Multi – tasking is our norm. Many of us are so caught up in corporate “busy-ness” that we operate on automatic pilot, lose focus and stop paying attention, not just to our surroundings, but to ourselves. We do as many things as we can at one time in and actually take pride in it. Even boast about it! Constant contact is often not only expected, but demanded by bosses, peers and our families. For the few remaining hours before we finally sleep, we field never ending demands generated by our partners, kids, parents, hobbies, friends, homes and any other relationships in our “free “time.
At the same time there has been a marked cultural and economic shift to self- help. Many activities which were previously managed by a service provider we now do ourselves. Our personal hard drives are overloaded with processes we didn’t need to know before: shopping, banking, checking-in, ticketing and reservations, are all done on line. So our “busy-ness” has increased even further, but it has also led to a loss of basic daily interaction that makes us stop, think and engage with other human beings. A smile, a touch, an idle chat. Twitter is the new water-cooler time. Now, if we don’t pay much attention to ourselves, we pay even less to other people.
Scientists believe that as little as 1% of our brain is actively engaged in the activity we are presently “focused “on! I use the word “focus” lightly! This is not even when we are stressed when problems become our central focus when our capacity to pay attention is reduced further. According to Pareto, 80% of our activity generates only 20% of the results. Have you ever opened the refrigerator door and forgotten what you were looking for? No? Lucky you! You can see, with the complexity of modern living, how easy it is for “life” to take on a momentum all of its own, and how effortless it is, to drift. To re-act, not act.
David E. Meyer, Professor of Psychology, in the Cognition and Perception Program, at University of Michigan, writes extensively on multi-tasking. He believes that excessive multi-tasking “can lead to chronic stress, with potential damage to the cardiovascular, immune, and nervous systems”. He maintains that flitting from task to task interferes with demanding and complex mental activities such as reading, having conversations and planning. This all contributes to an increase in the incidence of error. Tasks then take as much as 100% longer than they should to complete. When we under perform and expectations (perceived and actual) are not met, stress levels increase yet again.
Find your own key
Clients in transition often expect me to write their CVs for them because they believe that I will do a better job than they would. Superficially, that might possibly be true. I could certainly write a successful looking document, but it would lack depth and as a career search tool its value would be for a limited period only. As I strongly believe “Find the key toyourself and every door in the world is open to you”, I have to refuse.
Do you know ” you“?
Some career coaches maintain that no one knows you like you do! I’m actually not so sure. My observation is that quite often people are so wrapped up in “busy-ness” that they don’t take/make the time to get to know themselves. So I always think it’s a good idea to at least check where they are on the “know thyself” spectrum. I ask clients to set aside some time, to do one small thing differently, anything that prompts them simply to think, to engage in what they are doing and to be in the moment they are actually doing it in. I encourage them to slow down and to get to know themselves, just thinking.
When I outline this idea many clients look at me askance, as if I’m asking them to sit cross legged in a corner, wearing orange robes, chanting and using “F” words ( no not that one – the other ones …Feelings.) ” What’s this got to do with my job and you writing my CV?” these hard headed executives ask. My personal belief is that it’s all key.
Mono – task
As coaches we all recommend different strategies to create some moments of focused thought – mono-tasking. To purists it’s not even mono-tasking – but I live in the grey world of approximation! Just eating, just jogging, just driving, just looking at a view, with no other distractions – only thoughts. Most people find it harder than they imagine.
We spend about 76000 hours in our lives working, so it’s important to get it as right as we can.
So what do I suggest clients should be thinking about?
- What am I passionate about?
- What do I believe in? ( values)
- What are my life goals ( general)
- What are my professional goals (specific)
- What have my challenges in life been?
- How did I deal with them? (Actions)
- What did I achieve? (Results)
- What skills did I call upon?
We then need to check that all these thoughts are aligned, so our chosen professional path is what we want to be doing, or somewhere close. I am passionate about tennis, but given my skill level, and any potential to improve being close to zero, clearly I can’t make a career out of it! So compromise and prioritising is required and some will be deal breakers and others won’t.
When we have completed this process and start to get to know ourselves, we can begin to take control and articulate our own message successfully and independently, in all circumstances. We might need some help – but no one can do it all for us. To make this happen, we need to be prepared to stop and just think.
For many of us, making even the smallest change can offer many new and exciting options.
A couple of days ago, I wrote about Permission Granted: Say YES to Yourself. I had a number of people share information with me about that post and people started say yes to themselves for the first time in a long time. One question really hit home for me though – the question was “What if you don’t know who you are?”
Don’t worry, I can relate to this question so deeply… It wasn’t that long ago, I was in a similar place and had no idea of who or what I was and then “The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anaïs Nin and I have been discovering my true self ever since.
What does Knowing Yourself mean?
Socrates said it so well ~ “Know Thyself.”
Knowing yourself is not about the skimming the surface like finding a favourite colour or music you like (although they may give you some clues). Knowing yourself is about delving much deeper.
Knowing yourself is a journey. It is about discovering who you are as a human being – yes the real you. The journey is unpredictable and engages you deeply as it brings you face-to-face with your deepest fears, self-doubts, vulnerabilities and insecurities. On the journey you question how you are living your life and whether or not it is in alignment with your highest purpose. And if you don’t yet know your highest purpose, allow yourself to live in that space of not knowing.
The journey around knowing yourself can be challenging and scary, however it also changes over time. For me remembering “This Too Shall Pass” was a gift and the work does pay off – but not the way you may expect (well it wasn’t for me!).
Knowing yourself means giving yourself permission to not knowing whilst unravelling the deeper truth of who you are. It is about listening to a deeper calling and wisdom within, whilst following your heart. Knowing yourself is about being aware of your core values, priorities and dreams (yes even if you don’t remember them yet).
Knowing yourself means respecting (but not attaching to) your strengths and weaknesses, your passions and fears, your desires and dreams, your thoughts and feelings, your likes and dislikes, your tolerances and limitations.
Why is Getting to Know Yourself so Important?
To be honest, it is up to you and you have to decide for yourself the importance of knowing yourself and whether you want to go on that journey. It takes courage and a willingness to peel back the layers bit by bit.
For me, I felt lost, stuck (a bit like a caged bird) and had a deep longing or feeling within my heart that was not going away (no matter what I achieved or did on the outside). I decided and committed many years ago, that I was not going to stop until I discovered what I was searching for.
Fortunately after a while, I stopped searching on the outside and realised that the search was an inside job and I had to do the work, no one else could do it for me.
The Tao the Ching says ~ “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.” and “The cost of not following your heart, is spending the rest of your life wishing you had.” ~ J. Paulsen.
If you are ready to take yourself on the journey of getting to know yourself (your true self), why not join the Toolkit? A place where I share tools, inspiration and ideas to live a courageous and openhearted life.