Reference Guide: Self

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Module Reference Guide

It is recommended that you start with the self-module before launching into the broader context of the other pillars.

In his beautiful soul-replenishing book, ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’, Charlie Mackesy 1 provides a story for all ages which orbits around the notion of love for yourself and for others. The boy is asked by the Mole, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, “Kind”, replies the Boy. This is one of the most important priorities with purpose and a fundamental starting point for the Self Pillar. In a world where we can be anything, being kind is incredibly powerful. 

Our first commitment is to be kind to ourselves and then to others and all humanity. 

When you spend your life prioritising others’ wants over your needs, consumed with pleasing others, life has less meaning, and you lose your sense of purpose and empowerment. Prioritising your wants over others’ needs may be selfish, but prioritising your needs over others’ wants is never selfish; it’s essential. 

Identifying and doing what’s best for you creates the conditions for you to show up more fully for others. With a demanding multifaceted life, it is the ‘Self’ priorities that often get squeezed as work/contributions and/or family/relationships take precedence. This is your opportunity to expand the focus on your core strategy for yourself and “fit your own oxygen mask first before assisting others”, as the airline safety briefing instructs. If your own oxygen and energy are low, it is difficult to contribute meaningfully. Fill your cup first. 

“Flow is an optimal state of mind…where you perform at your best and feel at your best.” Csikszentmihalyi 2 

Flow is like the wind: invisible, but you can feel it and see its effects – when you are in flow, it feels like a tailwind accelerating progress, but when you’re not in flow, it feels like you’re facing into a headwind, pushing you back, slowing you down, even bringing progress to a standstill.

Sometimes life just feels discordant, and like a flower deprived of nutrients and sunshine that struggles to blossom and bloom at its best, we need to find our flow to be at our best. When flow eludes you, ask yourself whether you are doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (the definition of insanity). 

In the 1993 film Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, a sceptical weatherman gets caught in a time loop repeating the same day over and over until he takes a different approach. If you want to become unstuck and out of your own time loop, you need to explore what you are doing so that history keeps repeating itself. I’ve realised that when this happens to me, like the weatherman, there’s something that I need to learn and something I need to contribute. The fun comes in figuring out what those things are so that I can move on. It’s like I have to solve a problem on one level of a game in order to advance to the next level!

We can easily get stuck in the status quo, believing that got us here is the best approach. But what got us here might not take us to where we need to go. Very often, we are not feeling in the flow because there’s a misalignment between our choices, our circumstances or conditions and our values and aspirations. It takes courage to be strategic, to close one door in favour of opening another, but the potential for progress is so much greater than remaining in the safety of today.

Eliciting your priority statements of intent

Most commonly, the priorities fall into three interconnected elements. Don’t be constrained by these; they are here to provoke and provide structure to your thinking, not limit you.

Your well-being impacts your ability to be your best self and live your best life, which in turn impacts your well-being. 

Priority 1: What do you need to invest in for your health, vitality and well-being?

“What you consume consumes you; what consumes you controls your life.” Vex King 3

This is true in every aspect of life, from nutrition, to what you listen to, read and watch, what you allow to influence you positively or erroneously, and where you invest your time, talent and energy – basically what you allow into your life.

“Wellbeing is about more than living ‘the good life’: it is about having meaning in life, about fulfilling our potential and feeling that our lives are worthwhile. Our personal or subjective wellbeing is shaped by our genes, our personal circumstances and choices, the social conditions we live in and the complex ways in which all these things interact.” 4


“Wellbeing is more than just happiness. As well as feeling satisfied and happy, wellbeing means developing as a person, being fulfilled and making a contribution to the community.” Shah & Marks 5

Well-being implies a sense of thriving, flourishing, being fully alive, ‘firing on all cylinders’, and living life to the full, as well as feeling balanced and calm, contented and at ease with life. Well-being is affected by many elements in our lives and varies from person to person because each of us has a different combination of psychological, emotional, social, and physical inner resources upon which we draw. Well-being fluctuates depending on the events, challenges, and experiences we encounter in our lives. While some aspects of well-being are outside of our control, most are areas where we can exercise choice and take personal responsibility for our well-being.

