I was introduced to the power of Life Themes by my first coach, Debbie Phillips, in 1999. Our Life Theme is more of how we show up, less of what we do. It is our worldview, what we notice, how we perceive self and monitor our thoughts and emotions. I later learned that this can also align us with what we desire -- helping us to be more congruent in thought, action, and experience.
While sometimes we are content and sense being well-planted and full, at other times we are restless with curiosity for something else – a next step. Life Themes enable us to appreciate exactly where we are without judgment. Life Themes can be determined at year’s end through reflection. Life themes can also be declared at the beginning of a year to enhance our worldview and self-view throughout the year. Our Life Theme is not about working on anything. Rather, it is creating a posture for your life that is supportive while also neutral enough to create space for a new version of you.
Here are some ways to develop your theme. Reflect on the last year or last several months. You can look at your calendar, journal, photos, etc. while noticing the following:
1. Your Most Common Recurring Focus – what do you keep thinking about?
2. Elicit the Direction of Your Energy – what is it toward, or away from?
3. Identify Your Comfort Zone – where are you most settled, content?
4. Notice the Edges of Where You Want to Grow – what are you drawn to, albeit awkward?
5. What Are Your Curiosities – what compels you to investigate, learn, know?
As you choose the phrase for your Life Theme, it is important that it be in a positive or neutral statement, not in the negative. Our Life Theme often becomes part of our self talk, the words we tell ourselves in our private internal dialog. In his book, The Highest Goal, Michael Ray describes our Voice of Judgment and how if we can learn to use self-talk that is loving in the same way we would talk to our beloved family and friends, we gain enrichment at our core of being.
Since Life Themes are unique to each individual, there is no right or wrong. It is important that it fit you for where you are. Here are some examples of my life themes. I began using life themes consistently in 2002 when my theme of “Surviving Single” was a year full of divorce drama while also losing a job and creating selfemployment. I remember struggling with my identity at every front of my life and creating my new email of ‘firstname.lastname@example.org.” “Power of One” in 2003 brought strength in singleness with increased self-trust for being uncoupled personally and a sole practitioner professionally. In 2004 in a life theme of “Fun First” I sought life balance to unlearn being a workaholic, even though in reality I worked just as much but with more enjoyment. Sometimes I wore my bathing suit under my business suit to remind myself that I’d be playing that day, no matter what. In 2005 my theme emerged at the end of the year through reflection, as “Full of Myself.” I had grown to appreciate myself in ways that I had not done before, and I could say with confidence, “I really like me.”
As I reflect on my Life Theme for 2010, “Precise and Potent,” I recognize that I have gained clarity in work and personal relationships. Now, I am pulled toward something bigger and more open. Maybe my Life Theme for 2011 will be “Wide Open” or “Open Wide.” What is your Life Theme? █
©2010. Jerry Browning is President of Chiron Company, providing organizational and individual development through consultancy and coaching to enhance what matters most to you. She also teaches continuing education on Financial Stress for mental health professionals. Jerry is dedicated to wellness for individuals and healthy bottom lines for businesses.