Who are you, really? A Blank Canvas

Who are you?

In 2014, around the time we were entering the Awareness phase ourselves, I enrolled in a course entitled Creativity, Innovation and Change from the University of Maryland.

I assumed it would be outward-looking and that I’d learn the ‘steps’ of innovation. I was surprised to find a significant element of internal discovery built into the programme.

One module introduced the idea of a life ring to represent who you are – who you truly are – on one page.

This method was a new concept to me. It did not use the classic labels we apply to ourselves – those you might use when you introduce yourself to someone for the first time, such as our name, our job, where we come from or where we live. Things that give us status were not the only things to consider.

Life is a blank canvas

I took this idea a little further and created a template I called the Life Canvas. I wanted to capture who I truly am and to include:

  • All the facets of my life – not just the classic work and finances but all life areas that contribute to my wellbeing.
  • What drives my behaviours – my values.
  • What I love and brings out the best in me, not in terms of technical skills but in terms of situations, activities and people I like to be involved with – my true character strengths.
  • My roles. Not just my job title but all roles I play across all areas of my life.

I decided to design my personal Life Canvas template. At first, it was a rough sketch, but later it evolved over time.

But this first time completing the Life Canvas was insightful. I asked my wife, Anne-Marie, to fill it in privately also. We both completed it and then met for coffee in Sydney to compare.

It was refreshing and informative to reflect on what we saw in ourselves and our definition of happiness. We learned things about ourselves and one another we had never realised. While the commonalities might not have surprised us, the differences helped us appreciate our different goals.

The exercise brought us closer and helped us understand one another’s needs and dreams.

Since that day, I continued to update mine and added colour and fun. It enables me to set boundaries and know what is important to me. It also helps when making decisions. It is much easier to decide when you have a clear definition of happiness and understand your values.

It is a simple exercise that I recommend to all my clients, and it takes just 30 mins. It asks you questions you may not have considered. My hope is that, at the end, you are not just clear, but that you realise that you have a rich life – and much for which to be thankful.


Get your free Life Canvas and Guideline here


James Parnell is the founder of A New Dawn in Ireland community and provides online coaching for anyone inspired to change their life.

This article is an excerpt from the book A New Dawn in IrelandIf you would like to be notified when the book is published simply register here.


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  1. Pingback: What If? Consciously Create your Life Vision. – A New Dawn in Ireland

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