About All Fives

SHORT VERSION

I spent the first three quarters of my life doing what someone else wanted me to do – in my work and my life. To the point where I honestly did not know how to decide for myself.

On preference tests, what did I get? All fives. On a scale of one to 10, everything was a five because I was not answering from my own truth.

In my work, I often felt lost and dissatisfied.

For the last decade, I’ve been on a journey to find my authentic self, in my work and life. Along the way, I found that I have gotten know myself by taking action in five key areas:

  • Honor your Authenticity
  • Exercise your Creativity
  • Experience new things
  • Strengthen your Self-discipline
  • Share through Connection with others

I write about these five categories as part of my ongoing process. When I feel uncertain, I remind myself: No one knows better than you.

THE WHOLE STORY

I spent the first three quarters of my life doing what someone else wanted me to do. Following the rules set up by someone else. Letting someone else make my decisions. Letting someone else define success. Letting someone else tell me who I am.

Do this long enough and you get to a point where you don’t know how to do anything else. You can’t hear yourself anymore. You don’t know yourself anymore.

So many well-intentioned friends thought they’d solve my problem by asking, “If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?” Such a simple question. So complicated for me. There are so many external factors to consider. So many people to please. I can’t answer that – I have to ask someone else for my answer.

I often felt lost and unsatisfied. Duh.

Pick a major and a career

While I wasn’t specifically told what college major to choose, I had been well-trained on the sometimes weird, arbitrary requirements of an acceptable major. I was stumped but couldn’t stay “Undeclared” forever.

The university career counseling center offered the usual array of preference and aptitude tests to help little lost souls like me find their way. I took them all.

What did I get? All fives. On a scale of one to 10, everything was a five.

They couldn’t help me. They couldn’t help me because I wasn’t answering from my own truth. My guess is that some of the answers were mine and some of them were what I thought I needed to be. So the results came out all jumbled and meaningless.

Maybe I’m just one of those people who is sorta interested in everything but not super-interested in anything. Nice try.

After a few feeble, unsuccessful attempts to figure something out for myself, I went back to the easier road of handing it over to someone else.

So I got a degree in Journalism and went on to get an MBA. Not because of passion or enthusiasm but because these fit the criteria. Not too girly or artsy or social.

With jobs it was the same thing: Accepting positions that were typically held by men, that would lead to money, titles, the next promotion, I never really felt comfortable or natural.

Step toward authenticity

The first big step for me came when I found (all on my own) and accepted a job at a cosmetics company. Now, it was still an IT job but at a company “for women” in a new city.

That was about eight years ago. And for the last eight years, I have been steadily working toward finding my authentic self. Working to do better than an All Fives situation.

But when you’ve listened to someone else for so long, it’s not easy to hear yourself. You don’t just wake up one day saying (and meaning), “I’m in charge now.” I hadn’t gotten to know myself. I hadn’t learned to trust myself.

Five areas of focus

What I have found through my experiences of the last decade are five areas that need my action and attention. By keeping a balanced focus, I have gotten to know myself, learned to trust myself, and put myself in a position to do more of what I want and less of what I don’t. And to know what I want and what I don’t.

  • Authenticity – Honor your individuality. Display and demonstrate who you truly are even when it goes against what others expect or what is popular. Doing this in small ways can make a big difference.
  • Creativity – Create things. Build, write, paint. Put new things out into the world.
  • Experience – Do things. Expose yourself to new experiences. Read weird books. Create opportunities for input of new ideas.
  • Self-discipline – Make yourself do the things you need to do so you can do things you want to do. Whether that is exercising to stay healthy and energized, or paying the bills on time to free your mind, or keeping a regular writing practice.
  • Connection – Interact with others. Share. Find ways to be generous in helping others and learn to ask for help when you need it.

By attending to all these areas and writing about my experiences, I have built knowledge and trust and confidence to make decisions, big and small, about my work and my life.

It is an ongoing process.

In times of uncertainly, I repeat the mantra:

No one knows better than you.

%d bloggers like this: