If I asked you to draw a penny, could you? What is on the face of a penny? Who? And, can you put all that is on a penny in the right place? Go ahead, try it. Really, stop reading, and try it.
You failed, right? If you didn’t fail, congrats, you are among a rare minority.
We have been handling pennies since we were small children…20, 30, 40 or even 60 plus years of handling pennies yet we could not even describe exactly what is on it. Sad, isn’t it.
I have been doing this excercise for about a decade with individuals, small groups and larger audiences. I can remember maybe 3 times that someone got it right. I have always found it interesting but only in the last few years have I flipped the script on what the exercise illustrates for me. What began as an excercise about paying attention to detail turned into an excercise about self. Let me explain.
I have concluded, after many sit downs with individuals in a coaching capacity, that we treat ourselves much like pennies. We “handle” ourselves daily. We feel. We touch. We express varying emotions. We aspire. We work. We reach goals. We fail. We love. We fear. We stay busy. Sometimes we slow down. Yet, when asked to describe ourselves, our deeper selves, we fail or at best we stumble.
Do you know who you are?
When I ask this question of people I sit with most can’t answer it. As a matter of fact I often get, “I have never really thought of it”, “I don’t know”, “Still trying to figure that out”, or “I have no real deeper meaning.”
Note that I am not asking people what they do for a living (which is where most people start) or if they are married, have money, or live a “decent” life. I am asking them who they are. What they stand for. How they represent themselves. How the world perceives them.
I am essentially asking them to do this…Picture themselves at their own funeral. That’s right, I am asking them to imagine themselves dead, lying in a casket, at their funeral. Whoa! I will expalin but first pause….
STOP! Take a few minutes and do this. Picture yourself at your own funeral and think about things like:
Who would be there? What would people be saying about you? What emotion would be in the room? What pictures would be up of you? Would there be consistency in what people were saying about you? Would there be people that you would want there but because of the current state of your relationship would not be there? Would your death bring people together or drive them apart? If you were listening to your own eulogy would the words being spoken be true or a glorified image of yourself because that is what is supposed to be said at a funeral? Who would they say you were?
These are questions that may help guide you to be able to answer the question of who you are in a deeper way.
I am not at all trying to be morbid. I am simply trying to get you to think about things at a deeper level. We have all heard things like, “People won’t remember how many hours you worked”. Judging on the emotional response that many people get when I probe about this, we have work to do. Not only on ourselves but on giving each other the allowance to live a more meaningful life and stop judging one another on superficial crap but on who we are inwardly and outwardly.
Believe me, and my wife as my witness, I am not immune to figuring out who I am. As a matter of fact, I have been losing a lot of sleep over this lately. Actually too much considering our boys are an alarm clock that goes off way too early everyday 🙂 What I do know is it deserves thought and action. This question and exercise can in fact help us live in deeper ways, do more meaningful things with our life, engage people we love and even strangers in a more gentle and loving way, and help us feel more secure in who we are. Yes, secure. Something I know we all are searching for yet in so many ways much of what we chase is not providing us security in the sense that I am referring to here. As a matter of fact, if we discovered who we truly are and what gifts we can give this world and the people around us I would venture to say we would all feel more secure. Secure in the fact that we not only know but accept who we are at are core. It is not enough to intend to be something or someone, we must live through our intentions. I far too often come across people that are inconsistent and feel off balance because they want to be a certain way but their actions are not in line with their intentions and therefore they feel out of balance. I could rant but I am hoping you get my point.
Obviously I am not only asking you to think about who you are but to act on your truth as well.
I will end with two of quotes from Maya Angelou that resonate with me and that support my message here:
“The first time someone shows you who they truly are, believe them”. This one is deep. Has someone ever showed you who they truly are and you denied them? Have you ever been vulnerable and showed someone who you really are only to be denied? This only put you back in your shell afraid to show your true self again. Have you felt out of sorts when presenting yourself to someone or a group of people? If yes, you probably were not “showing” who you truly are…a fake.
And one of my favorite quotes and one that I live by. Not only live by but that I want to drive the conversation at my funeral…
“I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will NEVER FORGET HOW YOU MADE THEM FEEL.”
Slow down and pay some attention to yourself. Don’t neglect yourself as we do pennies and be brave enough to present the world your most beautiful self.
Finally, only when you know who you are can you really….
I am finding it is a long journey of ebbs and flows but one worth traveling. Please continue to travel with me.