We all have obstacles to overcome at work, problems to solve, new things to learn and understand. We need access to resources that inform and guide our decision-making. What if the advice that matters most to our success isn’t in a business book or a personality assessment? What if our most useful guidance is always active and available within us, offering us clarity, consistency, and resilience?
There is an innate knowing in each of us. Beneath the rational, practical, and often willful part of ourselves lies our greatest personal resource. It is what the Sufi poet Rumi referred to when he said, “At the center of your being, you have the answer. You know who you are and what you want.” Yet, for many of us, this inner resource lies untapped. We are taught by society, the education system, religion, and culture to ignore these impulses, or worse, to actively push them away because they are irrelevant, irrational, or even dangerous. We quickly come to understand what is required to gain approval and be recognized, promoted, and praised. And so, we learn to play our roles as others define them. Soon, we begin to respond only as who we think we are supposed to be.
In our last two newsletters, we’ve published articles that call for each of us to step into the fullness of ourselves, show up as whole human beings, and lead where we are. But what does it mean to be whole? Whole people have a full relationship with their innate knowing. They act from a congruence of head, heart, and spirit. They are grounded in an honest and authentic understanding of what matters to them, what drives them, what they want to create in the world, and what they want to receive from it.
At work, whole people access their authentic and emotional intelligence as easily as their intellect and skill. They exhibit flexibility and resilience, even under challenging circumstances, because they act from their true nature rather than changing personas with each new event. Whole people are steady, even predictable, in ways that create safety, consistency, and continuity for others. They have a tested and true way of being that does not entertain pretense or falsehood. They are self-aware, and their actions align with their values, principles, and ethics. They are conscious of what they cause in their relationships.
If our innate knowing is always present, what keeps us from relying on it?
For many people, it is especially hard to access their innate knowing at work. Rather than slowing down, being alone, finding time and space to hear ourselves when we need an answer, we double down, work more hours, and rack our brains to come up with solutions. We seek advice from as many people as we can find, often ignoring our feelings and thoughts as they arise. We overreact, worry, doubt, and second guess – all behaviors that may appear productive but inhibit any real action. These behaviors reflect three gaps in our lives, gaps we must traverse if we want to live, relate, and work as whole people.
The first gap is about our internal understanding of how our choices make us feel, think and process inside.
The Awareness Gap is a lack of connection to the personal mandates and motivators that we require to feel happy, balanced, energized, and centered. We call them Essential Drivers and Cornerstones. We have all experienced clear and powerful moments when we felt that everything was right with the world; everything was just as it should be. In these moments, our mandates, our drivers, were fulfilled. And we’ve all known times, equally as clear and powerful, when we felt that all was lost, that our place in the world made no sense. In these times, the inability to experience what fuels and guides us, the absence of what gives us meaning and fulfillment, was so powerful that we experienced the loss in our hearts, minds, and bodies. These prized Essential Drivers and Cornerstones do not comprise a to-do list but rather the elements of living that we must experience to be whole.
When we act as who we think we are supposed to be, rather than who we are, it is hard to feel confident or secure. When we repeatedly make choices to please or appease others rather than act in solidarity with ourselves, we can lose sight of what matters to us. It takes curiosity, willingness, and courage to dig into our understanding of ourselves, to develop a deep and unshakeable sense of self. Until we do, we inhabit the Awareness Gap.
Often, we begin to understand our Essential Drivers when we can articulate our experience of them. Consider a time in your life when your self-esteem was soaring.
- What was affirmed for you during this time?
- What did you get that you needed?
- What values or principles were reinforced?
- Where else do you experience these essential elements in your life?
Answering these questions can help you better understand how you see the world and how you want to be in it, all rooted in your inner guidance. Your answers are about what is confirmed and even amplified about you when you seek to understand who you are at your core.
The second gap centers on how we act, or don’t, in relationship to what we know to be true for ourselves.
