-time graduate program while working full-time to my energy and passion for what I love to do.

So pay attention to your energy meter during the day.  What charges your batteries and what depletes you?  How can you do more of the energizing activities?  What activities and which people do you need to avoid or limit to keep from draining your battery?  What would you aim to do if you had 20% more energy?

Dream it, then do it.

The Surprising Things That Bring You Joy

I don’t know about you but I grew up most of my life living as I ‘should’.  I should be good at science.  I should love to do mothering things.  I should love to eat healthfully and exercise.  I should love to be selfless and generous.

No one ever said I should try to be my authentic self.  So I never did.

Those teenagers who stereotypically go through the ‘I just have to be me!’ stage are expressing their authenticity angst.  I never went through that.  Though I worked hard to be a model student and daughter, I struggled to feel like I excelled in those roles.  It seemed I was never good enough for anyone else.  In reality, I wasn’t good enough for myself.  I never understood why, until recently.

To me, it boils down to authenticity.  I have had this simmering passion underneath my nerdy, science, good girl self.  That passion is positive psychology and helping others to be the best possible versions of themselves.  Therefore, little things that help me feed that passion bring me joy.

I’m still that nerdy science gal, but now it’s in positive psychology.  I never considered myself a writer, but strangely writing this blog gives me joy.  Sometimes it feels like an obligation, especially when I set a strict schedule for myself.  OMG, I’m going to be a day late?  Lately, I’ve given up any pretense of being able to abide by my own schedule as school and work have taken over my every waking moment the last few months, and especially last few weeks.  The advantage of a chaotic life is you give up a little more of that sense of control.

Lately, to just sit down and write again is just like a guilty pleasure.  Often I feel I’m just writing for myself, which is enough for me these days.  But when I learn that I’ve impacted someone in a positive way, then it only fuels my motivation to do what I love.

So thank you blogging  community for helping me cultivate my passion while helping me to learn about myself and our world at the same time.  You’re a huge part of the reason I jump out of bed every morning!

Complexity of life, Part II

I know we have a unique and authentic mission because I have been observing it almost every day.  I have been coaching members of the university community to help them find their personal mission.  That mission is clearly unique and central to that individual.  That person knows when the stated purpose resonates authentically, when it’s not quite right, or when it’s completely wrong.  When they touch upon their realization of their authentic personal mission, you can see the light inside them ignite, and they realize it is their personal truth.  Change one word, and the mission is wrong.  It just doesn’t feel right.  It doesn’t ring true.  And as far as I can tell, each person’s purpose is as unique as their fingerprint.

As much as we like to distance ourselves from our biology, it is a fact that we are biological organisms somewhere in the midst of a vertical and horizontal ecological tapestry.  Our individual purpose and pathway could be as unique as the nucleotide molecule that plays different roles in the course of its existence, only to be degraded or synthesized into a different molecule all together. The nucleotide that ends up adjacent to DNA synthesis enzymes is going to get woven into its purpose rapidly and efficiently.  The nucleotide that hunts for its purpose in the wrong place will float aimlessly and ineffectively until it happens upon the right enzyme.  Those loner molecules that never find their role are more likely to be picked off and metabolically repurposed into a new identity.

I spent much of my life thinking I was part of a protein when I am actually a piece of DNA.  Not literally, of course.  But by failing to recognize my purpose, I have spent a lot of time hunting to make a contribution in the wrong part of the cell, or doing the wrong thing in the right part of the cell.  But strangely, my authentic purpose has always been lurking beneath the surface, whispering to me my whole life.  Now that I have a much better understanding of my purpose, I am often startled when I reflect upon my past and see the theme resonating back through time.

My purpose has always been about authenticity.  In the fights with my parents, in my essay for graduate school, in my speech at an Asian American Heritage Day event, in my own personal mission statement, in my capstone project for my masters degree, and my realization of my calling (authentic purpose),  I have been drawn to this topic my whole life.  It has been only relatively recently has my own purpose dawned on me, and lit me up like a Christmas tree.  Now I know that I am here to help others find and live their authentic purpose.  And like the rest of you, I’m here to live mine.

