Happily Ever After

I have three kids, which means I don’t sleep very much. Or have a quiet moment. Ever. Having young children is a consistent mixture of joy, awe, confusion and frustration. As author/comedian Jim Gaffigan says, “I used to wonder why I had hair on my legs, but now I know it’s for my toddler sons and daughters to pull themselves up off the ground with as I scream in pain.” Parenting also means that I’ve watched the same movies again and again and again until the DVD physically wears out. Most of the time, it’s mind numbing to watch the movies the first time, much less the ninth time. But every now and then my kids fall in love with a movie that captures my heart, too.

Disney’s Tangled is the animated story of Rapunzel loosely based on the German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. In the original story, Rapunzel is sought after by a prince. In Disney’s version, Rapunzel is ignited to go on her own exploration of self-discovery—to explore who she is and where she comes from. She intuitively knows that there’s more to her than she’s been told, and enlists a boy-bandit named Flynn Rider to guide her. The rest of the movie is about Rapunzel’s journey to discover where she came from and who she really is.

Daniel Goleman is the godfather of learning about yourself, especially as it relates to management and organizational health. He said, “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” Coining the term EQ (Emotional Intelligence), Goleman almost single-handedly changed the public perception about self-discovery, and the management industry has jumped on his bandwagon. Harvard Professor of Cognition and Education Howard Gardner said, “The less a person understands his own feelings, the more he will fall prey to them. The less a person understands the feelings, the responses, and the behavior of others, the more likely he will interact inappropriately with them and therefore fail to secure his proper place in the world.” It’s become customary to get to know yourself.

But, the self-discovery journey is a long one. Despite its accepted value, most people have never taken the opportunity to explore the intricacies of who they are, where they’ve come from, or how they come across to others. It’s complex, overwhelming, and takes a really long time and a lot of energy. The journey doesn’t really have an end. And there are haters every step of the way. People who will convince you to quit being so “self-consumed.” People whose eyes will glaze over when you start talking about the deeper parts of you. People who will mutter derogatory names like “navel-gazer” or narcissist.

Like Rapunzel, though, I think there’s something deep inside all of us that calls out for deeper exploration. People who’ve embarked on this journey report a profound freedom that comes from self-acceptance, find deeper satisfaction in their choices, and feel confident forging their own path. It always starts with a single step, as well as a decision to keep at it. But after you make that decision, you’re also going to need to know which steps to take.

Four Uncommon Sense Steps to Learning About Yourself

  1.  Constantly assume there’s more to you than meets the eye
  2.  Identify and sit with the right questions
  3.  Get feedback from the right people
  4.  Spend time with the right guide

This is your year, and now is the time. Discover all that there is to know about you, from the obvious to the obscure. You’ll be better off—personally and professionally—and everyone will thank you for it. You might even find hidden, dormant dreams waiting for you to live out.

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