Knowing yourself … and stretching the breadth and depth of your capacities

I had a lightbulb moment on Friday at approximately 08:45 HKST, ie 00:45 GMT, as I sat with a good friend and fellow executive coach in the ground floor cafe of the Grand Hyatt at the Convention Centre in Hong Kong. I was sipping English breakfast tea and she had an Americano; limited cultural diversity in our choice of beverages, perhaps, but between us we have accumulated a (more than) reasonable wealth of different professional and cultural experiences in the wider field of education, and it was therefore, as ever, an uplifting – and thoroughly enjoyable! – conversation.

At 08:45 (give or take a few minutes), my companion – in response to my musings about balancing a portfolio career, introduced me succinctly and effectively to the concept of an ‘ambivert’ … and the light switch went on, with an almost audible click, accompanied by that little spark that sometimes happens when the wiring has been a bit faulty, and the act of reaching out to the switch has a little heightened risk associated with it. An ambivert! Of course! That is me! I have always had to explain to people why my Myers-Briggs tests sometimes show me as an E, and sometimes as an I, and usually end up taking far too long over the explanation – too long, that is, given the usual attention span that lay people (non-coaches) have while listening to other people talk about their personal characteristics. No longer will this be the case, though! I have the language … I can name that particular part of me; and, even more importantly, this language and knowledge bring into clearer focus another part of the jigsaw in my personal journey of self-discovery. I understand myself better as a result.

Why is this important? Well, when we have a better idea of who we are, we can work out more clearly what we choose to do next in order to capitalise on or enhance our strengths, and/or develop in our capacities in which we have invested less time and/or interest. Life is not long enough to do absolutely everything, but it is too short not to be self-aware enough to help shape the direction of our life through the choices we make, including how we choose to grow and evolve. Some of life may happen ‘to’ us; a remarkable amount of life, though, is open to being moulded, stretched and sometimes flipped on its head. And as any good coach will remind you – because actually, you already know this – the more you know about yourself, the easier this becomes. Psychometric assessments really help in this process.

I am a huge advocate of coaching, which is why I trained and practise as an executive coach, supporting senior leaders in education and other fields across the world. A good coach will keep being coached, too, and will keep learning, so that through keeping alive to the opportunities for their own personal growth, they will be even more attuned to the opportunity for others (their coaches) to grow too. It makes sense that the more we all know about ourselves – and each other – the deeper the appreciation we will have not only for our own capacities, but also for the capacities of others. A win-win, surely.

I am off to flex my ambivert muscles and stretch my ambivert energies. Have a great week!

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