How to become the person you need the most?
“Your soul needs time for solitude and self-reflection. In order to love, lead, heal, and create, you must nourish yourself first.” – Louise Hay
Are you living your best life?
If your answer is yes, you can skip this essay and enjoy your weekend. But if your answer is no, or I don’t know, then here’s my question: Are you willing to learn from the past, focus on the present, and plan for the future?
The reality is that most people are willing to but don’t know how. Even if you’re brilliant at taking action, your blindspot may trip you up. It isn’t easy to see our blindspots, tell the truth, and show up day after day.
A great coach will ask you the right questions, reframe the story you tell yourself, and help you move forward. We all know that coaches can help, but it may be hard to find one that fits your personality, style, and budget. What if the person we needed the most was ourselves? What if we can become our coach?
Self-coaching, as executive coach Ed Batista writes, “is a self-directed process, in that we’re taking active responsibility for guiding our growth and development.” Ideally, the guiding process will prompt us with questions that lead to our inner voices. After all, we have an unfair advantage over any other coach. We are the only one who knows our entire history, pain points, and ambition. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could use this knowledge to create a system that solves our problems?
Self-coaching is not the same as self-help. The former is a disciplined, continuous process of finding better answers and solutions to your challenges. The latter is a one-time inspiration based on someone else’s opinion, which may or may not be relevant to you.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that self-coaching will always put you on a better path, but it will help you answer your questions when nobody else can. It’s about creating a process that is uniquely yours. One that helps you catch your blind spots and proceed from a calm and steady place.
Okay, so how can you become your coach?
The path to becoming the person you need the most is simple. I’ve used the following three steps (recognize—reflect—reframe) to unblock most of the mental barriers in my life.
Step 1: Recognize your mindset.
“It’s only fair to you to take it one step at a time.” — Joan Benoit
What area of your life do you want to improve? What mindset is linked to that area of life?
Mindsets, as Dr. Alia Crum defines, are the core beliefs or assumptions that lead us to a set of expectations, explanations, or goals.
Take running, for example. When Joan Benoit, the first women Olympic marathon champion, was training for marathons, her underlying mindset was that slow and steady wins the race. She would set intermittent goals (such as running 15 minutes daily). Before setting any ambitious goals (like 5-mile a day), she must become someone who runs every day.
Not surprisingly, this mindset applies to many other areas of your life: health, career, relationships. Slow and steady wins the race.
Now go back to the area of life you mentioned above. What mindset can you adopt today?
Step 2: Reflect on your day.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” — Socrates
How have you given yourself time and space to reflect?
Reflecting on what we have done in the past helps us learn from our mistakes and refine our strategy. However, in a world where lives are unfolding so fast, how can you possibly make time to reflect?
I wanted a to-reflect list, a list of questions that would make us pause projects, gather our thoughts, and become kinder to ourselves.
So, I set up Slack reminders to ask myself the following questions:
What went well at work? Who helped?
What went well outside of work? Who helped?
What didn’t go well? How could I have done better?
What did I learn today? How can I apply my learning tomorrow?
What problem can I solve tomorrow?
If you’re interested in the questions I ask myself every year, download the annual review workbook.
Step 3: Reframe—like a helpful friend.
“Two people can have the same experience — like losing a job during the pandemic — but tell two different stories. One person might say that his life was great before the pandemic, but the pandemic ruined everything, while another might acknowledge what has been lost but focus on how he has grown.”
— Emily Esfahani Smith
We often pretend that we don’t control what happens in our lives. But the truth is, we do.
If you’re talking to your friend, and they say something you disagree with, will you let them continue, or will you speak up? If it’s the latter, why would you not do the same when it comes to yourself?
Last month, during the self-coaching workshop, many people shared that they didn’t have enough time. They said something along the lines of:
I want to take care of myself, but I’m a mom with two kids and a job.
I want to build something for myself, but the day job consumes me.
I want to become healthier, but I don’t have the energy to work out.
These concerns are valid and very common. However, how effective are they towards your problem?
When we are overwhelmed, we may not be able to find any solution. And that’s okay. We can start by finding the truth and being honest. Here are a few questions that have helped me:
What is the evidence for this mindset? What is the evidence against it?
Is this mindset always true?
How would I respond if someone I love said this to me?
If you try to answer these questions, you may realize that your mindsets have set you up for failures. Let’s reframe them into something more helpful.
Instead of complaining that you don’t have time, try doing something you care about, starting from today. Schedule a 10-min slot in your calendar now. Once you can do so, add another 10-min slot tomorrow. In a week, you’ll have found an hour for yourself each day.
Just Like a good runner, slow and steady wins the race.