How well do you know yourself? While your tendency may be to say “well,” reserve judgment for just a second. Instead, try answering these questions:
What do you want out of life?
What does your perfect day look like?
How do you best learn?
In what environments do you work best/thrive?
What's your greatest gift?
How are you thoughts and beliefs affecting how you live your life?
What are your deepest desires?
How did you do? Did you find these questions easy or difficult to answer? This exercise may be surprising for you – perhaps you don't know yourself as well as you thought. If you had no trouble answering these questions – congratulations! Still, keep reading because you can always learn something new about yourself.
My favorite answer to the question “What do you really want?” used to be a resounding “I don't know!!!” Not knowing was a biiiiig problem for me because by not knowing, I ended up settling for whatever came my way. Now if that's not a recipe for disaster and dissatisfaction, then I don't know what is.
I figured this out somewhere along the line (after a lot of frustration, unhappiness, confusion, and a general overall feeling of “is this all there is?!?!?”) and started to get serious about exploring my inner landscape. I won't bore you with the details, but I will tell you this – when I started directing my focus inward and listening to myself, my whole life changed. Yep, not knowing yourself can be a huge stumbling block to pleasure. Socrates really knew what he was talking about when he said “know thyself.”
This may sound a bit intimidating – all of this getting to know yourself stuff – but it's really not. It simply takes a little time, a little effort and an open mind. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Get quiet – one of my favorite ways to tune into what's going on with me is sitting quietly. So often our attention is pulled in a dozen different directions. Let's face it – the world offers up a lot of external stimulation. The idea of sitting quietly (without the TV or radio on) can feel a bit intimidating. Still, sitting quietly is a wonderful thing to do each day. I recommend 10-30 minutes in the morning and evening. Some call this meditation but I don't like to use that word as people tend to think of sitting in some rigidly uncomfortable posture, employing some sort of meditation technique with the goal of turning off your thoughts. Forget about all that. Just sit quietly and notice what happens. If your mind is running a mile a minute, let it. Don't beat yourself up, just bring your attention back to noticing what's going on with you. After you've been sitting for a while, ask yourself this questions: What do I need to know right now? I do this every day and I especially love to do this when I have a decision to make or I'm feeling an underlying sense of dissatisfaction that needs to be addressed.
- Experiment – a great way to learn about yourself is to try different things. This includes food, music, classes, experiences, etc. Doing this helps you uncover new facets of yourself that you might not have known were there. You may even find a new passion. That's what happened to a friend of mine – she stumbled upon a love for knitting after randomly trying a knitting class. Take a look at an adult education catalog and circle any course that catches your attention. Don't give your brain time to jump in with “oh, why would you choose that/you can't do that?!?!” thoughts – just go on instinct and choose whatever feels/looks/sounds interesting to you. You don't have to worry about this taking up too much of your time – just commit to doing something new once every 3 months. That's only 4 new things a year. It doesn't necessarily take a lot to awaken a whole new side of yourself.
- Get Informed – I have a whole mini-library of books that have helped me discover how my brain works, what my learning style is, in what environments I function best, etc.. Learning these things have helped me immeasurably. Now I structure my day in such a way as to compliment my personal style. I've changed everything from how I organize myself and my surroundings to my career to my daily practices. Now I'm not only happier but I'm more efficient, productive, and more satisfied. Sometimes what you don't know CAN hurt you.
Here are some book suggestions to help you work with yourself rather than against:
- The Open Mind
- Refuse to Choose – this book is particularly helpful for those of us who have a lot of varied interests and keep looking for the “perfect” career.
- I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What it Was
- The Brain that Changes Itself
- Getting Real: 10 Truth Skills You Need to Live an Authentic Life
- Train Your Mind Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves
- The Big Leap
- Taming Our Monkey Mind
- Life's Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest
Think about it – when we buy something new, it comes with an instruction manual so that we know how to best use it. Yet here we are operating in the world sometimes without a clue as to how to maximize our potential. When you understand yourself, things get easier. Life gets easier. It's like working with the flow rather than against it. Now THAT'S pleasure!
Have fun getting to know your fine self!
Have a pleasure-filled day,