A soul sustainability project

A few years ago, I was really struggling with big questions like "who am I", "how can I keep adding things to make me happy", "I use to be one person, now that I am wife, daughter, mom, etc, I don't even know who I am" and other mid-life issues and questions. At that time, a friend of mine, Catherine Riddick, guided me through a valuable process. I have been wanting to share it with others ever since.
Catherine is a former newspaper editor and writing coach. She is the editor of a magazine devoted soley to philanthropic endeavors in Charlotte, North Carolina. I asked her to tell me about how she came up with the idea and this is what she said, "It came about because I noticed myself signing/writing my names in various ways - Catherine, Cathy, Cath, ccr, c. - and I wondered what that meant, what each name said about me. And it progressed from there!"
Among many other tools, this process can help you find your
self, integrate aspects of your life, identify what your gifts are and develop a set of principles, values and mission statements that help you stay connected to all of this.

I'm calling it a soul sustainability project.

Here is an outline of the steps:
Identity Analysis Who am I / What's my name?
Skills Assessment - jobs, skills, attributes, values
Skills and Attributes Categorization
Goals and Mission Statements
Hobby Assessment
Finding a Common Thread

Cathy had me use big paper and colored markers and encouraged me to be expressive, to have fun with it while also taking it seriously. She instructed me to set aside blocks of time to be sure to let memories and ideas flow. She had me do each of these a week at a time and we met to discuss my findings and for me to get the next assignment.

So grab some markers, crayons and materials that you don't normally play with and give it a try. If there is a way I can walk with you in each step or if you'd like to share what you learn, please email me: brookeic2c@gmail.com (posting comments is not working for some reason)

Identity Analysis
The intent is to explore the many ways other people view you in your various roles and characters and to synthesize that with your view(s) of yourself. The hope is that some of your own views and those of others will bubble up into one dominating and comfortable view of who you really are most comfortably and effectively, most of the time.

Assignment #1:
What names have people called you? Brainstorm and come up with as many as possible, from as many different people in your life. Go back as far as you can.
Review the list. Make notes about who called you by each name, and how did you respond to it? Make note of which ones are your favorites. Can you identify why it is a favorite? Which ones get under your skin? Can you figure out why?
Highlight your top 3 favorite names or labels

Skills and Attributes Assessment
The intent is to completely purge your memory of every job and role you’ve ever had to find a complete assessment of your experiences and your abilities, and to discover common threads among the most seemingly diverse roles/ jobs. This step requires the most time and attention to providing details. You will explore job descriptions and every aspect of tasks and projects in addition to analyzing personal experiences and trends among family members, friendships, hobbies, and personal attributes and values. Leave no stone unturned. This process may seem redundant, time consuming, and at times a bit too personal. But this is definitely a step that will allow you to get more out of the process the more effort you put in. You will be closely looking at the details of your experiences in work, hobbies, friends and family, attributes, and values.

Assignment #2:
Brainstorm and make a list of every job you have ever had from as far back as you can remember. Make detailed notes of what the job descriptions included.
Make a list of all of the hobbies you have had over the years.
Make a list of all of your skills and experiences that you developed/had in these jobs.
Make a list of your attributes. How do people describe you? How do you describe yourself?
What "are you" to your friends and family members. What do each of them see in you, expect of you? How would you describe your role in the lives of those around you?
Make a list of your values. What is most important to you?

Skills and Attributes Categorization
This step will begin to make trends apparent among the variety of skills and experiences you’ve had. It may even make you realize that you are capable in areas that might surprise you. In this step, the goal is to place every skill, talent, and experience into a category, for example practical skills, analytical skills, communication skills, etc. Then you will make a master list based on skills so that you will have a better understanding of your strengths regardless of job/career attached to each.

Assignment #3
Take your list of skills and attributes from the previous activity and categorize them. Your categories might be organizational, managerial, analyzing, interpretational, development of new ideas, fund raising, delegating, etc.

Goals and Mission Statements
The intent is to clarify the most important areas of your life that you wish to spend your energy on. Where do you want to be in these areas? Once you’ve identified your goals or areas of most desired progress/focus, you will write a mission statement for each.
Treat the main areas of your life as you would a career or educational endeavor, what do you intend to experience, achieve, move towards.

Assignment #4
Choose one or two areas of your life that you want to focus on. For instance they might be Mom/Family and Career.
Create a Mission Statement for each. Make a list of short term and long term goals for each.
Mission statements can encompass what you value. You will be able to use these when you have decisions to make or to review to be sure you are keeping yourself on track.

Hobby Assessment
The intent is to identify how your hobbies and interesst might lead your career path. Are there indicators and common threads that lead you in a direction that can synthesize your interests, talents, identity, and experiences? What would that be, and can you identify what your title or job description would be?

Take another look at your lists. Review the labels people have given you, the jobs you've had, the hobbies you enjoy most, the skills, experience, and gifts that you have. Can you identify a common thread (or two). Does this lead you to a view of yourself that brings pieces together? What can you find in these that feels most natural, most appealing to you? Do you get a sense of how these aspects feel comfortable? Can you come up with ways that you can support these aspects either through spending more time developing hobbies or even finding a way that your work/vocation can support who you are? Write a brief summary of what you learned about yourself during this process.

When you have decisions to make or you feel you are losing yourself in some way, you can use your mission statements and your summary to quickly relate or add onto what you know about yourself.