Bourne: Aware - What Jason Bourne can teach us about making forward progress

I finally had the chance to watch the latest Jason Bourne movie. Aside from my heart rate elevated and my ears ringing from all the chaos, I found myself constantly admiring Bourne for his situational awareness and superhuman ability to stay focused. Both kept him protected. Both kept him alive. Both kept him moving forward along his course.  

However, Bourne possessed one other type of awareness that, in the end, allowed him to stay safe, focused, and moving forward along the path he knew he should be on.

It’s called self-awareness.  

When I ponder the stages of my professional career, I can't help but compare myself to Bourne. Compared to him, I failed the self-awareness test.

Unlike Bourne, I was caught in a web of people pleasing, “faking it ‘till I make it," distraction, insecurity, and was easily swayed by people who I thought I could trust. I wasn’t focused. I was burned by co-workers, so-called friends, and superiors. I underachieved and found myself living in the world of “what could be” versus “what needs to be.” I said “yes” to roles and positions that didn’t fit my character, desires, and skill sets.

Bottom line, I was stuck in career quicksand. I was moving, just not forward. And I was reaching the point of exhaustion - physically and mentally.

I’m proud to announce that I’m out of the quicksand. But now that I’m out, it’s clearer than ever for me to see just how many professionals, athletes, and businesses are still in. They are struggling with self-awareness. As a result, they are easily distracted and less focused. Unfortunately, it's this distraction and lack of focus that is preventing them from moving forward and having the personal and professional success they are destined to have. 

Chances are, you may be in the same boat. 

If that’s you, don’t worry. I’m about to share with you something inherent in Bourne that allowed me to get out of the quicksand I was in. It’s what I believe is the cornerstone of self-awareness. It helped me start moving along the path I was supposed to be on with CIA Operative-type focus. 

Back to the movie real quick. If you haven’t watched any of the Jason Bourne movies, you need to know that, in every one, we find Jason constantly having flashbacks to his past in an attempt to figure out just who he is. It was almost like he needed to know who he was in order for him to move forward with his life.

Ironically, what kept him from moving backward or staying stuck was just the opposite: he knew who he wasn’t.

From my firsthand experience, I believe the necessary first step in moving forward as a professional or business is figuring out who you are not. Easier said than done. But, try it. Ask yourself: “Who am I NOT?” 

Think about your non-negotiables.

Think about leaders, characters (fictional or non-fictional), co-workers, teammates, friends, and family members that you can easily say, “I am NOT like that person.”

Think about what roles, activities, and topics that just don’t sit right with you. 

Then list your reasons why.

I can tell you, some of my "nots" included (I had a MUCH longer list than this!):

  • I’m not a husband and father who spends 100+ nights on the road and away from my family
  • I’m not a man who cuts corners
  • I’m not a people-pleaser
  • I’m not a “do it this way because that’s how it has always been done” kinda guy

But I didn't stop there. Here are some questions I asked myself after I identified who I wasn't.

  1. What is important to me? In other words, what are my priorities?
  2. Who am I?
  3. What is my vision? How do I want to be remembered?
  4. What is my plan to realize my vision?
  5. What are my goals within that plan (I recommend using the SMART method)?

Once you’re armed with those answers, CONGRATS! You have stepped into the world of self-awareness. Now, you have to do something with it! As situations come up, I encourage you to ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Will doing ________ affirm who I am as a person (or professional or business)?
  2. Does doing ________ fit into my (or my business’s) vision?
  3. Is doing ________ part of my (or my business’s) plan?
  4. Will doing _________ bring me closer to reaching my goals?

If you can answer “yes” to all four, go with it! If not, say “NO!" Chances are, engaging in that action will impede your forward progress.

I'm convinced that Jason Bourne went through this process. It is what allowed him to see through the CIA’s desperate attempts to fool him back into its “Program” - a program that led to Bourne killing multiple people and tearing his own well-being apart.

And, I hate to tell you, Bourne leveraging his self-awareness at the end of his latest movie may have just guaranteed us Bourne fans yet another movie! Sorry if I gave it away. =)

People want to be a fan of those who are different from the pack. People want to do business with those who are authentic and purpose-driven. Stop trying to be someone you are not. Stop listening to others that are telling you what you should be. Be like Bourne. Better yet, be like you!

Question: Is a lack of self-awareness keeping you from making progress personally, professionally, and/or as a business? Have you figured out what you are NOT?