Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

The Secret to Getting the Life You’ve Always Dreamed Of

We are going to do something kind of risky. For the next few weeks, I will be sharing with you 10 lessons I’ve learned about life, dreams, and pursuing work that matters. I hope it helps you set better goals for your life and encourages you to be grateful. Let’s begin.

The Life You Always Dreamed Of

To listen to the audio version of this post, click the player below and scroll down to read the lesson.

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Lesson 1: Find Your “Who”

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about finding your “why” thanks to the efforts of the very smart Simon Sinek. But in my experience, that’s not the first question you should ask.

If you’re trying to live a life of purpose and meaning, the first thing to ask is not “why” or even “what” but “who.”

Do you know who you are?

I mean, really know? Most people don’t.

There’s a reason this is the theme of all great stories from Star Wars to The Lion King to Harry Potter to Moana.

We are lost. And we know it.

The trappist monk Thomas Merton calls this your “true self.” So many of us hide behind the false selves of achievement and status, because we are afraid for the world to truly see us for who we are. People might not like us, after all.

Once you know you who you are, you will know what to do.

Activity follows identify, as I like to say.

I learned this relatively early in my life when a friend asked what my dream was and I said I didn’t know.

He said he thought I would have said “be a writer.” As soon as he said that, my heart leapt, and I knew that’s what I wanted but was just too afraid to admit. I guess I did want to be a writer, I admitted. But that would never happen.

My friend looked me in the eye and said,

Jeff, you are a writer. You just need to write.

The next day, I started writing and never looked back. That one conversation changed my life. Not because those words were magical, but because I was waiting to find out who I was before I knew what I was supposed to do with my life.

Maybe you can relate.

Right now, there is a gap between your true self and your false self, between your soul and your sole, and it’s up to you to fill it.

This is true for all of us, by the way, myself included. We are all — hopefully — becoming truer versions of ourselves, those selves that step into the light and do not hide from who we really are.

But to do this well, you need insight. You need a way to recognize your blindspots. Because we as human beings are really terrible at self-awareness, and so we need the voices of others to point out what we’re missing.

Every year, I reflect on what I’ve done with my time and how it complements or conflicts with the things that I say are important to me.

  • Do I call myself a writer but do very little writing?
  • Do I say family is first but often come home late at the end of the day?
  • Do I think of myself as intelligent and creative but give myself very little time to think and play?

There is a gap between who we say we are and who we really are.

And it is the mission of our life to bridge the two. We must be whole, integrated people.

And finding our “who” — that true self we were meant to be — begins with understanding who we are right now, good or bad, warts and all.

So, I dare you to do this one small thing I do every year:

Take a quick assessment that forces you to grade yourself on your life.

Are you like George Bailey and secretly living a wonderful life?

Or are you like Walter Mitty and you’re missing out on the adventure just beyond your comfort zone?

This free assessment will tell you. Click here to check it out.

You have a true self

This may be one of the most important messages and ideas in my life: this idea that you have a true self and you need to find it. I’m so passionate about this topic that I wrote a book on it.

I am often asking “is this really me?” and I hope you ask yourself that, too. It really matters, I think.

If you take the assessment and learn something, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Damian Dolores

    This is so true. Thank you a lot.

  • Emma Scheib

    Just listened to the podcast. Brilliant. Very clever. Loved it!

  • Really enjoyed this episode, thanks Jeff!

  • CultureWeave

    Cool! Read the email, listened to the podcast & skimmed this article. So I’ve pretty much absorbed the message. AND I did Michael Hyatt’s assessment. Good stuff. Write on, Jeff! (And thanks.)

  • Tim Buhler

    Jeff, this is fantastic. You’re doing great things!

  • Suzette

    Thank you very much for this information Jeff. I did take the assessment and I am at a place of frustration in my vocation. My reason for the frustration is knowing what my purpose is but the “HOW” I have been trying to work out. I just hit on a link in your email with respect to finding time and BINGO! the answer has been confirmed. With respect to writing, the early mornings is the answer. I have been waking up early over the past few weeks, wide awake, thoughts, ideas swimming in my head and I have been wondering what’s going on. This is the answer, I need to put all what’s in my head on paper. Thank you so much for this tip as well as a confirmation.

  • Blindwomanwriting

    The biggest thing I learned is that I need to keep building on my strong domains before following up with my weaker ones–at least that’s what I grasped from the video. My impulse is to work on my weaknesses, but if I look back at my track record, I can see that I haven’t found success with that method in the past. Looks like I need to try something new: keep building on my strengths. Thank you.

