How do you wake up and discover your true passions, and live a life of purpose? By removing the masks of self-deception.
Who are you, really?
Over time we write a story about ourselves that we want to hear. For many, this story is what defines us as we journey through life. And yet, the tragedy is that we may be totally unaware of how deeply uncomfortable we are with who we have become. Most of us don’t afford ourselves the opportunity to stop, to put our lives on pause for one moment. Yet, we may desperately need to do so.
By starting a process of exponential self-inquiry, we begin to peel away our various masks of self-deception. We begin to peel away our story and we begin to remember who we really are. This process is often triggered by a traumatic life event – perhaps losing a loved one, being fired, your business going bust, burning out, an episode of depression, or a personal sickness. But you don’t have to wait for any of these things to happen to make a start.
One of the greatest travesties and regrets for so many people is that they get to their twilight years, start thinking about their impending death, and realise that they didn’t show up as themselves enough, or ever. And they are the lucky ones. They have a precious, yet fleeting, moment to realise that. Many people pass on without ever even having that realisation.
I want you to examine your life right now, not when it is too late. And if there is a realisation to be had, that requires realignment and a reinvention, this is perhaps the greatest gift I can give to you.
Wings of Awareness
The practice of exponential self-inquiry requires us to have two wings of awareness: self-honesty and self-acceptance.
First, we need to have the courage to cut through the veils of illusion and really look at what is true in our lives – acknowledge, name, and remain open to it. Second, we need to have a vast, open, radiant heart that can hold compassion no matter what truth we see in our lives.
We need both elements because we can’t really be honest and open with ourselves unless we have created a space that is accepting, a space that is forgiving, tender and kind and that can hold what we see without judgment, either of others or ourselves. Allowing self-blame to creep into this process is counterproductive. This space is a blame-exclusion zone.
Exponential self-inquiry is the process of bringing the truth into your field of compassion. This is because when your heart is open to the truth, the darkness and any demons have nowhere to hide.
The Programmed Mind
The various layers of the human brain have evolved to fixate on avoiding harm, enhancing pleasure, and driving attachment and connection to others. Avoiding harm is mainly felt psychologically as fear of failure, fear of our own deficiency and fear that we are going to make a mistake. Our natural state is one of being afraid of messing up, feeling inadequate, or not having the right qualities. This fearful state compels us to try harder to be sufficiently proficient at everything. However, this often means we spend too much time trying to avoid imagined, looming failures by blaming, judging, obsessing, and planning.
There is a real cost when we spend our time pretending, consciously or unconsciously, and being someone we’re not. This ‘inauthenticity tax’ is often expressed in the form of depression and stress, which can take a mental and physical toll on our health.
A New Self-Relationship
The game-changer, however, results from creating a practice of exploring your profound existential journey. This will help you to find out who you are so that you can lead, live, and work from a place of deeper self-understanding.
Arriving at this place, you’ll find that instead of ambulating along on someone else’s journey, you’ll acquire new energy and enjoy your own path. As such, it can be a powerful transformative trigger and one well worth spending time mastering.
Self-inquiry is neither a one-off nor perfectly achievable. It is a practice that you should aim to do regularly at various levels of intensity. Some forms of self-inquiry can be practised daily as interstitials between thought and action. Others require long, uninterrupted moments of contemplation and are best reserved for times you carve out during the year. These could be on an intercontinental flight or a week-long retreat.
Starting the Exponential Self-Inquiry Journey
You can start this process of self-exploration at any point. You can delve into your relationship with work, confront your fears, or contemplate what makes you feel vulnerable.
It is better to pull on a loose thread rather than unpick a new one. Think of this thread as a tipping point in unravelling your life and peering into areas that you’ve avoided exploring before.
By pulling on this thread, you may find that you start to unravel repressed memories, hidden fears, or forgone happiness. An example might be how you relate to money. Do you obsess about how much of it you have? What is causing this obsession? You might find that it goes all the way back to your childhood when your family struggled with finances.
Another childhood thread may be how you saw yourself when you were 12 years old. Perhaps you were that awkward kid who always felt unwanted? Did you constantly feel the need to prove yourself to family, friends, and society?
This thread needn’t be an area that is uncomfortable. It can sometimes be easier to begin this process by starting where you are comfortable exploring. For example, your relationship to work may be a less foreboding thread to pull than a repressed childhood bullying memory. Start there. As you get further into this process you can approach harder to explore areas, which require more courage. Those areas will require you to be your fiercest self.
This article was published in the October 2018 edition of LivingNow Magazine. To explore the concepts discussed here in more detail you can read my book Fierce Reinvention, available through Amazon and other leading online bookstores.