Well-being is defined as: “a delicate balancing act between an individual’s social, emotional, psychological, and physical assets (resources) and the particular social, emotional, psychological and physical liabilities (challenges) they are facing in life and work at any one time.” 6

When individuals have more challenges than resources, their seesaw dips, along with their well-being, and vice versa. Some people may have a great deal of stress and challenge (liabilities) to face in their life, but because they have an equal or greater amount of well-being resources (assets) that they are able to access and employ, their well-being balance sheet is positive. They have resilience – they are able to manage stress and cope well, constantly moving forward, overcoming the setbacks and the challenges they encounter. In my life, I have visualised this as when I am surfing a big wave. The challenge is immense, but I’m on top.

Conversely, some people may seem to have very little stress or challenge in their life, but due to their lack of available resources, they haven’t the ability to deal with that stress or the challenges effectively, and their well-being balance sheet is negative. When people are faced with stressful conditions, their stress can get to them, creating headaches, backaches, indigestion, and other common ailments, which can develop into more serious conditions if continuously unmanaged. When I have been here, it feels like I may only be in shallow water with small waves, but I’m under water, being hit by the waves and unable to breathe.

The need to manage my stress from challenging circumstances was a catalyst for my journey of self-discovery and the development of Personal Strategy. In publishing, they have a saying – that you write the book that you need. Personal Strategy was the tool that I needed at the time, and I continue to use it twenty years later. The well-being balance sheet is something I constructed as part of that and has been improved from becoming accredited in well-being tools (GLWS) and working with excellent well-being coaches and consultants over the years.

Use the well-being exercise to explore the areas where you need to manage the increase in your well-being resources or reduce your well-being liabilities to manage your stress and elevate your vitality. 

Priority 2: What do I need to focus on to be my best self?

“Believe in yourself. You are braver than you think, more talented than you know, and capable of more than you imagine.” Roy T. Bennett 7

The “Enough Mantra’

Working with hundreds of exceptionally talented, purposeful and high-achieving contributors, I am always shocked at the high percentage of them that exhibit imposter symptoms and become the greatest obstacle to their own progression. Start with declaring, “I am enough!” Own your talent and accomplishments. It may seem that you’ve got a long way to go, but look back and recognise how far you’ve travelled to get here already. The ‘Enough Mantra’ has been a lifeline at times in my life when I have felt inadequate to deal with the situation I’ve been faced with, and the voice of the inner critic is loud and overpowering. 

I start every day with, “I am enough, and I have enough of whatever I need today, regardless of how high the mountain that I must climb appears to be.” Starting from a place of abundance – what and who I am, rather than from a place of scarcity – what and who I am not, is a good way to start every day. It’s got me through every day and helps me to thrive rather than just survive. It’s also a great basis on which to write an intention statement on how to be your best self. 

“Look inside yourself; everything you want, you already are.” Rumi 8

When we view ourselves as constantly learning and improving, we adopt what psychologists call a growth mindset. A growth mindset lets us see a challenge as an opportunity to learn something new. A growth mindset is the difference between hitting an obstacle and immediately thinking, “I don’t know what to do right now, which means I can’t do this,” and telling ourselves, “I can develop the skills and find a way to overcome this.” 9 One of my observations of those who truly succeed in life is how they have an open growth mindset and commit to continuous learning and improving themselves versus those that hold themselves and others back by having a fixed or closed mindset. The ‘best self’ priority often reflects the intent to learn, develop and grow.

You may be aware of a gap between where you are today and where you want to be in terms of your mindset, your behaviours, or your activities; the statement of intent identifies what you prioritise and why in order to make improvements and close the gap.

Depending on where you are at, your conscious commitment to becoming your best self may be simply at the level of being better than you were yesterday and taking small steps one day at a time to gain forward momentum. 

Alternatively, you may already be comfortable with who you are and what you have become and want to develop your strengths to a higher level of maturity to fulfil your aspirations. If this is the case, articulate your statement of intent to reflect the extent, speed and depth of change desired.

