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It’s really quite impressive how much we know about ourselves. When we’re willing to listen to our inner knowing, it’s pretty easy to identify what’s working and what’s not. Less impressive is how often we actually reflect and learn.

There’s an exercise I’ve been running across for years, it’s frequently used to help people see the obvious. It provides the 20/20 hindsight we often wish we had (and quite often do). It goes something like this:

Imagine you’re 95 and the end is near. You’ve just been given the ability to go back in time and change the course of your life, by sharing the wisdom you’ve gained. What advice would you give your younger self? Whatever you’re thinking now, do that!

I’d always thought this was a great exercise. And yet, for some reason (read: resistance) I still hadn’t taken action. Well, I finally made the time to complete the exercise — a whopping 15 minutes – and was amazed at how much I learned about myself.

I started by looking at what I was doing well, which I highly encourage. It felt good to acknowledge everything I was doing well. Here I’d tell my younger self, “Keep it up. This is working brilliantly!” It was refreshing to see my progress. (And, honestly, starting with my accomplishments and strengths was progress!)

Next, I looked at my areas for growth. What caught my attention was how many of my well-known, limiting beliefs were still hanging around. After all, I discovered them years ago and I’ve been diligently working on them. Granted, they are much e asier to recognize now. And the patterns are much fainter. But, still, I was surprised to see that remnants of my self-destructive patterns still remained.

After a bit more reflection, I came to see was that my childhood programming – work hard, be responsible, protect yourself, emotions are a weakness, be realistic, create a good impression ¬ dissolves faster when I’m actively listening to my inner-wisdom and follow that voice. This is the voice that knows better. It reminds me to keep an open heart, live intentionally, see my accomplishments and just be myself.

Oh, how grateful I am to have experienced this exercise. I am taking my sage advice and it feels great. I feel a renewed sense of courage and am determined to minimize regret. And I am reminding myself to slow down, have fun, experience life and stay focused on what matter most — daily.

I hope that you will carve out 15 minutes to experience this exercise and that you will learn to listen yourself. No one knows you better than you. And when you’re willing to take an honest and compassionate look at your life, you will gain the clarity you need to keep growing.

“To be able to look back upon ones life in satisfaction is to live twice.”

Kahlil Gibran
Maryanne O'Brien

Marianne O’Brien is the author of The Elevated Communicator: How to Master Your Style and Strengthen Well-Being at Work. Visit her online at

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