Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean that you enjoy or want to do it.
Conventional ‘wisdom’ teaches us that we should lean into and focus on our strengths when it comes to work, play, and relationships. But have you ever stopped to think of why your strengths are your strengths? Where did your strengths come from? What are the motivations behind your strengths? I want to challenge you to pause, go inside, and ask yourself a few powerful questions:
- What do you really want to do?
- Who do you really want to be?
- What unique value can you offer our world?
At Blu Ivy Group we get to work with companies to ask some similar questions. Part of our initial process is extensive research, analysis, and internal listening. This listening allows us to hear and understand the authentic needs, wants, and desires of current, past, and potential employees. We then use these insights when developing their unique Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Similarly, you can do this listening in your own life. You can conduct your own deep individual inner listening, research, and investigation into who you are, what you want, and define the unique value that you can offer our world.
My inner journey
If you’re anything like me, I grew up in a space where I defined myself by what I did, how I performed, and by all my external achievements. My life became a habit of striving, checking boxes, and getting a dopamine high off the rewards of my achievements.
But there was a problem. My achievements weren’t actually mine. Yes, I was the one putting in ‘the work’, but my achievements were more of a reflection of what I thought I needed to do/be/have to be loved, accepted, or considered worthy by others.
I adopted a maladaptive self-image and worldview that hijacked who I really was, and I started to create an idealized view of who I needed to be and the strengths that I needed to lean into to succeed. My personal brand wasn’t authentic. It was something that I created because I thought my job was to please others, fit a mold, and to live to someone else’s definition of success.
Idealisation – This is the process through which our ego tells us that we are worthwhile conditionally. Worth becomes conditional to what we do or have.
Self-Image – This is my idea of who I am or the story I tell myself about who I am, my values and what kind of personality I have.
Worldview – This is the story I tell myself about the world and the way the world works. It represents the internal regulatory principles that shape my interaction with the external environment.
What I didn’t learn to do was to do my own work. I needed to pause, go inside to ask, listen, and move forward based on these questions:
- Who do I really want to be?
- What do I really want to do?
- What would get me excited?
- If I wasn’t scared, what different choices or decisions would I make?
- What are some of the assumptions that I’ve accepted as ‘truth’ over my life?
For me, hating my job, hitting a ‘rock bottom’ and going into recovery turned out to be one of my greatest gifts. This painful part of my personal growth process forced me to start asking these foundational questions and helped me onto a new leadership path. This new path helped me to understand that I am not my personality, I am not my strengths, and I am not achievements.
Today I’m thankful to be able to work with individuals and organizations that have the courage, strength, and vulnerability to ask themselves these big, bold, simple, and often overlooked questions.
Many individuals and organizations get stuck because they don’t pause to ask themselves these hard questions and they start to believe that their brand or personality is who they really are.
Without the deep internal listening your brand or personality isn’t who you are, it’s an inauthentic illusion.
Deep listening inside organizations
One of my favourite parts in working with organizations to define or refresh their Employee Value Propositions is the deep internal listening that we get to do. During our initial research phase, we uncover a wealth of internal insights that help us gain an authentic picture of an organization’s existing Employer Brand. Sometimes we discover a large delta between what executives believe matters to their employees and what employees actually value.
By going deep with executives, current & past employees, and potential external talent we collect data that helps us tell a deeper and more authentic story. This data is what allows us to create an EVP that incorporates both the future aspirational vision that leadership has for their organization and align vision with the authentic values and beliefs that attract and retain current and future employees to their organization. This powerful listening process is the foundation that allows us to help organizations create human-centred, high-performance cultures, or what we call an EVP led culture.
Deep listening inside individuals
I also love working with leaders who feel stuck, stagnant, or generally unhappy with where they currently find themselves in their careers and/or in their personal lives. Many of these individuals believe that their personality, ego, or strengths are who they really are. Individuals have many different labels when they start to discover and become attuned to an awareness that something isn’t working:
- midlife crisis
- burned out
- breaking down
- hitting rock bottom.
Parts of these individuals feel like they are succeeding, but other parts of them want to be anywhere but where they currently are.
Here’s a common scenario that I come across quite often in leadership coaching engagements.
