‘To Thine Own Self Be True’: What Does That Even Mean?

Week 9 of a 10-Week Plan to Connect with Your Center of Wellbeing: The Voyager binds us to a deeper dimension of who we areMartin Hill

Legend has it that in days long gone a rabbi named Zusya died. He feared that in the world to come God would ask him, “Why were you not Moses? Why were you not Solomon or David?” But God appeared and asked him simply: “Why were you not Zusya?”

It’s not easy to be who we really are.

Meet The Voyager

In earlier columns, I’ve introduced The Big Four, inner characters who guide us like an internal C-suite: The Dreamer that gives us vision and aspiration; The Thinker that applies analytical skill; The Lover that attunes us emotionally to people around us; and The Warrior that gets things done.

All of us possess these inner negotiators. They debate each other in our minds, each voicing its own worldview and pointing us in the direction of its particular priorities. These four inner forces are universal and central to the human experience, but there’s more to us than our Big Four.

At the hub of our dreaming, thinking, feeling and doing, lies our being: our essence, our core, our center of well-being. Our Transformers reside here.

I’ve introduced The Transformers as an internal Board of Directors, overseeing our Big Four: The Lookout that observes them and The Captain that orchestrates them.

There is one more Transformer that operates in our inner world: The Voyager.

The Voyager’s Path is Lifelong Evolution

In Hamlet, William Shakespeare delivers a timeless challenge through the character Polonius: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”

Pulling that off can take a lifetime. We need to figure out what living truly to ourselves even means and then find out how to manifest it in our lives.

That task has an outer expression — fine-tuning what we like and enjoy, such as our career path or where we live.

Civilizations across centuries agree that our lives also demand cultivation of an inner dimension that learns and evolves over time.

The innate drive to grow in both of these ways – our outer life and our inner world — is carried by our Voyager.

Expanding Our Sense of Who We Are

Our Voyager helps us adapt to what life throws at us. We stretch to meet to new circumstances and opportunities as well as to cope with transitions and loss. We grow to close our Performance Gaps – the distance between what we do now and what we can do with our full potential.

Voyagers also seek new experiences and challenges because they know we’re not built to stand still.

On another level, our Voyager enables us to transcend our focus on the ups and downs of our existence. Like the other Transformers, it binds us to a deeper dimension of who we are beyond the frenzy of daily life.

Philosopher and psychologist William James talked about expanding into our “wider selves.” Saints and sages teach about accessing our innate wisdom. Contemplative traditions talk about resting in “awareness.” These are states of being that our Voyager explores as we mature, both personally and as leaders.

If we listen for its call, our Voyager shifts us to this more expansive state, the experience of connection to our center of well-being. It teaches us how to find our center more quickly, more consistently, and more easily.

The Voyager Embodies Your Inner Quest

Our three Transformers link us back to our essence as human beings, something true about us that’s deeper than our visions, thoughts, emotions, and impulses to act. They enable us to access essential virtues like beauty, awe, integrity, humility, grace. They ground us in our basic goodness and prioritize fulfilling our life purpose.

Our Voyager pursues the quest of lifelong learning and lives in a state of well-being. It pulls us ever closer to the truth of who we are. It answers Shakepeare’s command with a resounding yes.

Next week we’ll explore what it means to “win from within.”

Read more here:

Week 1: How To Connect With Your Center Of Wellbeing

Week 2: Close Your Inner “Performance Gap” To Tap Your Most Powerful Self

Week 3: Leverage Your Inner C-Suite: How To Bring Your “Big Four” To The Negotiating Table

Week 4: How To Draw On The Energy Of Your Big Four

Week 5: How to Tap Your Inner Superpowers in a World Gone Mad

Week 6: Don’t Overthink It: How To Allow Your Full Inner Genius To Speak

Week 7: Spend Quality Time Inside Your Mind To Turbocharge Your Leadership

Week 8: How To Follow Your Inner GPS To Your Center of Wellbeing

Published on Forbes.com November 13, 2020

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