3 Ways To Find the Truth—About Yourself

This is a guest post by LaRae Quy. She was an FBI agent, both as a counterintelligence and undercover agent, for 25 years. She exposed foreign spies and recruited them to work for the U.S. Government. Now she uses the skills she learned as an FBI agent to help others develop personal leadership strengths via her blog, Empower the Leader In You. You can also follow her on Twitter.

The quickest and surest way to get fired as an FBI agent is to lie. Proven lack of candor is automatic dismissal—truth is a precious commodity in an organization whose primary purpose is peeling back layers of deceit to expose cold, hard facts.

A Woman Writing Notes in Her Journal - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/petrograd99, Image #3584474

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/petrograd99

Many of us have a love/hate relationship with truth. We tell ourselves we want to know the truth, but we’re very selective about the kind of truth we seek. About others, yes—and usually about world events and situations that impact us directly, but we are less receptive to revelations about ourselves.

In fact, self-knowledge is a two-edged sword because we might find out something about ourselves that we would rather not know. We’ve carefully packaged ourselves to look and act in a manner that ensures success in the world. Our ego has dressed us up for so long that many of us don’t even know how to begin to peel back the layers of illusion to expose cold, hard facts about ourselves.

The Book of LaRae was quite short for many years. I, like most others, lived in co-dependent dramas by acting out the role and living up to the identity I’d given myself. There was little of substance because I hadn’t taken the time to excavate the significance of my own stories and experiences. I had the form but little else.

This is ironic because peeling back the layers to get at the truth was my job. Yet I had never applied the same science to my own life. As a counterintelligence FBI agent, I identified foreign spies operating in the United States and tried to recruit them to work for the FBI. Identifying them was the easy part; I surrounded them with people and other informants that alerted me to their every move.

A successful recruitment, however, means digging deep and finding what gives their life meaning. It is helping that person explore their choices in life so they can make better decisions.

By encouraging people to be truthful about their dreams and goals in life, I empowered them to change direction so they would be moving toward something that had true meaning for them.

When did the Book of LaRae start to thicken up? I was selected as spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California after working in counterintelligence for twenty years. It was a great opportunity, but in a way that I didn’t expect: it gave me the space to reflect on how to use those same counterintelligence skills to look at the role and identity I’d given myself as a way of competing—successfully—in a very competitive world.

As we age, it becomes even harder to keep up false pretenses. It’s why baby-boomers are starting to experience emptiness as the identities they’ve given themselves crumble into layers of fat and wrinkles.

Here are three ways that I encouraged foreign spies—and ultimately, myself—to dig down and discover what gives life meaning:

  1. Life Assessment

    One of the quickest ways to bring more truth into your life is to conduct a quick assessment. Assign a numerical number between 1 and 10 to each area listed below. 1 means “not at all satisfied with my life” and 10 means “completely satisfied.” Remember that a 10 doesn’t necessarily mean “perfect.”

    Area of Your Life Your Rating (1-10)
    Family
    Career
    Health
    Financial
    Education
    Recreation
    Charitable
    Spiritual
    Adventure
    Travel
    Romance
    Relationships

    The most difficult numbers are 5s and 6s because they mean you’re not unhappy enough to do anything about it, but a long way from being satisfied, too. In other words, “you’ve settled.”

    Delete every number that is not an 8, 9 or 10. Either you have what you want or you don’t. Anything below an 8 means that you don’t have what you want but you haven’t faced up to it yet.

  2. Ask Great Questions

    If you want a great life, ask great questions. Questions can help because they are catalysts that get you to thinking about your own stories and experiences. The secret of an FBI stealth interrogation is to never ask direct questions. Instead, come from the side.

    For example, questions like, “What is my purpose in life?” Or, “What do I want?” are too broad to produce a meaningful answer. Instead, ask yourself stealth questions like “What would excite me?” “What looks, feels, and sounds like an adventure?”