Wherever you are in the continuum is the place to start from, and look forwards towards your aspirations. 

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Arthur Ashe 10

Comparing yourself with others or others’ expectations of you is not helpful; your comparison should be directed at the person you were yesterday. If you want to be the best version of yourself, keep focused on improving your own life and not comparing yourself with what you see and read on social media about others. Never compare your inner story with someone else’s external story; they are not comparable.

Identifying Assumptions

An assumption can be defined as something that is accepted as true or certain to happen without proof. In strategy, being explicit about your assumptions and testing their validity is fundamental to establishing your hypothesis, whether for an organisation or an individual. For example, you may assume that as you have tried something in the past and it resulted in a bad outcome, such as getting hurt or damaged, you hypothesise that this approach should be avoided to protect yourself.

We all tell ourselves stories, inner narratives that shape how we see ourselves and the world around us. These stories can be helpful, such as when we tell ourselves that we are capable of success, but they can also be limiting or destructive, like when we tell ourselves that we are undeserving of love or of realising our dreams or that we are just not enough. We can spin a tale to justify a historical event, but then it can evolve into an assumption, part of the way we think and act. Thankfully it is possible to let go of stories that aren’t serving us and create new ones; this is, however, an activity that requires deliberate attention and intentional action.

In ‘Loving What is’ Byron Katie 11 asks four questions that challenge all assumptions and can really make a difference:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react when you think that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

Using these four questions, consider:

  • What assumptions are you making about yourself and your life?
  • What real evidence do you have to absolutely know that this assumption/story is true?
  • What is your potential without this assumption?

If you are to improve, there needs to be an honest, ideally objective, and constructive self-awareness of the improvement required to be the best version of you. Without conducting some self-evaluation or gaining constructive feedback from others, we may have a jaded, under or over-stated, even delusional, or misguided view of ourselves and our potential.

The link between thinking and behaving

“The ancestor of every action is a thought.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson 12

If you are to understand yourself and your behaviour in order to change, you need to ask an important question: Who am I, and what causes me to act the way I do?

What you think and the view you have of yourself are strongly connected; together, they have a powerful impact on everything you say and do. Your thoughts characterise who you are and shape your life. What you think determines how you perceive reality and how you relate to others, as well as how you solve problems and make decisions. Your self-concept is the image you have of yourself, the person you believe yourself to be and the narrative that you tell yourself about yourself. Thoughts and self-concept are the two key components that determine your behaviour. Therefore, before you can understand your behaviour, you must understand the feelings and thoughts that cause it. 13

Knowing who you are now is the first and most important step in deciding who you will be in the future. Potentially, what brought you to this place and the thinking styles that you have employed in the past will not necessarily be effective in getting you to where you want to be in the future.  Realising what needs to change in your thinking and behaviour is a key part of your intention to be a better self.

There are many tools that you can use to aid this exploration; at Strategy Together, we use the Life Styles Inventory ©  (LSI) by Human Synergistics as it provides a quantified method for looking at strengths as well as self-defeating behaviours in order to support you to further improve upon what is good, and work to change what could be better. (If you are interested in gaining these insights from your LSI by an accredited LSI Strategy Together coach, please contact

The Scarcity Train story

When you are standing on the platform of a station, you can feel when a train is hurtling down the tracks towards you. You can feel the displaced wind on your face, you can hear the sound of the engine, and you can feel the vibrations in the ground from the wheels on the tracks as the train gets closer. The destination is identified on the front of the train or the departures board. You have a choice, whether to board the train or to stand back and let it pass.

When triggered by some emotion, let’s say, resentment or frustration, I can feel it building in my body, and when it arrives like the train in the station, I can choose to jump right on to that train as the doors open and let it take me to that place where resentment resides. But trying to get off a moving train is not that easy once you’re fully on it and it’s moving at speed. Or I can choose to stand behind the yellow line, let the doors close and let the scarcity train pass.

