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Your Life as a Work in Progress

Your Life as a Work in Progress

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Published by: Dr. Earl R. Smith II on Dec 07, 2009
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12/06/2009

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 Your Life as a Work in Progress
Dr. Earl R. Smith II
DrSmith@Dr-Smith.comwww.Dr-Smith.comOne of the first steps in my mentoring engagements is to have the clientbegin to understand that their life is a work in progress. The deeper we getinto it, the more detailed that understanding becomes. Then there is therecognition that life is a process which begins at birth and continues untildeath. But recognition is only the first step. It is an important one to be sure,but the best comes after that. We can begin to focus on the value of each of us and the positive impact that we can have on the lives of others.
Step One – Assessment
We begin with a self-assessment. Our objective is todevelop a clearer understanding of the life which hasemerged. Most of my clients begin this phase with someconfidence that they understand the life they are living andhow it came to be. But that certainty is replaced with adeeper understanding that overturns many of theircherished assumptions. In a fundamental way, they aremeeting themselves for the first time. As casualassumptions are replaced by deeper self-knowledge, a far different picturebegins to emerge.One exercise that I use involves a self-description. I ask them to write one inas much detail as they can manage. For the most part, these paragraphstend to be rather generic. They could be a description of most people. Thehopes and dreams, strengths and faults, opportunities and limits aredescribed in very general terms. It is a start, but only a start. Nothing muchof that initial description survives the process as we begin to move from thegeneric to the specific. The driver for the process is a very simple set of questions.1. Tell me about yourself 2. What kind of a person are you?3. What do you think are your strongest points?4. What are your weaknesses?5. How do people around you see you?6. What do you stand for?
 
7. What do you tolerate?8. What about you makes you most proud?9. What about you gives you pause? The first responses to these questions are an outline of the, almost casual,vision that each of us evolves during our life. Most answers are cast inpositive value-loaded language. Nobody wants to see themselves as anegative person. But, using these initial responses as a baseline, we beginthe journey of self-discovery. The results are almost always far more positiveand empowering than the generic description. My clients begin to discoverthat they are much more complex and important than they assumed.
Step Two: Meeting Yourself 
 The assessment is a kind of snapshot; a picture frozen in time. Once webegin to fill out the details, the vision shifts to that work in progress. The ideaof a person who is complete falls away and is replaced. Meeting yourself involves recognizing the things that are going on in your life andunderstanding why and how you are managing them. It means meetingyourself as a work in progress.One you start to see yourself in this greater detail, your self-image becomesricher and more detailed. A sense of progress in some areas and lack of progress in others highlights important details of the life you have beenliving. Some of these efforts seem positive and empowering while others looklimiting. The process of working forward from the baseline involves asking ateach point,
‘I know that I said that that this is the way I am, but am I really this way’?
It also means asking,
‘I always thought that this is what I stand for. Is it really’?
Step Three: Finding Good Mirrors
Early in the process, it is important to draw in other perspectives. Part of mymentoring involves building a support network of close friends. These serveas ‘mirrors’; the better the friends, the better the mirrors. It is alwaysimportant to have these sources to validate what you are telling yourself youare. We all need to understand the critical importance of these ‘veracitychecks’. An old friend and mentor was fond of saying,
“I’ve never meanyone who could tell it completely straight, including me” 
. The truth is thateach of us has become very good at misrepresenting ourselves in ways thateven we cannot detect. The irony is that most of these misrepresentationsdistort rather than reflect our true nature.
 
So we develop a support structure to check our conclusions and, most of thetime, the reflections tell us that we are selling ourselves short.
Step Four: Getting to Know Yourself 
Once the assessment, initial introduction and support system areaccomplished the really fun work begins. Most of my clients comment thatmany of their initial apprehensions tend to disappear. They have beenavoiding getting to know themselves because of what the psychologists call‘a suspicion of self-bad-faith’. But they end up finding that they are really amuch better, more interesting and important person than they ever allowedthemselves to hope. The initial work is hard and many times I have to push my clients to do thework. But once they are ‘over the hump’, I often have to run to keep up. Oneclient recently told me,
“I had no idea that I was this interesting and positivea person. Why have I been avoiding myself for so long?” 
She had finally metherself and liked what she saw. It was one of those ‘and then the sun cameup’ moments.
Step Five: Becoming Who You Are
 The core realization is that you are really a far better and more interestingperson than you ever allowed yourself to suspect. The positive parts of yourlife can then be identified and magnified. The negative ones can be reducedand eventually eliminated. But all of that becomes possible only if you firstbecome who you are and accept yourself as a wonderful person withtremendous potential. Everybody has parts of their life that they wouldrather not have known. And sure, we work on eliminating them. But thegreatest part of our work is the discovery of those unique and positive partsthat bring value to you and the people around you.© Dr. Earl R. Smith II~~~~~~~~~~Related Articles:

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