A lot of us, especially in our youthful days, struggle with how to deploy ourselves in the world. Instead of being true to ourselves and charting our own unique course, we tend to follow paths that others have decided on our behalf. However, if we take the long-term view, taking the path less traveled and Deploying Ourselves can make all the difference in the long run.
Unfortunately, most of us prefer to stay in our comfort zones instead of striving to become the best version of ourselves. In this article, I will share 5 things that you are probably not doing but which could help you thrive and not just survive.
To get fulfillment in life, we must understand who we are and lead an authentic life – one that is based on our values, and that utilizes our strengths and talents. The following are five key things that you can do to take charge of your life and Deploy Yourself.
1. Understand Yourself – Your Values, Emotions, Desires, Strengths, and Weaknesses
The first step towards Deploying Yourself is to understand what you care about and what is important to you. Identifying your unique set of values can be the first step towards building self-awareness. Often in life, most of us don’t know what we care about and what matters to us. As a result, we end up accepting the standards and values which other people (parents, society, culture, etc) decide for us. However, trying to live your life by others’ standards is akin to surrendering your own will and judgment.
On the other hand, understanding your own values and being bold enough to follow them enables your unique light to shine upon the world. Looking back at history, it is clear that people who succeed in business or career are those who choose the path less trodden and follow their own path. Steve Jobs, Apple’s former CEO and co-founder is one example. His unique ideas went against the grain, and this transformed the tech world.
A big part of understanding yourself also means becoming aware of your emotions and desires. What makes you angry, happy, or sad? What gives meaning to your days and weeks? What do you crave? If you wish to master yourself, you must learn to pay attention to what your emotions and desires are trying to tell you.
Learning about your strengths and weaknesses enables you to choose a path that aligns with your talents and abilities. Research has proven that we can do much more productive and produce better results when we try to build upon our strengths rather than improve or fix our weaknesses.
“There is no passion to be found playing small — in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela
2. Realise that You are Unique and Special, Just Like Everyone Else
No two human beings are like. Each one of us has unique talents and skills that enable us to succeed in our careers and life. All of us have activities that fill us up with joy and satisfaction, whenever we are doing them. Unfortunately, most of us are not comfortable in our own skin, especially when our uniqueness takes us against the norms of society or of our peers. People too often hate that they are different from everybody else and try too hard to become someone they are not.
Failing to embrace your true self could stem from a desire to fit in with the crowd. What you should understand is that no two people are the same, just like no two flowers or no two birds are the same. Everyone has their own journey. And frankly, the world would be such a boring place if everybody was the same.
Instead of worrying about what others think, be ok with the fact that no matter what you do, someone somewhere will still find fault in you. If you are always comparing yourself to others and are trying to please everybody, you are allowing yourself to be deployed by others. Having a few people in your life who love you for who you are is better than having many friends who love you for who you pretend to be.
Martha Graham said, “There is a vitality, a life force, energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
3. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone, Live on the Edge That’s Where the Real “You” Lies
If you want to become the best version of yourself, you must be willing to get out of your comfort zone. That means pushing yourself to the edge and not being afraid to take risks. Often what stops us from learning new things are the mental limitations we put on ourselves because of fear of going beyond the comfort zone. Being afraid shrinks our vision and cripples our abilities to try out new possibilities, take new actions, and explore new learning pathways.
The best thing to do is acknowledge the presence of fear – for it is trying to tell you that the path you are moving towards is meaningful for you. Often the things you are most afraid of have the biggest potential to transform your life. So, instead of cowering when confronted by your fears, move towards them and stay at the edge of learning and new possibilities.
Remember what Bruce Lee once said, ” Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the ability to act in the presence of fear.”
Accept that fear is a natural and essential factor for growth to happen. Whenever you summon the confidence to step out of your comfort zone and face your fears head-on, subsequent stumbling blocks will look like stepping stones. Progress becomes faster and obstacles become easier because of the momentum you gain progressively. That is what Jim Collins describes as the Flywheel effect.
