There’s a scene in the classic comedy Zoolander where the main character’s life has fallen apart. He has had a singular focus his entire life - on his modeling career - and he feels that modeling career slipping away from him. He then sees his reflection and in a puddle and contemplates out loud “Who am I?” As a kid I watched this movie a ton with my friends and my brothers and now this question has become a jokingly serious mantra around my house.
Something I am constantly doing in my own life, and encouraging my clients to do, is evaluating and re-evaluating my values and goals. This is doubly true when I am at a crossroads or transition in your life as the lack of clarity will cause you much more stress in your moments of decision.
If you’re about to get married, you may hesitate because you are wondering if freedom and independence are your highest priorities or if companionship and love are higher. You may be staring at two job offers, one extremely lucrative financially - giving you money to afford the lifestyle you dream of for you and your kids - and the other extremely lucrative in terms of your spiritual needs (a nonprofit helping the homeless or saving the environment). Perhaps there was something at your place of worship that challenged you because what was being said didn’t match with what you thought.
None of these dilemmas can be answered honestly if you don’t know the priority and strength of your own values and goals.
A lot of people never really take the time to sit down and write down their values or their goals. They just hope that these programs run effectively in the background of their brain and inform the decisions that they make every day, That can work for people who are exceptionally clear, but for most of us, if we leave these things unexamined, we will feel this dull pain all the time and we’re not even sure why it exists. That pain is internal conflict and it will lead to procrastination and more stress.
For previous generations, life was a little more fixed. The classic stereotype of going to college, getting married, having a few kids, and retiring at 65 with your full pension from the one “office job” you had forever was a simple existence. But for those 45 and younger, life conditions have changed and people hop jobs, change careers, delay marriage and date around, and it seems like every new day there is an obvious challenge to ask yourself who you are and what you value. That makes the skill of self-awareness far more in demand for younger people who want to be happier (but is still very true for people of all ages).
For those of you who have never put pen to paper on these things, here’s what you should do every year or so to make sure that your life matches what your heart and your brain want your life to be and a way to erase that dull pain of conflict you are carrying with you.
Through this simple process, you can start to answer the question “Who am I?” with extreme clarity and get rid of all the incongruities in your mind that are making you procrastinate and miss out on the life you truly want. With this information you can make sure that no matter what your current life conditions are, you are moving in a direction that will make you more happy and more fulfilled.