The Open Hand exercise:

The Open Hand is an exercise to help you examine who you are and what you’re doing right now. This one doesn’t look too far into the past or future; it’s about making quick but candid self-assessments that are useful for the moment you’re in. It can be helpful when you’re facing questions about the next steps, job applications, skill development needs, potentiality for collaborations etc. I tend to do it about once every two weeks and it’s interesting to look back on the papers and see what changes and what stays the same.

It is crucial that you do all of the exercises I offer here by hand. There are plenty of studies that show quite conclusively that writing or drawing ideas on paper, done by hand, embeds the concepts in ways that the digital screen just cannot. So you will need, at the very least, some sheets of paper (letter size will do, but you can go as large as you like) at least one pen and feel free to play with colour markers, watercolours, wax crayons etc.

First, draw an outline of your dominant hand. That will be the right hand for right-handed people, the left hand for left-handed people, and if you’re ambidextrous, you can choose which hand. This represents you now. What you’re going to do is focus on the right now with as little as possible consideration of the past or the future. Spend some time looking at the drawing of your hand and your actual hand. I want you to look at the different parts of the hand carefully, and then begin, on the sheet of paper, to write down what comes into your mind in the following way:

The palm is your state of being at the moment. This will include things like your living situation, your state of health, your financial situation and so on. Just write them down with complete honesty and no judgement.

The thumb is the stuff that you can do and have going for you, but you cannot do it on your own you; will need others to help you to realize it. This could involve complex project collaborations or perhaps help in getting involved with a particular institution or organization. In a sense, the thumb can’t really do all that much on its own, but it is an extremely powerful digit. Again, with complete honesty and no judgement.  

The index finger is, of course, your strongest finger it is your strongest suit of skills the ones in which you are most confident. Think about what those might be; don’t worry about whether or not they are useful to anyone, just identify what they are.

Your middle finger; well it’s the longest one, and it stands out. Of course, you can use it to make quite a strong statement. So, contemplating your middle finger, ask yourself what stands out about you? What do other people notice about you? If you’re not sure, just ask them: ask a variety of people what they think is the outstanding or noticeable thing about you. You might get some quite interesting answers: somebody might say ‘well you’re always a really snappy dresser’; the next person might say ‘you’re an excellent public speaker’; a third person might say ‘you’re very kind and compassionate.’ Get a few bits of feedback and then think about what you think stands out about you and then just weigh it up.

The third finger: this is an often overlooked finger, and I call this the ‘hidden treasure.’ This is the stuff that you’re good at, and you can identify you’re good at it, but maybe you haven’t used in a while. Perhaps you’ve never really used it. Perhaps these are skills which are rusty or that you’ve put to one side till now. Examine them; think about ways in which you might reactivate them.

Finally, the little finger. This is the finger we usually forget about, and so the little finger is all the stuff that, as you go through this exercise, you suddenly start to realize these are the things that you have that you were more or less unaware of. For example, maybe you begin to realize that you actually have a network of friends (online and offline) who can advise or connect you to the specific question or problem that you have at the moment. Perhaps it’s a skill that you developed and were completely unaware that you had because you’ve never thought about it as a skill before.

You can do this exercise as often as you need to. The ‘Now’ changes all the time.

really do NOT worry about how it looks, just write it all down without judging yourself
one of my work-in-progress Open Hand exercises

Download The Open Hand as a PDF to print:

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