I’ve walked through life with an ever evolving concept of myself. At various points, I have subscribed to the tapes played in my mind, as the entirety of who I am. These tapes played so often, that I never noticed that they were that, tapes.
They were not absolutes. They were not facts. It is not a fact that I am ‘matt’. It’s a name given to me and a name I have chosen to keep. It’s a label. And yet, it does not encapsulate all that I am.
The greatest question I have been asked and I still answer…
Who am I?
My initial response would be that I am Matt. But as mentioned above, that isn’t true. That’s what I am called. That is my label. (One of many).
Next I may talk about being from a small town. Or, my family. I could speak about life challenges and college. But again, that isn’t me either. I am not my city of origin. Nor am I what I have done, or the family I grew up in.
These life experiences do impact my inner tapes of who I perceive myself to be. But, they still are not me. I’ve interpreted it all through my own senses. But to point to any fixed identity, is purely subjective.
When I still worked in corporate, one moment I would be a Director, and the next moment, a friend. So that can’t be it either. The perception of friend and Director are more labels that I hold to be the truth of me. Those are stories I created of myself through a partnership with my mind and environment.
In one moment, I am capable of handling anything that comes my way, and the next, I may want to hide. Which of those am I?
I’ve spent many years lost in feelings, even though, as a man for many of them, I believed I didn’t have any. That’s a narrative and a myth for another day.
I would believe, ‘I am angry’. Or, ‘I am happy’. Well that’s not right, either. How can I be my emotions? I experience them. I am not them. I may feel angry. I may feel happy. But to believe that those emotions encompass who I am, that’s setting myself up to miss the bigger picture.
In business, in one moment I am capable of creating the sale with ease. Given a change in perception of who I am, the next, I am sure to fail.
On and on this can go. The only constant in these fleeting and ever changing moments are, well, me, watching them.
Well, if I am not my emotions, my titles, or the fleeting thoughts of myself, who am I?
Here’s where I am with this question. It’s valuable to contemplate this, because I begin to see the lies I have told and believed, over and again.
I may never answer it in its entirety, at least, in a way that I can explain in an article. What I value about this question is that it creates space.
It allows me to step back from the emotions and stories that can keep me anxious, on a pedestal, or in a holding pattern. From there, space becomes possible to see what I am creating in the world around me.
For when I am feeling afraid, how do I respond?
When I perceive that I am better than another person, how do I respond?
When I perceive I am capable of something, how do I respond in contrast to the opposite?
Or, if there is no story about any of it, what is possible?
By now you may be asking what any of this has to do with creating a legacy and then living it each day. Everything.
It’s the place from which everything starts. It’s in our perceptions of self that affords us the capacity to create what we want most. It’s in our perceptions that something seems possible or impossible. It’s in our perception of self and life where space for new options emerge.
We may be on the path of creating a business of our own. There’s a direct correlation to how well we do in business, and how we perceive ourselves. When challenges arise, the truths we hold of ourselves will influence what happens next.
Depending what we perceive, and the next actions, can be all the difference. It can be the difference between focusing on mastery, or going back to work for someone else.
This is an important moment. Moments like this offer us a chance to see how our mind works.
If we go the latter route, our mind may lie to us. We may begin to convince ourselves that we prefer working for someone else. That may be true. Or we may be too distracted to see that we told ourselves that to mask that we never gave it our best. We are likely holding on to an old perception of ourselves that feels more comfortable.
Our minds are sneaky. In one moment we are more certain than ever. And then the next, we have hit a snag in our internal tapes, and convinced ourselves that it was never true to begin with. The nuance here is challenging to explain. I have, and so have you, been at the effect of this. The question is, where is it happening.
These conversations in our mind will decide how we choose the direction of our lives.
I’ve had a few people tell me recently that they are not capable of creating a legacy. Here’s the problem with this. They already are. Each of us are.
Whether we choose what we are doing with intention or not, there’s a tangible effect in the world.
If we are parents that are not present with our children….
and they feel neglected and abandoned. That will impact their perception of themselves. Until they see it and change it (if they do), that will impact how they do life. This will be a driver for how they interact with the world around them.
If we are business owners operating through a competitive vs cooperative model….
You may be ‘getting yours’, but at what cost? When you live life through the lens that everything is a competition, what’s that doing to your mind? Your body? Your family? Your community?
The examples could go on.
What I am encouraging contemplation on is not about right or wrong. Right or wrong is only real and relevant given the context of what we say we want to occur.
If I don’t care about the impact my business has on the world around me, then don’t waste time considering it.
If I am unwilling to look at how my own insecurities are impacting my children, then don’t give it a second thought.
And yet, most people do care.
Most people are too busy caught in cycles of production and consumption to take a real look at their lives. Some of this is self induced, the rest is part of the system we live in.
How do I know?
I have seen this in my own life, the lives of my clients, and many people I have met from around the world.
We can be so busy in this cycle that to take time to consider a question of the cost, is near impossible. Or, it’s done without thoroughness.
All the while, we may be navigating our day with a gut feeling that something is off. There’s a part of us that knows we are not being directors of our lives. Further, if we admit that to ourselves, it can induce anxiety to consider change.
The more we feel the pressure to perform, produce, and consume, the less we are directors of our lives. The key word here is ‘pressure’. That noticeable feeling that we must do more, be more, have more, is unmistakable. It can drive every thought we think, word we speak, and action we take.
All this comes from our perception of ourselves, and what life is all about. As the clock ticks, our lives unfold, and we may be further entrenched in a lie of what is doing with our lives. It may feel like there is no escape from what is the current norm.
….And there lies the challenge. We have to see the cycle before we can change the cycle.
I have an invitation for you.
Take a moment away from this article to consider the idea of creating a deliberate legacy. What does that mean for you? How do you, your family, friends, employees, and community fit into it? What about the world at large?
Take some notes on paper. Nothing formal. Write what comes for you. Consider the above through the lens of the next ten years, and when you have reached your final days. What have you created?
Then take it a step further and answer these questions about the reality of your life now.
What is my life devoted to as it is today? (Look beyond the easy answers of making money to support oneself and family. There’s more to it than that. Look at how you are spending your time, money and energy)
What are the real reasons I do this day in and out?
What’s my default future given what I am doing?
What is it I perceive about myself that keeps me on this path?
It is with new awareness to the perceptions we hold that allows the space for new choices to emerge. Until then, it seems we have no choice.
Look for where choice exists. It always does.
PS: It can be challenging to create the space to answer the questions above. Support and accountability to do so can be useful. Reach out to me and I’m happy to help you with answering them. You will be glad you did.