Self-discovery is like collecting breadcrumbs

If you are unsure about your path in life, consider collecting breadcrumbs Hänsel & Gretel style. This is an analogy I often use with clients. Imagine you are on a path where you discover things about yourself. Each time you do, it comes in the form of a breadcrumb. The breadcrumbs lead the way to the life you want to live (not to an evil witch!).

Breadcrumbs & self-knowledge

You don’t always know what you are going to find, but when you find something, you tuck it in your basket and keep it with you. And then one day when you have enough breadcrumbs, you spill them all out on a table and look at how they fit together. And that’s how you learn about yourself, the time when the bigger picture starts coming together.

Now I have been collecting breadcrumbs for three years now. I started in early 2012 when I was a college student studying media & communication sciences and was gobsmacked in the face by the fact that it wasn’t for me, and that I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.

And so the searching began.

I have collected breadcrumbs far and wide. Some of them I don’t know how important they are, or how they fit into the bigger picture – like my desire to write a children’s book about a guy named “Herr Humpelstrumpf” (translates as “Mr. Hobblesock”). If you find seemingly weird breadcrumbs like those, just keep them and keep on collecting.

Over time, some of them do start to make sense and you’re able to connect the dots.

For example, I found breadcrumbs about my love for deep conversations, excitement to see people live their dreams and nag for psychology – this led me to become a life coach two years ago.

Don’t let other people’s paths steer you from yours

So this collecting breadcrumbs thing can be very rewarding and fun (if you can keep yourself from wanting to figure it all out RIGHT NOW and getting all up in your head about it).

But it’s not always easy.

Here’s where I get tripped up a lot without even realizing it:

I see other people and the dreams they built out of their breadcrumbs and confuse their dream with mine. This sounds kind of silly, but here’s the kicker:

When we are starting out with a new dream, it is natural for us to search for others who are living a similar dream.

And that is a good thing – whatever exotic change you want to make in your life (ditching shampoo, living plasctic-free, eating healthy as a foodie with intolerances), there’s likely someone out there blogging about it.

That is fabulously awesome. The problem begins when we are on our own journey but start to look for others to figure out what we want.

Comparisonitis

Let’s take a look at my dream of running a successful coaching business.

When you look at other coaches, they often have a website. Great, according to my basket of breadcrumbs I like to have a website where I can write about stuff I like and showcase my services. So that’s not a problem.

But when I look around, a lot of people teach that it’s important to have a niched down, professional website where you only talk about stuff that’s related to your services. I totally get that. Strategy for the win.

Here’s where the trouble starts: My breadcrumbs don’t agree with that, although my head says it’s a good and smart move.

I have disregarded the wisdom of my breadcrumbs and tried to follow the rules.

But when I limit myself to writing about things that are directly related to my coaching, all over sudden I don’t want to write anymore.

Although my coaching has a lot do with uncovering your Wild Woman and the Wild Woman archetype (strong, intuitive, sensual), I don’t want to write about just that.

I also want to write about my attempts at plastic-free living, DIY cosmetics, and the occasional philosophical rant. Because that inspires me and is what feels exciting to me too. And it actually falls under the umbrella of my unique expression of being a Wild Woman – so then again it actually makes sense.

Do you see what happens here? When we work with breadcrumbs, we collect knowledge about ourselves. But then we sometimes alter or disregard some of that if it doesn’t fit into what we think we should do or want.

So to bring it back home with the breadcrumbs, those are all things I collected in the “stuff Iris really likes” basket. But because they didn’t fit in with what I thought I should want (subconsciously most of the time), I disregarded them for a long time. I tried to fit into a box of Iris The Professional Coach that was actually more boring than Iris The Original.

So my top three guidelines for following your breadcrumbs would be… drumroll…

The Incredible Top Three Tips on Breadcrumbs

  1. Be open and look everywhere.
  2. Pick up any breadcrumbs you find and put it in your basket, even if what you find doesn’t seem to make sense
  3. Pay attention to see if you are disregarding or altering some of the information you find because you think that’s how things should be done.
  4. Review what you find every so often to connect the dots – I just journal about my breadcrumbs

To do that, I need to know what success means to me, and I should also know what kind of work and services are included in my coaching business.

Makes sense, right?

It’s okay to look at other coaches and see what kind of services are common (group coaching, retreats, workshops…). But when we just take what they are doing, think it’s awesome and start going after that for ourselves, we may find that those things aren’t exactly what we want.

Author: Iris

Iris Barzen is a coach for entrepreneurs and C-suite professionals. Her work is based on her degree in psychology + 7 years of coaching experience. She offers evidence-based strategies rather than self-help advice to help her clients get the right things done consistently, so they can build the life they want.

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