Personal Barometers

I have a personal barometer. What is a personal barometer? Well, for me it’s a gauge against which I measure my thoughts, actions and decisions. It protects me from stepping outside of my authentic self and acting against my core values. Some people call it a litmus test, others use the word “filter,” but I like barometer, because of its definition.


What I like are the active aspects of the definition: determining, indicating, assisting. And it’s an instrument – a tool you can use. It’s applicable. So, a barometer is a tool that can assist you in identifying something you need to know and therefore help you make a more informed decision. I love it!

Now, why do we need them? Well, like all things, “need” is relative. In this case, however, I think it’s a really good idea, and I would encourage everyone to sort out what their barometer is and how to go about using it regularly. (Practice, as they say, makes perfect – or, progress. I like that better. ☺) So, how do you develop your own barometer? Well, let me share with you how I discovered mine.

Almost two years ago I was invited to interview for an international Fellowship. It was an open invitation, but my mentor, who served on the Board, and who I admire and respect immensely, suggested it to me directly. I researched the Fellowship itself and found that it aligned with my values, so I felt good about it. More importantly, however, it had a name. It was a name that I recognized from my childhood science and social studies classes, and I liked that. I submitted an application and was granted an interview. I then had to come up with an idea that would meet their criteria for the Fellowship grant (red flag #1: come up with something to meet someone else’s needs, not my own).

I started talking with a few colleagues about things that I found interesting that I would be “willing” (red flag #2: willing, not excited) to do for a year, in order to become a member of this prestigious society and receive the grant funds. In truth, it was more about the name than the money. Once a “_____ Fellow,” always a “_____ Fellow.” I could use it for life, like “Academy Award Winner.” I was somewhat smitten. I came up with a few good ideas, and I went to my interview. I discussed them and received positive feedback, but something felt wrong inside.

I tried to identify why I felt deflated, and then it hit me: I was doing it for the accolades (the name, the resume listing, the title). I knew I wasn’t passionate about the project I suggested and that someone who was passionate about theirs deserved the opportunity to receive the grant and join this group of individuals who truly wanted to live out the message of the Founder. So, I emailed my mentor and explained to him that I had applied for the wrong reasons and that I was withdrawing my name from consideration. As I wrote the email I discovered my barometer and I’ve used it ever since: if I am doing something for title, money, recognition or other ego-based intention, I need to stop what I’m doing immediately, and re-assess.

It’s for that reason that I suggest we each learn to discover our own personal barometers. Mine will not be yours, just as yours will not be mine. You have your own stories and your own values – the question to ask yourself is this: What do I believe in and hold most dear? Then: How do I measure that in my decisions and actions, in order to stay aligned with who I am? I think you may be surprised at how much easier life becomes when you develop and use your personal barometers. It makes everything flow with more grace and ease, because you’ll be living more from your authentic self, your values and your heart.

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