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The Self-Discovery Digest

by Elizabeth and Katherine Hirsh
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November 2009 Archives

It's Thanksgiving time here in the United States and just as the name implies, the day offers a chance to reflect on those people and things for which we are thankful. Reviewing all that is good in our lives typically leaves us feeling joyful, energized, and peaceful. Wouldn't it be nice to have a daily dose of such good feelings? Here is a simple formula that can help you do just that:

Gratitude + Action = Purpose

Nearly everyone recognizes the importance of the gratitude part of this equation. However, we often forget the action part, which is external and requires outward directed behavior. The thinking (gratitude) combined with the doing (action) grants us a profound sense of being on track toward achieving something meaningful (purpose). This formula doesn't require some radical shift in thinking or behavior - the best and easiest way to bring more purpose into your life is simply to start. How does this work? Read on for examples of applying this formula to everyday life.

I am grateful for the weight I've lost - today I will enjoy my favorite delicious and healthy foods.

I am grateful for the love of my dog - today I will give her extra attention and take her on an extra long walk.

I am grateful for my relationship - today I will not take my loved one for granted and instead share specific reasons why I feel lucky to be part of this couple.

I am grateful that despite my arthritis, my limbs still work - today I will take a walk in honor of the legs that have carried me for so many years.

I am grateful that my parents love taking care of their grandchildren - today I will give them movie passes so that they can enjoy themselves like they enable me to do.

I am grateful for the good natured warmth that the barista shows me when I grab a coffee on my way to work - today I will acknowledge her cheerfulness with a "thank you" and a big tip.

These examples may strike a chord with you or you might be thankful for other things - the point is to think about what you are grateful for and then do something about it. Like the examples above, all it takes to give life a new zip and a renewed sense of purpose are small kindnesses that reflect your gratitude. So take what's in your heart and put it out there - enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that comes from living life with purpose. After all, wouldn't the world be a better place if we all let our gratitude show?

We all know something about fairy tales. Most of us grew up with them. We read them to our children and grandchildren, and we may even have a favorite that we enjoy over and over. Fairy tales present epic struggles: characters matching wits with ogres, narrowly escaping from enchantments, and enduring great hardships in pursuit of a goal. The ideas contained in fairy tales can help us on our journey of self-discovery.

The magic wand
Many fairy tales feature characters who are given the chance to make dramatic changes in their lives with the help of a magical object, like a wand. If you think about your own life, is there something that you would happily change if you could wave a magic wand? Who, in real life, might offer you support or resources to help facilitate this transformation? What sort of environment could serve as your magic wand and help you create the changes you've been dreaming of?

The wise fool
Other fairy tales show naïve characters triumphing over their seemingly more clever rivals. These "clueless" folks end up doing well because they don't make any assumptions about what is the correct or smartest approach. If you think about your own life, is there some area where your assumptions about what is best are preventing you from finding a workable solution? Who, in real life, has no preconceptions about your situation and could help you uncover a new path to success? What sort of environment might help you unblock your creativity?

The frog prince
Another common fairy tale theme centers on characters who are not what they seem, like a prince who appears in the guise of a frog and must wait for someone to love him as he is for the spell to be broken. If you think about your own life, is there some aspect of yourself that is just waiting for the proper love and acceptance - either from self or others - to be activated? Who, in real life, has a way of seeing your true self and could assist you in developing that authentic identity? What sort of environment might help you to see the courage, beauty or talent latent within you?

Part of self-discovery is finding the stories that give you inspiration and letting go of those that bring you down. What stories are you telling yourself? Are they helping you to live more fully? Any story, positive or negative, personally derived or assigned to you by others, can become a straightjacket if it no longer enables your growth.

Self-Discovery Tool Number 18

One of the best ways to bring about (and then maintain) a happily ever after is to visualize it occurring. What can you do to keep the idea that things will turn out for the best firmly in your mind? Share your dreams with friends, family and colleagues so that they can actively help you make them come true. Make your own story. And as you do, remember that like all good tales, there will be ups and downs but the hero (that's you) always prevails in the end!