The best version of ourselves can all too easily get buried inside as we let our work sidetrack our lives in ways we didn't intend. Over our working lifetime we fall into a course of doing, earning, rising, striving, providing over and over and we build layer upon layer of distraction, responsibility, and insecurity upon ourselves, until one day far too many of us look back and say, "What happened to the best version of myself? How did it get so buried?"
Something might happen that jars us into reevaluating the state of the union, but at that point, the reassessment can be clouded with despair because things have already veered so far off-plan.
Which brings us to the all-important question.
Have you unintentionally buried the best version of yourself?
It's quite possible you have. The layers of responsibilities and insecurities can quickly suffocate any of us.
I discovered, perhaps too deep into my corporate career, that I'd entombed my best self. I was caught in a cycle of doing work for many years that I was really good at (marketing), that came easily and was familiar and comfortable, but that was no longer challenging or nourishing. I looked up the food chain and found I had no desire for the job at the next level up. I needed the approval of my chain of command to feel good about myself far too often.
I realized I was no longer meant for corporate life. I became an entrepreneur and business owner and no longer felt lost or that I had "buried" my best self.
All is far from lost for you, too. Unburied and unstuck starts with "u." Here's what I did to unearth my most successful, happiest self, and what you can do too (and no, the answer for everyone isn't "quit corporate").
1. Reconnect with your values and live them.
Values are the little things you do each day that exemplify who you are. Those daily little impressions that leave a huge permanent impression. Take a few moments to write down your most closely held, non-negotiable values. Now ask yourself if you live them.
You have a choice each day to live in support of your values, or in spite of them. Which do you do?
2. Get learning and growing going.
Our best self bursts forth with learning and growth--something far too easy to de-prioritize. Learn to dread obsolescence, and view learning as what keeps you relevant. Choose to work on your life versus in your life. Discern what's good in your life, what skills you're good at--and then define what great looks like and what it would take to get there. Get out of the murky "good enough" that doesn't grow and stretch you.
In fact, elevate your pursuits to be worthy of your purpose and the legacy you want to leave behind.
3. Lead what only you can lead. Create what only you can create.
What are your superpowers? What are you in the best position to lead at your company, based on your knowledge and passion for the topic? What deed simply must be done that you're best suited to do? And what have you been longing to create? What unique contribution could you make that would allow you to bring your unique gifts to the world?
All of this means unlocking the best version of yourself. I could no longer ignore my passion and skill for speaking, writing, and teaching. Superpower activated.
4. Live your story, not someone else's.
The number one regret of the dying? People said they wish they'd had the courage to live a life true to their authentic self, and not the life others expected of them.
Life is one long narrative. It's up to you to write the chapters you want before "The End." And the truth is, you're the editor of your own life story. You want to be a certain way? Be it. You want to live your life a certain way? Live it that way. You don't like the story you're living? Change the script.
I realized my story no longer lay in corporate, but as an entrepreneur, speaker, and author. My voice has never been truer.
You simply cannot go to your grave with your music still inside of you. Un-bury. Unleash.