“I’ve invested years of education, hundreds of thousands of dollars into that education, and over 15 years of being a lawyer/doctor/marketer. I’m great at what I do. I get paid well. I get all the accolades. But I feel stuck. What I’m good at is draining, overwhelming, and isn’t who I am!”
Does this sound familiar to you or to anyone in your life?
Your personality is not who you are.
Your personality is created by your past beliefs and your environmental conditioning. This conditioned self/personality ego lives in fear, believes that it is separate and will do whatever it can to protect itself. This is an unauthentic version of who you really are.
The authentic version of who you are designed to be is called ‘your higher self’, soul, or essence. This authentic version of you has unlimited potential, infinite love, joy, and compassion. This authentic version of who you are connects with possibilities and is an ongoing evolution of inspiration, intuition, choice, and exploration.
You find your authentic power and unlock your creativity when you access your higher self. This is where you tap into your full high-performance potential.
Understanding ego and tapping into essence
Your early childhood experiences led you to form conclusions about what you consider ‘acceptable’ behaviour (nurture). As you did this, your brain started to build beliefs and neural pathways based on the responses you received. Over time you started to focus on maintaining your ‘safety’ and acceptance by others (blending nurture and nature). When these patterns are repeated, the neural pathways became stronger and long-lasting connections started to form.
This layering formed a set of beliefs and assumptions that shape your personality.
Your personality or Ego is the wiring that underpins your deep set of beliefs, motivations, and filters. As you grow, your Ego or personality builds your sense of identity by emphasizing how different or separate you are from others. Your Ego forms a self-protective shell to protect your Essence or vulnerable self. It’s your Ego that helps to create your inauthentic branding. Your Ego or personality is not who you really are.
Ego protection hampers creativity.
During times of intense volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity many individuals start to fixate on their Ego traits. You try to ‘protect’ yourself.
When you are fixated in Ego and not connected with your Essence, you begin to believe that you MUST be strong, good, and helpful at all costs. Your Ego filters and manipulates your experiences to fit this idea, and you can end up trying to perform ‘being good’ or ‘being strong’.
When you are fixated in Ego you can feel like you are protecting yourself, but you are also limiting yourself by blocking your full creative potential. When you live and operate from Ego you are focused on who you are ‘supposed to be’ and are driven by your fears and your most judgemental self-definitions. In this place you miss out on the richness of yourself, your experiences, and of your inner creative resources; you are on autopilot.
Accessing Essence unlocks creativity.
As you move along a path of self-awareness and integration, you begin to lower your self-protective limitations of your Ego. From this space you can start to connect with your Essence or a more unlimited and liberated self.
When you lean into your Essence, or the authentic version of who you are, instead of being fixated on your Ego you build new neural pathways, and you start to increase your innate capabilities of emotional intelligence, presence, critical thinking, adaptability, self-management, leadership and creativity. This is your leadership journey and opportunity for continual growth.
How do you gradually evolve and become who you were authentically born to be?
One of the most important investments an organization can make into their employee experience and internal employer brand activation is investing in management and leadership authenticity. Like developing an authentic Employee Value Proposition this courageous leadership journey starts with deep internal listening combined with a strong personal vision that you create for you. Nobody is going to give you these answers, they all come from inside.
Working with your manager or a leadership coach and using a tool like the Integrative Enneagram (iEQ9) can help provide you with the framework, accountability, insights, and encouragement to create your own whole-person development plan that starts to answer the big questions:
- Who do you want to be?
- What is important to you?
- What would bring you joy?
- What challenges excite you?
- How do you want to show up in our world?
- What unique value can you offer our world?
At Blu Ivy Group we recommend that organizations do this type of listening every 3-5 years to ensure that they are creating the most authentic human-centred high-performance cultures.
When was the last time you did some deep internal listening for yourself?
Imagine what our world could be, what your organization could be, and who you might be if we all went inside to listen, ask these powerful questions, before leading and building forward from this space?
Vice President Client Experience
Blu Ivy Group
Blu Ivy Group is a global leader in employer branding, organizational culture, and recruitment marketing. We help organizations across the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors build extraordinary employee experiences, magnetic employer brands, and high-performance cultures.
Connect with us today and let us help you transform your organization into a workplace that inspires your employees, leaders, customers and shareholders.