Cofounder and coach at lucidly, a consultative coaching service helping SMBs build engaged & thriving teams. “Future Ready HR” podcast host.
In my 36 years of living and experience as a coach, guide and facilitator, I have landed on three simple ingredients that can accelerate one’s personal development. They are self-awareness, relationships and nature.
If you want to lead a rich, deep and meaningful life—both in and outside of work—and are committed to continuous self-improvement, these will make intuitive sense to you. Let’s unpack these ingredients a bit.
This is the ability to observe and reflect on yourself and your experience. It’s intrapersonal, meaning this occurs inside of yourself. It’s the inner game if you will. It’s about shining light on your unconscious beliefs, values, thoughts, feelings and behaviors and assessing your results.
There are a variety of ways to improve self-awareness—really anything that enables you to reflect and contemplate. Journaling, yoga and meditation are great practices.
Example: On a recent guy’s trip, I spent a few hours contemplating a deep conversation we’d had by the fire where I was feeling triggered and defensive. I was feeling defensive because my beliefs were being challenged. This caused me to reflect on my beliefs and whether or not they’re serving me and what I’m working toward in life (specifically in my relationship with my partner).
Other people are constantly reflecting back to us who we think we are and who we think we aren’t—a.k.a. our identity, or sense of self. Others are mirrors for us if we’re willing to look. These interpersonal dynamics give us insight! When we admire someone, they show us who we want to become. Conversely, when we judge someone, they’re showing us parts of ourselves we’ve disowned. This is called the “shadow.” This is how we become a more holistic, self-compassionate and empathetic version of ourselves.
All you have to do is reflect on your interactions with others. If they made you feel anything—from annoyed to inspired—ask yourself why. This is a great strategy for learning about yourself.
Example: On the guy’s trip, I admired one guy for his ability to be direct and another for his playful demeanor. I felt annoyed when a few guys kept engaging in (what I felt were) surface-level conversations. The former showed me who I want to be and the latter showed me the ways in which I’ve rejected the parts of myself that can talk about anything. There are certainly times when I, myself, keep the conversation surface level, but it does me no good to judge others for it if I want to establish any meaningful connection. Sometimes the surface-level conversations act as gateways to the deeper conversations I really want to have.
You know that feeling you get after camping, hiking, running, walking or any other outdoor activity? Yeah, that! It’s often what leads to greater clarity, new insights, a sense of peace and a stronger connection to everything around you. Nature is not always literal; it can be symbolic. What one observes in nature is often a metaphor for life. It’s a great teacher in this way.
I already named a few ways you can engage with the natural world. Here are some others: forest bathing, climbing a tree, star gazing, hunting, putting your feet on the earth, tracking animal signs and observing wildlife. Use your imagination here. Bonus points if you can get huge doses of nature time. It’s what enables our body to recalibrate, recharge and recenter.
Example: On the same guy’s trip, we went white water rafting and I spent time barefoot, exploring trails near our cabin. The rafting exposed me to the lessons of the river, like all storms in life are preceded by calm and vice versa, and you have to keep rowing when you’re going through rapids otherwise you’ll end up in the water. This is the same in life, where one must continue putting one foot in front of the other even when things feel a bit chaotic and uncertain. Walking barefoot slowed my movement down which also slowed my mind. I paid more attention to my foot contacting the ground which increased my level of inner and outer presence.
In conclusion, the level of depth to which you can explore each ingredient is basically infinite. They’re the gifts that keep on giving. The only way to mess this up is by not using all of the ingredients. It’s sort of like baking a cake and forgetting the butter. Sure, you’ll still get a cake, but it sure as hell won’t be as good. And why settle for good, when you can experience great?