The Implementation Gap is a lack of congruence between our innate knowing and our behavior. Can you think of a time when you had a strong intuition about a choice you had to make, but you didn’t follow it? Or can you recall a circumstance in which your innate knowing led you one way, but your friends led you in another direction? Or even times when you’ve quieted your desires to keep the peace with another person? For many of us, the consequences of not following our own guidance are often disappointment, frustration, and even pain. As our innate knowing grows more clear and present, so do our choices about how we want to show up in our lives.
The Implementation Gap is evidenced in our everyday choices. Do I act as who I know myself to be? Or do I pretend to be someone I am not? Many obstacles stand between knowing what is right for ourselves and acting in concert with that knowledge. To remove the barriers and narrow this gap, we must choose to walk our talk, situation by situation, decision by decision.
Think of a time when your gut told you to go one way, but you chose to go another.
- What factors influenced you to take the path you did?
- What were the consequences of taking that path?
- What would you have to release from your thinking to follow your internal guidance?
- What would be the reward of letting those things go?
Answering these questions can help you explore the patterns you have learned that make it more challenging to act on what you know to be true for you.
The third gap describes our internal and external connections manifest with others.
We can become students of our innate knowing, and we can align our choices and actions in that knowing, but until we see and take responsibility for the impact we have on others, we live in the Impact Gap.
Dr. Brené Brown, social scientist and author, says, “We are hardwired for connection. From our mirror neurons to language, we are a social species. In the absence of authentic connection, we suffer. And by authentic, I mean the kind of connection that doesn’t require hustling for acceptance and changing who we are to fit in.”
How do we enhance the quality of our connections? By seeing how our words and actions impact those around us. Self-aware people possess an authentic curiosity about the experience of others and can successfully read, navigate and adapt to the input and reactions they receive from them. Emotionally attuned and genuinely concerned, they listen and respond with empathy. They seek understanding because whole people recognize what we share and how we are all connected.
To understand the Impact Gap more fully in your own life, think about a time when your role in a circumstance did not yield the effect you’d hope to have.
- What is it that you wanted to create in the situation?
- What impact did you have?
- What did you contribute? What did you hold back?
- How could your impact have been different?
- Digging deeper to understand a circumstance and our part in it allows us to begin to make conscious choices about the impact we want to have in the future and to act in more intentional ways to bring those choices to fruition.
The work to close these gaps is not easy, but the results are compelling.
For more than 30 years, The TAI Group has guided individuals, leaders, and teams to close the Awareness, Implementation, and Impact Gaps. The questions that follow the descriptions of each gap give you a sense of the process of investigation and exploration that underscores our approach. It is thoughtful and evocative work that, at its end, gives our clients an unshakeable knowing about what drives them, what they want to create in their work, and what they need around them to do that with energy and purpose.
Our clients come to connect to who they are, act from a consistent and reliable source of inner knowing, and take responsibility for their impact on others. Their relationships get stronger and healthier as they know themselves more fully and act with greater clarity, confidence, and creativity. They become more present in their day-to-day lives, no longer just tumbling through but making choices rooted in clear information from their most reliable and consistent source – their innate knowing. They have learned to mind the gaps.
As one of our clients wrote, “People say things like, ‘Oh, well … I’m a different person at work.’ I think you can try to operate in that mode, but it doesn’t work for long. You have to bring your whole self into work so that people can see who you are. Who wants to follow a leader who is not transparent and open about who they are and what they stand for? It creates trust to show up as a whole person.”
We are in a time of great rebalancing and reprioritizing. If we are to balance corporate demands with human needs, our businesses need whole people to take their place as models of excellent human interaction. We’d love to talk to you about how TAI can help you begin this journey towards a deeper understanding of your motivations and requirements, leading to a more dynamic and fulfilling relationship with others, your work, and your world.
About the author
Christine Strong is Chief of Staff and Coach for The TAI Group. Chris partners with leaders and teams to discover higher levels of clarity, focus, and action by uncovering the sources of guidance, alignment, and motivation that lie within them.