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Speaking from within

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My son is in the process of writing his middle school graduation speech. Ouch.

I’m watching him squirm as he attempts to draw out the truths of his experience up until now, and distill them into something he can convey to the rest of us. His school is tiny, so each kid will take a turn on stage. My boy will have ten long minutes to reflect and share what he has understood about himself at this particular point in his life, in preparation for his next chapter: high school.

Yes, I’ll be bringing a box of Kleenex on the big day.

My heart goes out to him : this process isn’t natural for him. Even though I ask him all sorts of probing questions (of course I do!), he’s more of a present moment sort of kid, full up with whatever he’s doing, and he doesn’t share much about how he’s feeling or what he longs for in life. Like many 13 year olds, he has a busy schedule, fueled by a mighty to-do list. He doesn’t tend to reflect much on what his life looks like from 10,000 feet.

I appreciate how challenging it can be to reverse the perspective on ourselves, whatever our age and stage. Going in, taking stock, and getting real with who we are right now requires that we pull back curtains that may be currently keeping our house in order. Even if those curtains are blocking our light.

Yet stepping into our inner landscape can be both terrifying and beautiful. I hear this again and again from clients in our first coaching session. They have spent time with a set of foundational questions for the work we’ll do together. They resisted getting started because looking at themselves with honest and loving curiosity is not a familiar practice. They were afraid to look, because they weren’t at all sure what had changed since they last visited.

And then, inevitably, when they soften and turn inside they’re riveted by what they find. They’re thinking they’ll find chaos but instead they find simple truths:

  • They see that what they value has withstood the test of time and circumstances; that their guiding principles continue to show them the way.
  • They appreciate the lessons learned from the missteps and unexpected catastrophes they survived.
  • They take note of where they are on their path, and what’s ahead for them.
  • They re-evaluate old beliefs and choose whether to keep them or chuck them out.
  • They redefine what they’re here to do and what that means right now.

This sets the stage for actively calling in what they want. Consider how different this is from being on autopilot – or trying to make an important decision – from within a life that feels unexplored.

Accessing and excavating what’s true at a heart, mind and gut level doesn’t have to be something we do only at the critical junctures in our lives (like graduations or New Years…). Even those of us passionate about personal development fall out of sync with ourselves from time to time – life gets busy, and we pay attention to what’s happening on our outsides rather than our insides.

Think of it like keeping your operating system updated; click “yes” each time you see the reminder to replace the last version with what’s most current. Regularly review what’s true, what hurts, what you love most about right now. Name your hungers and your deepest fears. Be sure the words you speak originate from this trove of truth as it exists right now.

My son’s struggle with his graduation speech reminds me that the journey can be challenging, but the view from the top is beyond compare. That’s where he finds himself right now, and that’s what we’ll see when he takes the stage.

If you had your 10 minutes, what would you say to the adoring audience before you?

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