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Embracing the Unknown

What do bungee jumping, traveling to a foreign land, and asking for a date have in common? Depending on who you are, these particular examples may be too extreme, too mundane, or not directly relevant, but they all point to the potential for learning that comes with taking a risk. Whether or not you get the results you were seeking when you take a chance and step out of your ordinary routine, your perspective will have been expanded by the attempt.

So, how can we do a better job of viewing risk-taking as positive and energizing instead of scary or intimidating? And how do we shift our focus away from the outcome we expect or think we need and instead focus on and value the risk-taking journey for its own sake? Is there an attitude that we can adopt in order to appreciate more deeply the inherent gifts of embracing the unknown?

Here are some strategies to get you started:

  • Practice saying, “I don’t know” when you aren’t versed in something rather than forcing yourself to come up with a response. See what insights emerge when you let go of needing to have all the answers.
  • Adopt a growth mindset. See mistakes as opportunities for learning and development. Recognize how many times you have been able to learn in the last month and congratulate yourself on your progress.
  • Ask “what if….” If you usually do things a certain way or in a specific order, purposely mix up your routine. See how diverging from the tried and true for an hour or a day can reinvigorate your life.
  • Plunge in with childlike enthusiasm. If you think something might bring you joy, give yourself permission to do it just “because.” See how it feels to get started with only minimal expectations, preparation, or goals.
  • Decide to keep an open mind. Allow yourself to change your mind, be wrong or simply pursue of a new point of view. Commit to acknowledging the uncertainty and ambiguity of life and discover what gifts this mental fluidity affords.
  • Find humor in surprises. View the twists and turns of life as opportunities to take life – and yourself – less seriously. Look for the comedy in the unexpected and consider what about your challenges might also be funny.

As humans we prefer things to be all figured out and neatly ordered into instantly recognizable categories. This is a natural tendency. Yet when we limit ourselves to what we know and makes us feel comfortable, we can miss out on exciting and interesting opportunities that would allow us to expand our thinking and increase our wisdom.

Self-Discovery Tool 52
Embrace the unknown, look at things differently, and try something new. Refresh yourself through experimentation and ease up on the drive to be perfect. Be open. Be curious. See what amazing things life has in store when you take a risk. Although missteps are possible and successes are a terrific bonus, the true value of any risk is in the experience: life’s greatest teacher!

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Mapping Your Next Year

Welcome to 2012! Since twelve is a number that crops up all over the place and seems to have some sort of special significance – twelve eggs to a dozen; the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve Apostles, the twelve signs of the Zodiac; the twelve days of Christmas; the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, the “twelfth of never” – we thought we’d make twelve recommendations for self-discovery for the coming year, one for each of the twelve months in the year. And to make even more of the number twelve, we created our list in acrostic form using two iterations of the letters that spell the word twelve T, W, E, L, V and E.

January: T – Try something new.

February: W – Wonder at the world’s beauty.

March: E – Engross yourself in meaningful activities.

April: L – Let go of baggage – actual and emotional.

May: V – Volunteer to help, formally or informally.

June: E – Envision a brighter future.

July: T – Take a risk.

August: W – Watch and learn.

September: E – Engage with a mentor.

October: L – Listen patiently and actively.

November: V – Vary your routine.

December: E – Excel at being you by simply being yourself!

Start the year off with something fresh, follow that up with an appreciation of what your environment already offers and take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Look across your life and let go of what isn’t working, offer your help to others with your newly available time (remember you let go of what wasn’t working!) and picture where these efforts will take you. Put fear on hold and jump into something where the outcome may be uncertain but the act of trying itself feels rewarding, and pay attention to feedback, guidance, and advice from trusted family, friends and colleagues. End the year alert to options, alive to possibilities and aware of all that you are and can become.

Self-Discovery Tool #46
We found using a pattern of numbers and letters useful as we pondered the year ahead. What systems or frameworks might inspire you to forge a more meaningful life in 2012? How might tapping into them help you to make your self-discovery goals easier to organize and imagine and therefore easier to achieve? Mostly we’d most like to encourage you, not just as your final goal in December, but all year long to focus on living as the real you. Not only is this good for your overall wellbeing but no one else can fulfill this role but you and others may need the authentic “you” much more than you realize!