One can only imagine how genuine these words felt to Oscar Wilde when he penned the expression, “Be Yourself, Everybody Else is Already Taken.” I wasn’t even sure myself until I stumbled upon the quote, was moved by its honest humor and researched the Irish writer’s background to understand what he meant. Wilde was an intelligent, once privileged and highly educated playwright who suffered greatly for opinions and choices that were outside of London society, eventually leading to his imprisonment, poverty and an early death.
No one strives to live a life in exile. Adversity comes at us every day in rapid fire as we dodge and take shelter from its surge. How we handle adversity evolves in many forms. We start by avoiding with denial. Then we survive just to get by often burying ourselves in long hours, rejection, backstabbing or drudgery. We cope sometimes with useful mechanisms such as exercise and communication and sometimes with the negative influences of the vices. We manage by setting goals to be productive but still are void of satisfaction. And eventually, we hope to achieve the ability to elevate ourselves to true contentment and do the same for others. But how we get there remains the dilemma that can keep us imprisoned from all that we desire – peace and fulfillment.
The formula for this is very simple: First, you want to identify what is the thing that if accomplished would bring you the most fulfillment in life. Second, you want to eliminate the single biggest thing that stands in its way. This isn’t as easy. The challenge of eliminating your greatest oppositions has been at the root of self-help books and therapists’ work for centuries.
How to Get What You Want
1. Make an “Area of Importance List.” Write down every area of your life that is important to you. This may include friends, sports, achievement, community service, work, family, etc.
2. Set two or more “Targets” for each Area of Importance. Identify two to three things you’d like to accomplish for each of the areas identified.
3. Identify the “Barriers” for each Target. Barriers could be a feeling or a tangible obstructer ie: don’t have the confidence or don’t have the needed education. Spend thoughtful time on this list as this is what is keeping you from what you want.
4. For each Area of Importance, select the one “Key Barrier.” Which area, if addressed has the greatest potential of helping you the most to reach fulfillment?
5. Prioritize what “Key Target” (from #2) is most important to your fulfillment. This is the one thing that were it to occur, you’d never again feel as if you were out of alignment with yourself or what you want.
6. Prioritize what “Key Barrier” is keeping you from your “Key Target.” This one barrier is so vast and so overwhelming that just the thought of it lapses you back into a state where you can’t even imagine fulfillment coming to life. This barrier obstructs your vision of a life of peace and harmony with yourself and all that is around you.
7. “Clear the Key Barrier.” This is the most difficult part of the exercise. This barrier has been part of you for so long that you are comfortable having it around even though you know it hinders your happiness. You don’t know how to let it go because you are not sure what to replace it with nor are you comfortable with the sustainability of replacing it with anything.
In my years of executive coaching I have seen these barriers effect corporate culture, team synergy, productivity and personal happiness for dozens of very well educated and accomplished professionals. What I will tell you is that the people who are able to win the battle with their “Key Barrier” and get it out of the way do it with two key strategies: 1) They become curious about the “Key Barrier” and 2) They become compassionate to it.
They understand that this “Key Barrier” is part of them and will likely re-surface intermittently for the rest of their lives. They accept that. They recognize when the “Key Barrier” is rearing its head earlier in various scenarios than they used to. And they know what to do with it.
From a curious perspective, they ask themselves what is going on in their body and their emotions when they start to notice the “Key Barrier.” What is that barrier trying to protect you from? Ask it. Why is it showing up now? What is the worst that could happen? What would happen if it were to take a back seat for today?
From a compassionate perspective, they embrace that the barrier is trying to protect them from something – harm?, hurt?, pain?, loss?, disappointment? They notice how they feel about the part of them that is only trying to protect them. It helps them to suffer less resistance to it – be less shut down. They want to nurture it and assure it that the worst that could happen is not likely. They invite it to experience joy.
Be curious and compassionate about your “Key Barriers.” They’re part of you. This way you will get back to being yourself. After all, everybody else is already taken. Start now!
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Mary Lee Gannon is the president of Gannon Group – a full service executive coaching, training and consulting firm that provides turnaround strategies for people and organizations by improving team performance, executive leadership skills, board performance, planning and project execution. Mary Lee’s personal turnaround came as a stay-at-home mother, with four children under seven-years-old, who endured a divorce that took she and the children from the country club life to public assistance from where within a short time she worked out of that to the level of CEO. Her book “Starting Over – 25 Rules for When You’ve Bottomed Out” is available in bookstores, on Amazon or on her web site. Visit Mary Lee’s website at www.StartingOverNow.com or Email Mary Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.