Thursday, May 21, 2009

Don't Forget Where You Came From

I'd like to say that the reason I joined the Navy was some profound dedication to duty and commitment to principles that our founding fathers presented. But, I can't tell a lie - it wasn't that profound. And truthfully, it was a lot simpler, more immature, and more selfish than that.

I joined the Navy, because 5 months after I had dropped out of college with a lack of motivation and funds, I realized I was getting no where FAST! Literally, I had a bad week: I hated my job, my then girlfriend broke up with me, my car broke, and I couldn't see living at home any more. And low and behold, as I drove home one day, there it was, the Navy Recruiters Office.

Were there other options? Absolutely, but the easiest was the military. Besides, I thought it would be an adventure - because that's what the ads said at the time,

"It's not just a Job, it's an Adventure."

Unfortunately, the Navy then, as it does now, usually has a delay before you start - giving you time to second guess your decision. And had I not gotten some advice from a friend, I would have done just that - second guess my decision.

What was that advice? It was simple and straight-forward, "Don't forget how you feel right now. You are going to need it to keep you moving forward - use it to drive you forward every day to keep you going."

Now I'm not an advocate of running from where you are with no direction - I think you usually end up in much worse places than when you started. But, I do believe with a clear understanding of where you came from combined with a vision of what you want to be can be a powerful force to propel you through the most difficult changes you face in your life.

With that advice, I did something I had never done before, I sat down and wrote a letter to myself - the future self that I knew would try to forget how I felt write now. I wrote about my dreams for the future as well as my frustrations with the present. In essence, I wrote a simple personal vision statement - to drive me forward in my times of despair that everyone warned me about in the early stages of Boot Camp and life in the military.

Writing down how you feel right now, has too major advantages:

1. It requires you to sit down and put into words exactly how you are feeling - forcing you to face your true feelings and the reality of "who you are" right now.

2. It gives you a tool, a journal of your past, so that you may see how far you have come in your daily growth - where you came from and verify that you are on track to reach your future dreams. Without which you can forget who and what you were - as so many do.

As part of my coaching practice, my clients write an email to me daily. What some may have come to realize, while others haven't yet, is that they have begun to keep a journal of their lives - how they look at what they do and what they are trying to do differently everyday to become a better person and a better business owner.

As an outside observer, I get the pleasure of seeing their growth, but more times than not, they can't see it. The slow process of daily growth is so transparent to their psyche that they often don't recognize the major changes that took place until they step back and review who they were. They literally can't see the before and after.

A journal combined with positive reflection on the past helps you
see that and empowers you to move forward - to keep the press on.

Needless to say, if you don't already do it, I would find some way to journal. Whether it be as simple as writing a sentence about how you feel or pages and pages that capture everything you did and felt that day. What you will find is that when you go back and look at your own words, and see the personal growth (or not) that has taken place, you will be amazed - in either a positive manner or not. You can literally use your journal as a barometer to help you figure out whether your current course of actions is taking you closer to your goals or not - you can answer the questions, Is what I'm doing working for me or not?

However, beware. I must warn you. Looking back, when used as a tool to judge your growth is a double edged sword if you are not careful - as is any form of reflection. If you can do so objectively and not take personally what has or hasn't happened and leverage for growth in the future, it can be an amazing tool. But if you look back and get caught up in self-pity over all the struggles you've had and opportunities lost, then it will only perpetuate that same result.

The key is to focus what you learn from the past on how you are going to make the future better - not how you have been and always will be a victim of circumstances.

1 comment:

  1. JJ, This was a splendid post. Thank you. I hope you kept the letter you wrote to yourself all those years ago... :) Writing things down is so powerful - especially feelings about events. Thanks for the reminder!