I recently started learning a lot more about myself and throughout this process, I realised how little I actually knew about myself before that.
Yes, I had a vague understanding and developed insights based on discoveries along the way, but I was getting to know myself in a rather passive way, not proactively.
But why? After all Isn’t getting to know yourself fundamentally important to your life? One would think so.
I think the reason is a combination of factors:
- Getting caught up in the so called template of life (study, work, get married, settle down, save money, get a house, retire),
- Being on autopilot doing what everyone else is doing.
- The desire to make money (which seems to be a measure of success)
- Allowing societies ideas of what you should be doing with your life to become entrenched in your thought process.
The list goes on and on. And on closer inspection there’s one common denominator that ties all of the above together.
Yes, you guessed it! Total neglect of getting to know yourself, which to me is so vital in living a happier life.
Based on my journey, I will share a few things that have helped me in getting to know myself. I would like to stress that my journey is ongoing and I learn new things all the time.
For me exploration is at the core of getting to know oneself.
This involves both external exploration (travel, adventure, going to new places, meeting new people, trying new things, looking outward) and internal exploration ( where you actively answer pressing questions about yourself, looking inward, making sense of why we do certain things).
In essence (for me) external exploration creates an environment for our growth to happen and it is through internal exploration ( introspection) that we make sense of it all.
In a previous post I dealt with how travel can transform you, but there are certain elements that are directly transferable to this post.
Travel can teach you a lot about your personality. For instance, during my travels I spent some time working and living on a dairy farm (very isolated and few people, for those who have done something similar) and also time living in a house with 16 people for another portion of my travels.
In either case I loved both experiences, but at some point I either craved more human interaction when working on the dairy farm (far too many cows) or ‘me time’ whilst I was living in a house with 16 people.
Clearly, I enjoy being alone and around people, in moderation, in either case.
Likes and Dislikes
Through travel you see new places, taste new food and try new things.
This by default opens you up to realising what you like and dislike. How do you know if you like or dislike something if you haven’t actively tried it?
I recently started exploring Yoga and not only do I love it, but it has helped me in so many ways, I cannot even describe.
You are more powerful and capable than you think.
Whilst traveling, particularly on your own, you are pushed out of your comfort zone and you often realise that within you lies certain abilities you thought you could not harness.
Are you very shy and feel like you aren’t good at interacting with people?
Go stay in a backpackers and test this. Often you are forced to initiate conversation and talk to people – this builds confidence.
Even if you are not the first to initiate conversation, you can be sure someone else will and either way you will be interacting with someone you would not be at home. That in itself should give you confidence.
I am by no means advocating that everyone should travel far and wide, this is just what I did. I do believe however that you should at least give it a go.
If its not for you, its not for you. And besides travel could be to venture out, less than an hour away from home. There are always little gems on our doorstep.
Internal exploration involves a close examination of ourselves and often involves answering some questions which on the face of it seem quite difficult to answer.
Often this is because we have not given ourselves the opportunity to answer them fully, only giving them passing attention, telling ourselves that we will come back to them later.
As a result you can’t hope to answer such questions overnight. It requires time and patience.
There is nothing revolutionary about the below process. In fact many of you would of probably giving this some attention at some stage in your life. If you are reading this post, I do however urge to give detailed thought to these questions.
What are Your Dreams?
Yes, what are they? Make a list of some of the things you want to do before you die, go wild, it doesn’t matter how silly they are, just write them down.
Write down words that describe you. You might be empathetic, confident, caring, good with people. Write it all down.
Also get in contact with friends and family members and ask them how they would describe you to others and what they think you are good at. I sent close friends and my gran an email asking them this. Got some great insights.
A really fun exercise is to look around your room and imagine its not your room.
List what you see. How would you describe this person to someone?
When I did this exercise I wrote the following:
“Theres a tablet, backpack, phone, cigarettes, a couple of Books by Bill Bryson and Richard Dawkins. Stuff is scattered all over. Backpack still has all the clothes in them, perhaps its not his room. Pair of running shoes can be found. There are passports. Person seems a little disorganised. He/she likes reading non fiction books, gaining knowledge. He’s a smoker, enjoys traveling, maybe running, maybe hiking. Material objects don’t seem that important to him.”
What are You Core Strengths?
Make a list of all those things you feel you are naturally gifted at, more so than someone else.
Perhaps you are just naturally a very compassionate person or just really good at dealing with people.
These are things you are just naturally good at, more so than someone else. Create mind maps.
Ask family and friends what they think your core strengths are. Write down a list of 20 items or so.
What are Your Values?
You might be thinking: “Values? Are they even important?” Well apparently they are very important.
Just Google it now. You will see countless articles ascribing the importance of values to living a happy life.
If you are going against your values, this will in many instances cause you unhappiness.
It is not my purpose to summarise the importance of values here and go into a long discussion about them.
For now, know that values allow you to develop a clearer sense of what is important in your life. They help guide you. If you are faced with a tough decision in life, referring back to your values will guide you in making that decision.
In formulating a list of values, use this list and feel free to add add a value that you feel is not included.
Also bear in mind that you should have about 8 values. If you find your list is way over this, whittle it down, often you will find that certain values overlap.
For instance my values are compassion, honesty, confidence, inquisitiveness, open mindedness, family and friends and freedom. Before I compiled this list, I had generosity and charity as separate values, but really they can be included as part of compassion.
The above should serve as a good stepping stone to getting to know yourself, I say stepping stone because the above really only scratches the surface.
However once you start to think and get your mind working, you will find that the journey of self discovery and self knowledge becomes a lot easier.
As always I love to hear what your thoughts are. How have you been getting to know yourself? What have you learned about yourself that you didn’t previously know?