Most times, I am able to recognise the scarcity train coming, but on those occasions where I don’t, I have a wonderful friend and colleague who will just whisper to me quietly in a meeting, “Let the train pass, Kit.” It’s enough to ensure that I step back behind the yellow line and choose a more constructive thinking style, a train that comes from a place of gratitude and generosity and will take me to a place of abundance, not scarcity.

Being aware of what gets in the way of showing up as your best self and what you will choose to prioritise is a key part of creating your Personal Strategy. Make a conscious choice to show up with abundance and reject the scarcity train. 

Priority 3: What do I need to focus on to live my best life?

“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”  Viktor Frankl 14

The common misconception is that we can only live our best life and be happy once we have certain things in place and certain external conditions are achieved. We put our best life on hold while waiting for these things. For example, when we find someone to love, we’ll be happy; when we get our own house, we’ll be happy; when we lose weight, we’ll be happy; when we find the right job/role, we’ll be happy; when we have more money, we will have a better life; when we have more time (like when we’re retired), we’ll be able to do all the things that we have ever wanted to do. The truth is that you can be happy right now. Turn it around. “When I am happy, good things happen.” By loving life, you’ll live a life you love. Focus on what you need to change, not what you want to be changed externally by others.

“Happiness doesn’t come from other people, from places or things. It comes from within.” Vex King 15

Focusing on what you are lacking in your life leads to a narrative of scarcity. Perhaps you’ve struggled financially for many years and have created an assumption that you’ll never have enough. This assumption could be keeping you from taking action. With the awareness of the story, you can create a new one, setting aside those assumptions and work from a place of objectivity, self-awareness, and self-love. To rewrite the story of scarcity you can choose to see the world as a place of abundance, where financial abundance is possible. Once you have created the new story, you can reinforce and support it by deliberately taking steps to realise the new reality by having an abundant outlook and acting with generosity. Generosity begets abundance.

“The key to abundance is meeting our limited circumstances with unlimited thoughts.” Marianne Williamson 16

Being thankful is one of the simplest yet most powerful habits you can build. By counting your blessings daily, you can begin to condition your mind to look for the good in everything around you. Being thankful is a vital component of happiness and abundance. The more you count your blessings, the more blessings you’ll have to count. (Refer to the gratitude exercise in the Vision module)

How much of your life do you really enjoy versus just ‘doing’? Do an audit. Do you intentionally invest in your own joy? What brings you joy? How are you going to bring more joy into your life? What hobbies, adventures or activities do you want to engage in? 

“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” states Einstein 17. Without imagining bright futures and solutions to our challenges, there is no future, only a grinding continuation of present reality. Einstein realised that if we only use the knowledge that we have today, we will produce no growth nor any fantastic breakthroughs in life.

Look beyond your current life to consider strategic possibilities to encapsulate in your intention.

“When you’ve seen beyond yourself, then you may find peace of mind is waiting there.” George Harrison 18

The principle of impermanence

“The bad news is that nothing lasts forever. The good news is that nothing lasts forever.” J.Cole 19

There is a story that I like that I want to tell you about here:

There was once a farmer who had a horse, but one day it ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbours came over and said, “What bad fortune!” “Maybe..” the old man replied. The next day his horse returned with three wild horses. “What great fortune,” the neighbours exclaimed. “Maybe..” the farmer replied. The farmer’s son fell while riding one of the wild horses and broke his leg so badly that he would always have a limp. “What terrible fortune!” the neighbours cried. “Maybe..” answered the farmer. Later, the army came through the village to draft all able-bodied young men for the war. Seeing his son’s limp they passed him by. The neighbours congratulated the farmer. “What wonderful fortune,” they said. “Maybe..” said the old man.

It’s hard to know which experiences will turn out to be fortuitous and which will be unfortunate because everything is constantly changing, and we cannot foretell or control the future. All we can control is how we meet each moment. I have learned through great loss, failures, and successes that life is precious, it can be lost at any moment, so I aim to live life with joy and make every moment count. I now understand how important it is not to be defined by what has happened to me but to approach every life experience as something to learn from and know that I am what I choose to become.