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Be inspired every day with Living North
sunset over the sea
Health and beauty
June 2021
Reading time 10 minutes

Leadership and mindset coach, and new Living North columnist Dr Maurice Duffy, on how being more self aware will give new meaning to your life, help you tap into your hidden potential and open up new experiences

I am often asked, ‘what should I be doing with my life?’ To those who ask, I say that becoming more self aware is an act of courage, since most of the time, our thoughts and actions are on autopilot.

The problem is that, when we are on autopilot for so long, we forget we are on autopilot. And when we are not aware of our own habits, routines, impulses, and reactions, then we no longer control them – they control us.

It is easier to lead an unexamined life than to confront your own dark side. It is easier to surrender to materialism or cynicism or a hundred different ways of ‘comfort living’ – even if that is unsatisfying and unfulfilling – than to face our own fears. If we really challenge ourselves, we are resisting the seduction of simpler paths.

When we insist on finding out and declaring the truths that hold us firmly to the person we are, we set ourself on the path to the person we can really be. So, to those are willing to face some truths, I say: ‘It’s time to call out the real you. It’s time to ask some key questions about who you are, where you are going and what use you are making of the unbelievable talents you have been given.’

Too often people are living and working on what they see in the microscope rather than focusing on what’s important in the telescopic view. The answers to the questions I ask will change your life if you listen and take action. They will help you determine whether your life is headed in the right direction. They will give new meaning to your life, help you tap into your hidden potential and open up new experiences.

When I coach people, I often ask them to ‘triangulate’, which is basically comparing the young child you were, the old person you will become and the person you are now.

The child you tells you where you have come from and all the plans, ambitions and dreams that remain unfilled, and asks why have you not started on what you know needs to be done. The old you, whom you will become, speaks to the emotional physical and physiological legacy they have inherited and asks you ‘why, oh why have you left me like this when you had so many opportunities to change?’The now you, the person you are now, will speak to the baggage you have, the fears you carry and will try to explain and rationalise why you are too lazy, too afraid, and basically procrastinating over what you know needs to be done now.

I tell people I coach ‘we are all in the same boat’, with some of us rowing like hell in a particular direction, others still rowing like hell but going around in circles, and others just not rowing at all. Yes, there are some things we share or have in common with others – like being in the same boat, and either rowing with purpose or rowing erratically. However, the one thing that differs us from everyone else is the weather we face in our brains and how we deal with the storms that come and go through our brains like the seasons. We know from nature that storms make trees take on deeper roots. It’s the same with us. The storms in your life can make you stronger as not all storms come to disrupt your life, some come to clear your path to your future. 

We are all in the same boat, but we are all facing different weather. You may have heard of ‘questions that lead to love’. Here are some questions I have developed to potentially change your life. The quality of the questions we ask ourselves determines the quality of our lives. Let me ask you nine questions you should be asking yourself today, as you look at clearing your path to your future. Let the answers flow. Try to be honest with yourself and accept the answers that come, even though they might be uncomfortable for you.

Here we go:

1. Where do you want to be in the next one, five or 10 years and what are you doing about it today?


2. Where will your life be in one, five or 10 years if you continue doing what you are doing today?


3. Why are you here? And are you living fully for that ‘why’? Basically… is your life a just a repeat of all your yesterdays?


4. Do you worry too much about what others think of you? Do you give them rent-free space in your brain?


5. What would you achieve if you were not afraid of anything– since your dreams are on the other side of your fears?

6. What would you do if today was your last day on this earth?


7. Are you living a lifestyle that promotes physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing?


8. Do you care more about how your life looks to others or how it feels to you?


9. What would be your biggest regret if you were to die tomorrow?

Life has rough edges with many storms and learning curves and twists and turns… it can be challenging. That ability to learn from failed routes allows you to navigate better in future. So, when you lose your motivation, ask yourself this question: ‘What is this phase of my life teaching me?’ Sometimes this simple question can change the direction of one’s life forever. You can study to become the top person in your field or domain, but this knowledge will only take you so far. Yet, in discovering the deep wisdom of self-knowledge, you will ensure that your life is far more meaningful and fulfilling. I’ve always thought this is what Einstein meant when he said iInformation is not knowledge’. The most valuable knowledge that you will ever discover is, and always will be, within you.


Dr Maurice Duffy is Visiting Professor at Sunderland, consulting coach to the NHS, Australian Cricket Team, Durham Cricket Club, international golfers, rugby and many sports people, and also coaches many Senior FTSE 100 Business Leaders and politicians around the world. Find out more at or follow him on twitter @thebeaksquawks

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