What is your role on this planet?  Do you have a sense of what you’re here to do?  Have you identified it, or is it lurking just past your grasp?  Let me help.

The Complexity of Life, Part 1

 

Have you thought about the complexity of life lately?  Even the word ‘life’ is complex.  Do I mean your individual life, our collective life, the way our bodies operate to enable our existence?  Yes.

I’ve been thinking about this topic since talking to a student about the beauty of science.  Science, after all, is here to help us to understand the complexity of life and our universe.  If you bore down on the processes that enable life on earth, one goes from the macro – living organisms such as humans, plants, and animals – to the micro – tissues/organs, cells, molecules, and atoms.    Each micro component is comprised of complicated matrices of the components from the contributing subunits (cells are comprised of molecules which are comprised of atoms).  Even atoms consist of subatomic particles, and then we are once again into domains where the complexity of forces and interactions of those subatomic particles and forces are largely outside our comprehension.

In addition to the orchestra of interactions occurring at each level, each of those elements must also be dynamic in order for the unit to be static.  For example, for a cell to continue to function as a cell, it must take up nutrients, create waste, continue to synthesize new components and degrade others.  In other words, to remain constant, the cell must be dynamic.  In this manner, nature balances birth, growth, and stasis by a combination of birth, growth and stasis in a beautiful symphony of events.   The same dynamic seems to be at play at every level, from the sub-atomic on up through the organism level.

Now let’s consider the super-macro level (I’m making up terms here, can you tell?)  If we dial upwards from our proximity of human-on-earth, we humans further organize ourselves into complex systems.  We are part of a family unit which is part of the community, which is part of a nation and the human species which inhabits the earth which is part of the solar system which is part of the galaxy and then the universe (whew).  Like the micro level, the macro level contains its own balance of actions, interactions, birth, growth and stasis in a dynamic but complex equilibrium.  The role of the earth is to be part of the solar system and revolve around the sun.  The role of the nucleotide is to be a part of DNA or a catalyst for reactions.  Each has a unique and defined role within the matrix within which it resides.

We humans are no different.  We play a role in the ecosystem of the planet and on up through the macro levels and on down through the micro levels.  Whether the essence of our existence is defined by an unseen hand or biological accident is a question for the philosophers and religious leaders of our past, present and future, not for someone like me.   However, just like the enzyme catalyzes reactions and ligands bind receptors, I believe that each of us have a specific purpose we are meant to fulfill during our brief time on the planet.  Whether this is driven by the unseen hand or a biological accident is again not for me to say.

 

Next blog:  our unique role.

Authentic Purpose

Why are you here?

This is neither an existential question, nor an accusation that you’re in the wrong place.  Rather, I’m asking what unique imprint you are here to make on your corner of the world.

I think this is a tough question for most people to answer unless they have taken the time to really consider this.  If you’ve already figured this out, then you’re likely to be able to answer quickly and with conviction.    If you’ve done this exercise in a manner that reflects what you think others want you to do or believe, your response may lack passion or certainty.  At my age I wouldn’t even be able to remember what I’m supposed to say if my mission were not my own.

I’ve had the honor of working through this process with a few people now and I’ve come to the conclusion that most people have an authentic purpose, but it takes some effort to elicit it.  It’s in there somewhere.  It’s unique to that person, since everyone’s mission sounds different.  Each person, upon discovery, seemed to feel that when the mission was articulated ‘just right’, it rang true to them.   Each mission also applied to their whole life, not just their personal or professional life.  For the mission to be authentic, it must apply to that person in all their usual contexts and roles.

So far, each mission connected that person to the service of humanity in some manner.  I don’t suppose that will necessarily be true for everyone, as some people’s mission might be to save the dolphin or a rare tree, but there may still be an element of service to humanity inherent in those goals as well.

Why does the authentic purpose matter?  To have well-being and flourish, according to positive psychology, we need to live a virtuous life.  But a virtuous life with no purpose, or the wrong purpose, will not help us feel very fulfilled.  I believe our authentic purpose is essential to help guide us to life satisfaction and success.  Our authentic purpose fills our cup, energizes us, and provides direction to our lives.