    Other questions to ask yourself:

    • Who is the happiest person you know?
    • Who are the people you like and respect the most? Why?
    • What are you curious about?
    • When does time seem to fly?
    • What bores you?
    • What makes you different from other people or members of your family?
    • How do you want to be remembered?
    • What is in your bucket list of things to do in life?
  3. Keep a Journal

    Journaling is a powerful way of excavating the significance of your own stories and experiences. It’s a very effective way of coaxing out thoughts, questions, and insights into your patterns of behavior.

    It’s important to keep track of events in your life. This means more than the “Dear Diary” approach we learned as kids. Journaling is like homework; only you can do it and it only works if you put your mind to it. You can only see the significance of events, people, or circumstances by looking backward. Memorialize the triumphs but look closely at the failures, losses, and disappointments. Only by examining your life in its entirety—the good, the bad, and the ugly—can you gain a deeper understanding of your experiences.

    More importantly, you give yourself the opportunity to change direction, if needed, so you can explore your choices in life and make better decisions in the future. Journaling was the tool that gave me the space I needed to look back at my life and see how I could move from form to substance.

As you being to tear away at the packaging that your ego has wrapped you up in for so many years, you’ll find something very powerful inside: you. The real person is empowered because you’ll have no need to impress others. Or lie to yourself.

What are you discovering about yourself? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Mike Sohm

    LaRae, very helpul ideas for a baby boomer who  needs to periodically do the self evaluation and invite questions which cause me to reflect on things of importance. Ironically, I do this often for others as a Life Coach yet am not in those same conversations about myself. Journaling does help but other than getting into another coaching relationship, any ideas on how to engage others to help me pursue honest conversations that might take me to places that feel scary at that time but are necessary? Again, great post.

  • http://www.gailsangle.com Gail

    I love this sentence: “It’s why baby-boomers are starting to experience emptiness as the identities they’ve given themselves crumble into layers of fat and wrinkles.” It is such an awesome word picture that it makes me smile visualising it. Although, it is very sad that people experience this.

  • Jaheath

    Great thoughts LaRae. I find journaling is a great way to be honest with yourself. It also helps to transform those vague ideas in the back of your mind into concrete goals. Putting your thoughts on paper enables you to distinguish between what you actually believe and what you think you think you believe.

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  • Kshousewrightcook

    Today George (my husband) and I sat at the breakfast table;
    yet another Sunday interrupted by pain from a fifteen months ago assault by an
    unhappy theatre student (just a glimpse of the story) and we just put our feet down, “We have to write
    it!”  “We have to write what
    God has done!  As crazy as it is, as
    weird to most of the world, there is no way God has brought us through so much;
    all for His glory and we just sit here with hurting from old injuries and let
    it idly pass by.  So I go out and I ask
    “Master Google” ‘How do we make the most of an epic life?”  And there you are.  So, starting today, July 22nd, 2012 George
    and I are journeying with you, and as God allows we will follow the outlines
    and processes God is ordaining through you to come out the other side with that
    illusive Life Plan toward bringing God glory and leading the most possible into
    His amazing spirit! 

  • http://www.manager-institut.de/ Yasmin

     Thank you for taking the time to post this. You posted some great information, and it’s been really useful to read so once again thanks.

  • Trovatofrank

    I have acknowledged the truth about myself. The irresponsible and considerate decisions I’ve made that had caused hurt & dissapointment in people that I love and who were a part of my life. I have difficulty in identifying any truth about admirable & loving things I’ve done. This all came upon me recently at once and had resulted in my relationship ending….badly. There is so much truth I don’t know or understand in regard to why…as applies to me & her. My issues are 2-fold…the truth about my past and about our relationship. The seperation of mind and emotion is vast for me….I’m not sure if it should be or how to close the gap…..i want to get so much off of my chest so I can give my feelings, thoughts and the truth, honest and corageous consideration (not blow them 0ff for the sake of moving on), to understand, accept and correct so I can move-on truthfully. Moving-on positively is too easy…I can pretend to do that. I can function responsibly but the hole I have in my heart and soul, would still be a hole…..Frank 

  • Envy

    Good post–but how many people can satisfy themselves in all these different aspects of life? I don’t think we’re perfect enough to achieve that