I’m doing a lot of teaching these days. The training session is called Supercharge Your Career and Work Like a Genius. Many companies are seeing this training as vital because the nature of work is going through a convulsive revolution. There is no doubt that work that requires little sophisticated judgment is being increasingly taken over by smart software. Meanwhile the work that really matters demands a high degree of thinking agility and social intelligence. It’s simple… the future of work will reward people who have an open mind and play well with others.
An open mind is fueled by curiosity and a drive to learn. Working as a teammate or a team leader requires exercising genius levels of empathy while staying focused on a bigger goal. This is difficult mental and emotional work. Most of us do not come fully equipped with the psychological-social tools to excel in our fast-changing work environments. The result is stress. Constant stress. And stress loves the simplicity of a closed mind and the power to make other people shut up and obey.
But what if we made our stress purposeful?
As the old Lion King Mufasa told his son Simba “You are more than you have become.” We all are. If we can envision ourselves being better than we are, that vision is a gift. I believe that our prime purpose is to become the best person we can imagine…a person worthy of look-yourself-in-the-mirror-self-respect. A person who is the highest expression of our own soul.
Here’s how I talk about it in my training. Brain researcher Dr. Robert-Kinsel Smith proposes that our sense of self comes through to us from three inner voices.
The first is our logical self. This is how we most often describe ourselves to ourselves. It is our selective biography of memories of experiences that we use to justify our imagined limitations, choices and attitudes. This voice has a life logic that explains how you got to where you are and either drives or limits you as you think about your future. The main thing to remember is that the logical self is nothing more than a story. It isn’t who you are…it is only the story of who you are. It’s not that it’s untrue it’s just not the whole truth. This voice is likely to trap you in a very limited future unless you wake up to the fact that you are writing the story. And whether there are new chapters and a happy ending are based on what you are willing to write.
The second self is our extrinsic self. This version of you is your personal view of your capabilities. Do you see yourself as smart, charming, attractive, fit, well-educated, affluent, loving, wise, resourceful, savvy or any other attribute that you might put your attention on? Your intrinsic self is primarily created by comparing yourself to others. External feedback is often dismissed or distorted to fit our view of ourselves because your extrinsic self-view is very persistent. Your extrinsic self isn’t really you because you are more than the attributes you could list on your mental spreadsheet. Nevertheless this is a very powerful inner voice.
Most of our mental chatter is the inner debate between the voices of our logical self and our extrinsic self. Usually this conversation is exhausting as it bounces between self judgment and self justification. That’s because both of these self-concepts are too limited to deal with the realities of the life you’re living.
The deeper source of wisdom that we need to navigate the surprises and challenges we all face comes from our third voice, our intrinsic self. Indeed, our intrinsic self is our primary source of wisdom. It is the source of inner peace that wise men and women have discovered through meditation and living mindfully. It has been written about since the beginning of human history and described in virtually identical terms by all who become acquainted with the nature of their personal being.
When you experience your intrinsic self you realize you have nothing to prove and nothing to fear.You also understand in a new way that everything is fine. Things that appear important to us are often not important in the way we think they are. This doesn’t mean that suffering is not real and we all should become monks and nuns. Rather, your intrinsic self informs your logical self and your extrinsic self as to what’s most important to you. It is the quiet voice that guides your personal fulfillment by living the life and doing the work that is the best expression of your essential identity. To hear that voice you must move beyond self-awareness to soul-awareness.
This is not new stuff or original thinking. Thoughtful people have written about the inner journey of life for millennia. What’s important to me and why I share this with people who are seeking to make wise career decisions is that it is my experience that you already have a powerful self vision of what it means to be the best version of yourself and live your best life. This doesn’t mean all your decisions will work out and every moment will be happy. But it does mean that your direction will be true and that you will be able to turn all experiences into something useful that you can give to others.
What I do know is that your intrinsic self isn’t afraid or stressed. It is simply waiting for you to quiet down and listen to your own wisdom. When you do, you will become clear, calm and committed to seek and do the work to fulfill what you’re designed for. It’s important. This is your gift to all the rest of us.