This exercise involves answering a question from the heart in order to get to the truth of who you are. When I did this with my friend Jennifer Urezzio, I was in a roomful of strangers, raw and tearful because I had failed to get through the main exercise of the day. In this vulnerable state, Jennifer kept asking me “What do you do?” Finally, my ego was so exhausted from trying to defend myself that I just blurted out, “I bring people together. I hold space. I shake things up.” At that moment, it was like the clouds parted and my heart lightened. I knew I had finally waded through the fear and gotten to a kernel of truth about myself.
This activity is best done in a group setting where you don’t see the questions ahead of time, and everyone draws one at random right before her turn. I’m not gonna lie. This can get really intense. The measure of success here is not how polished your answers are (this is not a “public speaking” exercise in the toastmaster sense). The point is not to be eloquent, slick, or impressive, but to speak from the heart. And short of that, the point is to learn what is getting in the way of speaking our truth.
Each question the follows is a heart-centered question, but depending on the person, some might be more challenging than others. Pay attention to where your answer comes from. Try to catch yourself speaking from your head/ego. You will know when you are in that energy if you feel stuck trying to edit your words or if your answer sounds canned or neatly packaged for an interview.
- Who are you becoming?
- What is the essence of you?
- Who are you really?
- What do you do in the world?
- What is your personal vision?
- What is your message to the world?
- What is your life’s work?
- What is your mission in life?
- What is your gift to the world?
If any of these questions start tripping you up, keep trying to reel yourself in. If you can’t manage that and shit hits the fan, that is also okay. Feel whatever wants to come out fully—fear, anxiety, tears, frustration, anger, confusion—and notice where you feel all that and how. Take care of yourself and be gentle with yourself. Then, from a newly grounded and centered place, look back at your question and reflect on what triggered you.
Don’t say, “That was hard,” because hard and easy are relative here. There are no questions that are harder or easier than others in this list. All the answers to every one of them are already inside you. This is not something you have to research, study, memorize, and prepare for. It may take awhile to tap into, but answers from the heart come fully formed.
If you find yourself worked up over any of the questions, then consider the possibility that you are dealing with one or more of your shadow aspects. Can you name it? Here are just a few:
- safety concerns (It’s not safe for me to voice my truth.)
- performance anxiety (I have to get this right.)
- self worth (I have nothing to contribute to the world.)
- self esteem (I’m not good enough to speak.)
- doubt (I can never get to my truth.)
- self defeat (No one ever listens to me or understands me anyway.)
If none of these are resonating with you, try to feel more deeply into your experience and see if you can’t find any words to describe the feelings and thoughts that came up. Remember, your ego puts up fears in order to keep you safe, so before you start beating up on your ego or yourself for “messing up,” be grateful that these issues are bubbling up so you can attend to them in the first place.
- Once you have a sense of the main issue you are dealing with, turn inward and ask yourself (or your ancestors, higher self, soul, spirit guides, etc.) what you would need in order to let go of it (fears around safety, false notions of self worth, poor self esteem, etc.).
- If the answer you get seems too overwhelming, then ask for your very first step.
- You can also ask for you to be shown, in your body, what it feels like to feel confidence, a healthy self-concept, clarity, etc.
If you need any support with any of this, please don’t hesitate to reach out! This is a challenging, but ultimately very illuminating and rewarding exercise!