I joined my first book club in the early 90’s in New York City. It was an interesting group of young professional women about my age who met once a month to discuss a book. The club was organized many years before I joined as an investment group that somehow morphed into a book club. A friend told me about the group but warned I couldn’t join until someone died or moved away. Strange I thought but she said it was because they maintained the size of the group to 12 people, one to host each month of the year. Within a year someone moved away—thankfully they didn’t die—so I was able to join. The leader of the group dubbed herself “President For Life”. I’ve always laughed at that idea but then I got to thinking that president for life is a great idea for your own life. I mean, shouldn’t you be in charge of your own life forever?
Being your own president in life isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Although you might want to be the leader of your life, so many people and events impact your days in unanticipated ways. When you were a kid, parents and teachers probably had a larger leadership role in your life than you did. Other people throughout your life no doubt have had a big influence on your choices. But at the end of the day, I hope that you feel like you are the key leader in your life. If not, why not start now? Here are a few ideas for how to be the president of your life, the top dog, the big kahuna, the one in charge. If nothing else, these are a couple of ways to explore what is true for you and you alone.
Get to know yourself better than anyone else. This may or may not be a stretch for you. Some of us are very inward focused and that comes easily. For others who are more outward focused, getting to know yourself may feel uncomfortable. If you spend much of your life attending to the needs of others because of your role or your natural tendencies, it may feel selfish to focus on yourself. It is not selfish to get to know yourself. It is an essential step towards leading a life of your own choosing. There are so many ways to explore who you are on your own through personality and style assessments, self-exploration books and workbooks, journaling, and meditation to name a few. So much is available on-line these days for free and don’t overlook your library as a great resource. I set aside time each month for regrouping and thinking about who I am and what I want from life and I encourage my coaching clients to do the same. You deserve some self-attention.
Plan some alone activity time. One of my favorite recommendations for building creativity is also a great way to learn about what you need to be in charge of your own livelihood. Set aside some time periodically where you are by yourself in nature or at a museum or a movie or some other activity that calls you outside of your home. When you spend time with yourself instead of with someone else you are creating an opportunity to listen for your own reaction to your experience without interference from others. When you are with others, so much energy and focus naturally tends towards how the other person is reacting. Give your full attention to how you are experiencing the moment. What seems important to you and what is no longer important? Often we get stuck thinking and doing things that we have always done because at some point in the past we really wanted to do that thing. But what we like, what we want and what we need changes over time. Watch your reaction to experiences now and see what you learn about yourself when there is no one else around to shape your reaction.
Question everything that you do. Asking why is a very helpful exercise in life. You might find that there are many things that you do because they help and serve other people. That is perfectly fine and wonderful. And there is likely a deeper “why” in that. When you help others you are probably getting something out of it yourself. Being of service is a wonderfully fulfilling part of life for many people. Being of choice and aware that you are choosing to be of service is a way to honor that you are the president of your life. When you aren’t aware of the reason for doing something, you are letting go of your leadership reins. When you question why you are doing something and you don’t have a good answer, it is time to put on your president hat and take charge. Either find a meaningful reason for doing it or consider dropping it. If you hear yourself saying, “that is the way I always have done it” or “I have always wanted to…” then it is time to consider making a change.
Leadership is about clarity. When you are clear about who you are and what you want and need in your life, then you are able to make plans and preside over your life with purpose. You have the power to create the life you want and be your own president for life.