My authentic purpose is to use active love (being involved and doing the right thing for people) to help others become the best possible versions of themselves.  One way I express my mission is by writing this blog each week.  My mission has given me the fuel to have continued this blog for over 200 entries over a 14 month period, and to return to school full time on top of my day job.   It’s driving my personal and professional life, and I feel like I’m finally living my life authentically and in service of what I’m here to do.

What is your authentic purpose and how do you direct that mission?  If you haven’t identified it yet, shouldn’t you?

The Purpose of Life – A Call to Journey

Why are we here?  What are we supposed to be doing with our life?  This topic has been of inquiry and debate for millennia and across cultures.  To further understand such questions, comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell has studied the answers among religions, mythologies, tales and folk stories across time and the globe. I used to think myth was just the ancient and somewhat naïve stories the ancients told each other to explain what we already know, like why the sun rose and rain fell.  But mythology is so much more:  the stories are the symbolic representations of humanity’s understanding of ourselves and the world.

One common and universal theme in stories throughout the history of man is described by Campbell in Hero With  A Thousand Faces as the hero’s journey.  The purpose: to enter into one’s unconscious to revive and restore the lost dreams of one’s generation.  This universal process is the individual discovery of self and one’s own power.  The hero returns to share his lessons with others, which then enriches each person’s understanding of self and humanity.

This physical or moral journey is a personal transformation that each one of us may either choose or refuse.  To refuse the call results in a life devoid of meaning, creates personal psychological havoc and a world that is a wasteland.  Refusal also destines one to battle against the summons of the journey, both internally and externally, until the call is heeded.

To engage the call can be a high, historical undertaking, be a matter of life or death, and provide religious illumination and self-awakening.  The hero must battle his own limitations and, in so doing, transcends to battle beyond himself and taps into the visions and inspirations of humanity itself.  Along the way, the hero will encounter obstacles, perils and good fortune on the journey.  There are no shortcuts on this journey; taking a shortcut means crucifixion by one’s violated psyche or chaos when the uninitiated hero assumes unearned life roles.   The hero that embarks on the journey will die to the world with respect to his former self but will learn to penetrate to a source of power, which he finds within his own heart.  He learns who he is, and learns how to exercise his power.  Destiny is on his side, and guides him to success and victory.

How is this concept of the hero’s journey relevant for each of us?  We’re not literally meant to become Hercules or Wonder Woman.  But what myth tells us is that we each have an authentic purpose in life, and we have a choice as to whether we heed or refuse the summons to our destiny, which is to tap into and share our authentic power.  Paul Coelho, author of the Alchemist, calls this your Personal Legend, or whatever it is you deep down want to do more than anything.  Martha Beck, author of Finding Your Own North Star, refers to such as a quest as finding your essential self.  Refusing the call means to be living as one’s social self, the part of oneself that is living based on expectations and should/should-nots instead of authenticity.   According to Beck, problems and obstacles (physical, emotional, and/or psychological) are encountered when one refuses the call, but doors open and success and fulfillment are realized when one heeds the call.

Often we do not even know that we are not living as our essential or authentic self.  A trauma or even a major, positive life event may take us to ground zero like a great self-perception reset button.  Once we shed our own and others’ expectations, we may take a fresh look at our authentic self and our life’s purpose.  We may finally sense the summons that has been present our whole lives.

The blog I reposted on New Year’s has to do with acceptance of self.  We may choose to accept our social self and continue to live in a way that fails to respect our authenticity, our north star or our hero’s journey.  But a much deeper acceptance of self, the one that perhaps we’ve pushed away, can lead to discovering one’s power and personal meaning.    Where are you on this path?  Are you pursuing your hero’s journey or have you refused the summons?

Hearing Your Calling This New Year.  Photo courtesy of tonyconigliophoto.com

Hearing Your Calling This New Year. Photo courtesy of tonyconigliophoto.com