In our conversations with ourselves, we'd like to tell the truth. We'd like to be able to successfully tackle the topic that's keeping us stuck, but the task is often too hard. Think about it. What are the conversations you've been unable or unwilling to have with yourself—that, if you were able to have them, might change everything?

Conversation 1

Annie Dillard wrote, "How we spend our days is how we spend our lives." How are you spending your days, your life? Write down how you feel about yourself, your life and your work—several words or phrases that capture your thoughts and emotions.

Conversation 2

Write your personal stump speech. There are several forms of stump speeches. One of my favorites is Kevin Costner's memorable "I believe" speech to Susan Sarandon in the movie Bull Durham. Most women recall this line: "I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days."

For your stump speech, you must answer four questions:
  • Where am I going?
  • Why am I going there?
  • Who is going with me?
  • How will I get there?

This exercise requires and deserves time. At a minimum, several hours. Each September, I take a long walk—typically five to seven days—alone. The purpose of my September walks is to invite a fierce conversation with myself: "Am I on the right path? Is the life I'm living an authentic expression of who I am, of who I wish to become? Is there anything I am pretending not to know?"

Conversation 3:

For this assignment, I'm asking you to take on the issue that's troubling you the most, perhaps the one that you least want to face, the one that may require courage you're not sure you have. You will need an hour. Alone. Uninterrupted.

In preparation, identify your single most pressing issue, something that is currently going on in your professional or personal life that you want and need to resolve. Your result may sound like:
  • I'm failing in my job. I'm afraid I'm going to be fired.
  • My marriage is stagnant. My partner and I are housemates, not lovers.
  • I'm overweight. If I don't make a change, my health will suffer.
  • My daughter may be doing drugs. I know she'll deny it.
  • My job pays well, but when I imagine myself doing this for another 10 years, well, just take me out back and shoot me now.
  • I'm successful in my work, but my personal relationships keep failing.

To the degree that you are fierce with yourself—passionate, real, unbridled, uncensored—this conversation will help you explore issues by mining for greater clarity, improved understanding and impetus for change. It will shine a bright light on that issue of yours, and you'll live to tell about it.

Write down your response to each of the following questions:

Step 1: Identify Your Most Pressing Issue

The issue that I most need to resolve is _________.

Step 2: Clarify the Issue
  • What's going on?
  • How long has this been going on?
  • How bad are things?

Step 3: Determine the Current Impact
  • How is this issue currently affecting my career, the success of my team, my marriage?
  • What results are currently being produced by this situation?
  • How is this issue currently affecting me?
  • When I consider the impact on myself and others, what are my emotions?

Step 4: Determine the Future Implications
  • If nothing changes, what's likely to happen?
  • What's at stake for others relative to this issue?
  • What's at stake for me?
  • When I consider these possible outcomes, what are my emotions?

Step 5: Examine Your Personal Contribution to This Issue

What is my contribution to this issue? (How have I contributed to the problem?)

Step 6: Describe the Ideal Outcome
  • When this issue is resolved, what difference will that make?
  • When this issue is resolved, what results will others enjoy?
  • When this issue is resolved, what results will I enjoy?
  • When I imagine this resolution, what are my emotions?

Step 7: Commit to Action
  • What is the most potent step I could take to move this issue toward resolution?
  • What's going to attempt to get in my way, and how will I get past it?
  • When will I take this step?

Contract with Yourself
During this fierce conversation with myself, I've identified a potent step to take to begin to resolve this issue. I have chosen the date by which I will take this step. There will be other steps, perhaps many of them. This is the first. I commit to taking it.

Action ____________________________________

Today's Date ______________________________

Why is it so important to spend time conversing with ourselves? Because all conversations are with myself, and sometimes they involve other people. This is incredibly important to understand. The implications are staggering, and not the least of them is this: The issues in my life are rarely about you. They are almost always about me.

Ultimately, everything is personal—and possible—assuming you've addressed the following questions:
  • Who am I?
  • What price am I willing to pay to be that?

fierce conversations From Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life, One Conversation at a Time by Susan Scott, Foreword by Ken Blanchard, PhD, used by permission of New American Library, published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2002, 2004, 2017 by Fierce, Inc.


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