Let me challenge you to wrap you brain around this one; it sounds like a rather simple question yet it’s one of the more revealing, compelling and difficult self awareness assignments that any one of us can take on. Which is why I have used it in my classes for some time and ask it of all of my coaching clients.

The question – “What are the five most important achievements in your personal and professional life; in priority order?”

At first blush, it’s a no brainer, not too bad (though the priority order thing can get sticky); but let me encourage you to take it slow and begin by creating a list of 10-20 such achievements that you are most proud of (contributions, decisions, awards, challenges overcome, significant roles, academic/sports/community honors etc.) considering all of your life (personal and professional) experiences. Carry the list around with you; add, delete and assess your achievements over a day or two while you let them “simmer”.

Now, for each one of those 10-20 achievements ask yourself why that particular experience or accomplishment was of personal significance to you. Why was it one of the most significant moments of your life? What did it mean to you? Did you overcome a great challenge, illness, win against all odds, stretch yourself, demonstrate an exceptional perseverance, inner strength, faith, commitment or skill; solve a difficult problem or situation? Succeed beyond all expectations? How did it make you feel, inspire you?

Weigh the “Why was it of special significance” answer, and begin to whittle your list down to the final, top five, all time personal or professional accomplishments, in priority order…now this starts to get heavy…….

Next, having selected your top five, along with the “why” factor for each achievement, identify the 5-10 “common” threads, energizers, motivators or themes that seem to run through these achievements. It’s these motivational threads that will tell us what inspires and drives us, and can shed light on what didn’t go right and what’s missing in our current work and direction. Be aware, though, that the latter can rattle our emotions including dredging up related tears and fears.

In the end, however, these 5-10 threads will tell us what to look for in our next position, professional endeavor and career direction. Use them as a yardstick for assessing how your next move(s) align with these motivational threads.

You and I both know how important self awareness is to our personal and professional success, our personal marketing, an effective job search and our career planning. This is one exercise that can take your self-knowledge to the next level, help develop a laser focus, build career confidence and create those “light bulb moments” for inspired work.

I would love to hear any feedback from those of you who tackle this one. Go for it!