One of the most common questions I get since leaving the corporate world is “How did you decide what to do next?” My urge is to say “I have no idea.” But the truth is I had a semi-organized plan called Operation Snagglepuss that included doing inventory of my Mary Poppins bag. Let me explain 🙂
Growing up, I loved Mary Poppins! Her no-nonsense, take charge attitude and unquestionable confidence was something I aspired to. I also desperately wanted her carpetbag – not just the bag, which was way cool – I wanted what was inside. I wanted the belief in magic; the belief that could produce a full grown plant, elegant mirror and floor lamp with tasseled lampshade from a carpetbag way too small to actually hold those things.
I held the belief they appeared because they were the exact right thing needed for the moment . . . and Mary had the firm belief they would, of course, appear when she needed them because honestly, who disobeys Mary Poppins? But, when Mary got frustrated because she couldn’t find the tape measure, I always thought, “She must have soooo much stuff in there, maybe she should take inventory every once in a while.”
So that’s what I did a few years back. I went deep into my Mary Poppins bag, took a good long look at my accumulated baggage and reevaluated what would serve me in my new phase of life. I offer these next ideas to help you do a little inventory of your own.
Your Natural Gifts
Gifts are things you do naturally. In fact, they may not seem that special to you because they come so easily. They show up when you are your most authentic self and when you feel “in the flow.” Other people will see these as your superpowers, so if you are having a hard time identifying your gifts, go ask a few friends, colleagues or family members.
What? Weird? Vulnerable? Awkward? You bet! But also incredibly valuable and empowering. My prediction is they will love this exercise because these are times when they see you light up and come alive. I also predict it will be hard to embrace this type of feedback, so relax and just say thank you.
Next, evaluate your lengthy list of gifts. Are there gifts you want to dial up? Gifts you’ve hidden because they aren’t encouraged in certain situations? Whatever the case, here’s the key message; you can’t hide your gifts because they are naturally who you are. So embrace them and move on to figuring out what skills you might need to enhance and supplement those lovely gifts.
Your Curated Skills
This exercise might be easier. As you list your skills (education, training certifications etc.) be sure to differentiate between gifts and skills. Let’s say you’re a PowerPoint wizard. That’s a skill you’ve curated. Your natural gift is being a visual artist or great storyteller or collaborating with a team for a great outcome.
What skills have you gathered out of necessity, not joy? Are there skills you want to develop or skills you never want to use again? Quite often, we think filling our Mary Poppins bag with more training will get us where we want to go. Yet, without really evaluating our skills through the lens of joy, satisfaction and impact, we are just accumulating more baggage. So, don’t fill your bag with STUFF. Consciously choose to make room for new skills: skills that are meaningful and move you forward.
Bottom line – taking your most natural gifts and curating a set of strong skills to enhance them will help you create more highlights in your life…which is the last bit of inventory we need to do.
Your Highlight Reel
This is your opportunity to be your own Steven Spielberg! Take a look back on your life by decade (0-10 years old, 11-20 etc.) or phase (childhood, teenage, college, adult career etc.) and list your peak experiences and absolute highlights. You may not think you have highlights from when you were 5 but stay open to the possibility. You may surprise yourself!
These are times when you were truly “seen” or felt a great sense of accomplishment or had a proud moment. More often than not, highlights include your natural gifts and your top skills. Ask yourself, who were you being and what impact did you have? What core values were you serving? Look for themes and then ask yourself, wouldn’t it be great to add a ton more highlights? Wouldn’t you like your highlight reel to be an epic adventure?
Creating my highlight reel helped me identify areas that were most likely to lead to my next highlight; environments (I need a whiteboard), people (I seek out curiosity-seekers), and opportunities (I thrive when serving & inspiring others). This process helped me develop a narrative of who I am when I’m my naturally-gifted self; what skills I bring with clarity and intent; and what experiences I wanted to create as I entered my 3rd Act.
Making Room with Passion & Purpose
Here’s the deal. Since leaving the corporate world, I’ve packed and re-packed my bag quite often. I kept everything that gave me energy, light and joy. I left behind the drudgery and mind-numbing tasks that I could do with my eyes closed but sapped my energy.
By choosing to lighten my load, it made room for a whole new set of skills and experiences. I tapped into my curiosity and went exploring. My choices continue to grow because I know my Mary Poppins bag has endless capacity.
All these years later, I still believe in the magic of that bag. In fact, I believe we all have a Mary Poppins bag full of unique gifts, curated skills, and life experiences just waiting to be pulled out and brought into full view.
What’s in your bag?