If you are given the task of rotating a heavy flywheel mounted on an axle, making the first turn takes a lot of time and effort. But after each successive turn, the wheel will start to pick up speed and momentum. Soon, the wheel’s weight will start working in your favor. Progressively, the effort you put in will be compounded as the wheel turns faster and faster.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
4. Lead Yourself – Take Control of Your Desires, Emotions, Body and not Be a Slave to Them
Our emotions can impede our ability to think and act rationally if we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by them. Most of us have, at some point, let our feelings cloud our judgment and ended up doing something that we regretted almost immediately. Emotions tell us what we care about, but reacting to them impulsively only boosts our ego by giving us instant gratification. This type of behavior feels good in the short term but is detrimental in the long term.
The good news is that emotions can be beneficial if you learn how to use them instead of trying to suppress them. Suppressing emotions only results in explosions later on and the emotion continues to keep building up inside. Instead of bottling up your emotions, pay attention to how you feel in your body and what your emotions are trying to tell you.
For instance – I once got angry when I got passed up for promotion. An impulsive reaction to that might be letting my frustration, but when I listened, my emotions were telling me that I cared for hard-work and fairness. When you understand your emotions and the motivation behind them, you can embrace them without letting them take the wheel.
Sometimes your emotions can hold you captive and control your life. They can dictate your actions and prevent you from Deploying Yourself. As Aristotle noted, “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.”
Desire is insatiable. Once you feed it, it only expands. It disappears temporarily only to come back stronger. Therefore, you cannot overcome them by simply resisting. The key to Deploying Yourself lies in acknowledging your short-term desires and long-term cares and then taking action to take care of your cares.
For example, do you feed your desire as a way to mask something deeper and much more valuable? Addressing those important issues could help get to the root of the problem, even though that process is usually not very comfortable. If you understand your urges and what fuels them, you will be able to Deploy Yourself instead of being deployed by them.
5. Stand Up and Speak Up for Yourself and Your Values
In life, we come across situations that call on us to take a stand for ourselves and what we believe in. Unfortunately, most of the time we struggle with growing a backbone and standing our ground. Any reasonable person wants to avoid conflict whenever possible. That’s understandable. However, being too accommodating can make you a pushover and prevent you from Deploying Yourself.
Never leave things unsaid if it is your true self-expression. Irrespective of the circumstances and what happens to you, you always have a choice to express yourself fully in a way that makes you proud. When you express yourself aligned with your values, you will feel good in your body. You will feel aliveness and meaning, even if others’ don’t agree. Sometimes it can be saying something as simple as “No.” Other times, it might mean writing a letter to give ourselves space to express our views authentically.
Overcome the fear that is holding you back from Deploying Yourself in life. Give it time as you build this new muscle with practice. It won’t happen overnight. But once you start putting your point across without being overly defensive or accommodating, people will be more willing to hear from you. You can start by taking small steps and starting slow. For example, you can tell the person who cuts the line to move back to the start of the line, firmly but politely.
Standing up for yourself doesn’t mean being aggressive. It is having the courage to stand in the authenticity of your opinion and believing in your self-worth. So, when the situation demands it, stand up and speak up for what you believe. You will find yourself becoming more comfortable in your own skin with time as you build the muscle of Deploying Yourself.
Take some time to pause and think about what do you really care about. Don’t shy away from asking yourself the hard questions. If you only follow what everyone is doing, you can easily get lost in the crowd. But once you identify your unique set of values, cares, and strengths, and understand your emotions and desires, it can guide you into understanding and deploying yourself.
History is awash with examples of great individuals and leaders who dared to dream. Their unique ideas managed to change the course of their life while also making a significant impact in their respective fields. If you do the five essential things listed above, you will gain the confidence and assurance needed to chart your unique path instead of following the crowd.