  • JasonPurse

    Yes indeed that was a Drifter. I drifted for almost 10 years.

    Early this year I quit social media Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. These platforms were a wasteful distraction and destructive to my work.

    I lost my platform; website, podcast, Consulting Services and started speaking locally. I had the preconceived notion that my target audience was online but it was actually right in my backyard in my local community.

    I was seduced with online Superstars like John Lee Dumas, Pat Flynn, and Michael Hyatt – the fancy websites seduced me and guided me in the wrong direction.

    Drifting no more.

    Thanks Jeff for providing this unique and thought-provoking series – you are one of the people that I follow the most.

    • JasonPurse-I’m intrigued by your decision to quit social media. I’ve questioned that myself. I’m curious: You mentioned that it was a “wasteful distraction and destructive to my work”–How has your work (and your creativity) changed since you made this decision and how do you grow your audience and extend your message in this technologically-dependent world without social media? I think it’s fantastic that you’ve found your target audience locally. And like you, I’m a fan of Jeff’s–he’s one of a select few that I follow regularly.

  • Dianne Compton

    I have drifted so far it is amazing. Thank you so much for providing a text-based course. I work many long hours at the computer and I can no longer stand all of the filmed/must listen to webinars and seminars. I love to read and absorb so much more in doing so, so I am grateful you are providing this as text. It is why I intend to stick with your course.

  • dreamalchemist

    You are right on target, Jeff. Identity is the bottom-most layer in the psyche and overrides everything else, including values and beliefs. Ouch!

    Most people believe they know who they are and then answer with things like “I’m a teacher” or “I’m not creative” or “I’m good at math” or “I’m a good daughter.”

    They are not aware that this is a Primary Identity –a learned social identity based on labels that others gave them while they were growing up. This Primary Identity is a borrowed identity and a mask covering up their True Self. I call it the Mask of Self.

    The problem is that this identity is full of Tiny Stories that sustain one’s learned limits. And because identity overrides all else, when your identity is attached to your learned limitations, you cannot break free from them. You have attached your very identity to your problems and limits and therefore cannot release them.

    When I read your story about being a writer vs. doing the writing, I was clapping and laughing. Yes! You got it! You first embraced your identity as a writer and that detached you from your Primary Identity as a Victim.

    Many of us are playing Victim without knowing it. When we say things like “I which I could… but…” what we are really saying is that we are not the creators of our life and that our dreams and desires are somehow “out there” that we are struggling to reach or cannot reach.

    But our dream is not out there. It is a part of us seeking to come to live and express itself.

    Keep the stories coming that help us change our Tiny Story into our Great Story. Thanks for BEING a writer, teacher, creative being and a kind heart.

  • Joe

    This is drivel. Lazy nonsense. Success has brought you adulation and sycophancy (from morons). This is poor quality writing Jeff. You can do better. Pick up your game or lose me forever.

    • Janet Sobczyk

      Gosh, Joe, don’t mince words… tell us what you really think! 😉

    • Qur’an 18:86

      Joe, as he says himself he decided to become a “writer”. And then writes here his speculations about psychology. I decided to become a scientist and scholar. And only thereafter write to say what I and others have competently researched and concluded. It is a very common phenomenon that “successful” people (more precisely “liked”, “followed”, influential people) assume that their success is due to their brill talent or idea, when in reality it was mostly luck. They then give great lectures about their illlusion of why they are so successful and others then instinctively suck it up (while rarely coming to anything themselves).

  • Amie

    I got a score of 66, and it said I was on target. Thanks for this. Most of the things that said I need to improve upon are the things I’m aware of. Vocational: I want to write full time and make my income doing this!

  • Caryn Morgan

    My results were 50. Something I already knew. Now it is time to do something about it.

  • Quicksilvr2Gold

    I learned that I am not totally happy with ANY aspect of my life.

    • Corrie Ann Gray

      There is always room to make improvements @Quicksilvr2Gold:disqus . What can you do today to increase your happiness in one of the areas? The area I am going to work on in December is Social.

  • Corrie Ann Gray

    Great post Jeff. I recently went through this exercise (Aug/Sep) and it completely changed the direction of my life and business. Without knowing who we really are we cannot successful design a purpose-filled life. I discovered, or rather embraced, that I am a Renaissance Soul, and as such, I struggled for decades with this notion that I had better decide on one area to concentrate in, otherwise I was being a flake. Heck no! I’m embracing all my interests and talents. I am The Renaissance Soul Writer. Thanks for what you do Jeff. Much appreciated.

  • Adriana

    True. “Who” makes all the difference. It is like trying to go up a ladder without that is missing the first step.