On a recent trip to NY, I had the privilege of having dinner with Stedman Graham after a lecture he did promoting his book, Identity: Your Passport to Success.

Kirsten Scott with Stedman GrahamStedman talked about how often times we let others label us or put us into ‘boxes.’ And how we set limits on ourselves as a result of this programming. We often get up day after day, do the same things and wonder why life is not getting any better.

Growing up his view of himself was race based. His home life left him with no self-esteem or self confidence. But he changed all that by asking himself ‘who am I?’ Stedman has a great passion for each of us learning to live our own lives and deciding who we really are.

These days Stedman finds himself fighting to get out of the “Oprah box”. Being in a relationship with such an amazingly successful woman can make it hard for people to see him for who he is. Don’t get me wrong, he is truly happy for Oprah and supports her 100%. But my hat goes off to him. You can tell he is a strong, self confident person handling a very public relationship with mutual respect and support. Not a lot of people could handle that kind of relationship.

At our small dinner party, Stedman was an attentive listener and had a way of making everyone feel heard. I couldn’t help but think about how important it is for us to really listen to the people in our lives, family, friends, co-workers and clients. Listening makes the person you are talking to feel valued. Listening, really listening keeps us from making snap decisions about others. It keeps us from labeling them and limiting our relationship.

We took turns at the table talking about the boxes or labels we felt were holding us back. Some people felt they were held back by being a woman or by being told they were not as smart as their sibling. In some cases it was a past failed business or marriage that held them back. In the end we all had our own boxes but Stedman reminded us to get up each day and ask ourselves ‘who am I?’ And to remember we have the power to define who we are.

Listening to our own inner voice is the way we define who we are rather than buying into the labels others like to give us. Ask questions, who am I, who do I want to be? Question everything, what you read, what you hear, what you believe about yourself and others. Listening to that inner voice is the first step to creating the life you want.

So take some time today to listen, really listen….I think you will be surprised by what you will hear.

And if you would like to learn more, be sure to pick up Stedman Graham’s latest book Identity: Your Passport to Success– I highly recommend it.

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