We all grow, change and evolve. What made us happy and fulfilled last year may no longer do that this year or several years into the future. Some people keep switching from one job to another, one spouse to another or from one city to another hoping that they will “find” happiness and prosperity, but what they are chasing remains elusive. What gives? The key to living a happy and fulfilling life lies in understanding yourself, and then structuring your life to be aligned with who you are. Easier said than done, right?
Admittedly, it isn’t easy to fully understand who you are, and this is further compounded by the fact that we aren’t static. Who we are today isn’t necessarily who we will be tomorrow. But, the journey of understanding yourself is a worthwhile one, and many pieces of your life can quickly fall into place if you do.
The Japanese have a saying that there are three major powers in the world. The first is the power of the sword, and this refers to weapons/military might. The second is the power of the jewel (like gold), and this refers to the power bestowed on someone or a nation by money or their economic might. The third is the power of the mirror, and this is the power of self-knowledge. According to this ancient saying, the power of the mirror is the most significant because it can control all the other powers.
The journey to understanding yourself will magnify “the power of the mirror” in you and the dividends will encompass all spheres of your life.
If knowing yourself is so important, why is it that many of us aren’t really sure who we are?
For starters, we all go through life transitions that change us at a deeper level than we recognize, and that can lead us to lose touch with who we are, or who we have become. For example, some things that were very important to you as you left school and joined the world of employment may not carry the same weight or they may lose meaning totally once you start having kids. In the same way, being let go at your job or going through a divorce can change you in more ways than the obvious ones.
We can also lose touch of who we are when we constantly put the needs of others above our own needs. We lose ourselves when we make others take precedence over our own needs, and when this goes on for long enough, chances are we will become totally lost.
Another reason why we need to rediscover who we are or conduct frequent introspection to keep in touch with who we are becoming is that distractions abound. These include technologies like our smartphones. Other distractions include alcohol, sex and even work. When these distractions take up a huge amount of our conscious time, we soon lose touch of who we are. To make matters worse, many of us turn to these distractions in order to run away from confronting or facing the things that currently make us uncomfortable or we know we need to face.
Societal pressures and shame can also cause us to lose touch with who we are. For example, if your community shuns people of a certain sexual orientation, you may end up burying that side of you in order to fit in. Similarly, if you are a kid growing up in a neighborhood where a certain sport, such as basketball, is the in-thing, you may suppress your preference for something else because you don’t want to be the subject of hurtful jokes among your peers.
As you can see, there is a constant need to keep checking in and keeping in touch with who you are or who you are becoming so that the decisions that you make stay in alignment with who you are. In this way, you will increase your chances of reaching your full potential, and also lead a life of satisfaction.
Questions to help you understand yourself better
Asking yourself deep questions can help you to really think about who you are as an individual outside of what society, your profession, and other external forces want you to be. Not everyone can be a fish, and a fish can’t do well as a cat. A cat is only good at being a cat, and you will not find a fish acting like a cat! Think deep and hard about the questions below are rediscover who you really are;
- What are your values? What are the principles that you strongly believe in or would like to live by?
- What brings joy into your heart? Is it trying out new recipes, playing the flute, giving others a shoulder to lean on, winning a case in court for your clients?
- What do you feel you need to change so your life can be more satisfying?
- What are the things you wish to retain in your life?
- Which problems would you lose track of time while attempting to solve them?
- What are your deepest fears, and why do you think you have those fears?
- What are your biggest strengths that people admire about you?
- Which aspects of your life are you most happy about, and why?
- Who do you admire and what do you admire about them?
- How would you best describe yourself if you were asked to do so in not more than a sentence?
The questions above aren’t exhaustive, but once you start thinking about them, you will be led onto other questions that give you clarity about who you are. As the picture starts becoming clearer, start finding ways to structure your life so that everything you do is in accordance with who you are. Some discomfort is to be expected in this process, for example when you start saying no to things that don’t resonate with who you are, but the payoff will enrich your life. Remember, life isn’t divided into mutually exclusive components like work, leisure, family, and so on. Everything is interconnected. For example, if you have a problem with your significant other, your productivity at work is likely to suffer. So, understand YOU and everything about you (work, family, friendships, and so on) will improve if you live according to your newfound knowledge. You can be sure of that!
To Your Success,