Think back to the last time you were in school. Or took a class. Perhaps tried something new—whether a short cut home or an activity outside your comfort zone.
The truth is, even if we’re not actively pursuing an education, human beings thrive on learning. Some of us crave emotional exploration through new activities or relationships. Others want cutting edge skills to advance their careers, or habits that will make living easier. Having an inquisitive mind and being open to new experiences is how we broaden the context of our lives.
But when was the last time you turned that curiosity gently towards yourself? Beneath the surface concerns of work and home obligations, do you remember the last insight you had about who you are?
In our younger years, we thirst for knowledge and education, learning about how the world works. Our focus tends to be directed outwards, with efforts aimed at impressing others, like teachers or bosses.
Can you remember a time when you had either a startling realization or a calm recognition about yourself?
Here are some examples of insights (as well as how they showed up in my life)…
“This above all: to thine own self be true…”
Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82; William Shakespeare
These familiar words can have a multitude of meanings—from honest dealings with others to acting in accordance with one’s own best intentions. The importance of self-knowledge rests in the assumption that making the right choices for your life requires a basic yet deep understanding of the person for whom you are choosing.
To put it more simply, some of the key motivations for pursuing self-discovery include:
If you’re struggling to pinpoint a moment of your own self-discovery, consider working backwards. Start by identifying a place where your life took a significant turn, catapulting you in an unexpected direction.
Reflect on milestones such as: marriage/divorce; birth of a child; death of a loved one; starting or changing careers; moving to a new location; and activities which were added to or taken away from your daily life.
Think back to the way things were before the change—the thoughts, emotions, dreams, habits, and actions filling your day-to-day life. Then consider who you were after the dust had settled on this particular milestone.
Did you notice any changes in:
If you identified a change in yourself, or your habits and behaviors, take a moment to look deeper for the realization behind the shift. Did you experience a clarification or strengthening of your values, priorities, or daily actions?
Sometimes it’s challenging to recognize these kernels of self-knowledge when we’re going through or emerging from an essential change. However, looking back can make it easier to acknowledge the times when we experienced a shift or awareness of who we are.
If you’re still feeling uncertain about your last self-discovery, or are experiencing a marked sense of disconnection from Self…that’s okay. I’ve struggled with this myself from time to time. It’s unsettling to feel like you’re drifting with the wind, without a clear direction or destination. Just remember, there are ways to forge those inner connections, if you’re willing to meet yourself with a little time and patience.
When I started to “wake-up” from my years of stumbling through life as a busy mom, constant care-giver, house-keeper, and financial manager, I realized that I’d stopped working on my personal development and goals. It had been so long since I pursued something “just for me” that I couldn’t remember what I truly enjoyed or whether I was living by my values.
I subsequently spent a lot of time flitting through numerous hobbies, reading self-development books, and searching outside myself for clues to who I was. Then I stumbled upon a process to help me search within for the answers I’ve carried all along:
That’s right, Space, with a capital S. You won’t learn much if you’re rushing through life without pausing for a few moments of solitude.
Building relationships with others takes time, and knowing yourself is no different. I understand the busy pace of today’s world, but would you keep or value a friendship with someone who never made time for you? So make a date on your calendar—with yourself.
Most importantly, don’t fill this Space up! By default, we end up filling our spare time with email, social media, or even a good book. Yet that only keeps your attention directed outward. Allow yourself to spend the time doing nothing, and if you feel bored…Savor it!
Once the boredom starts to creep in, shift your focus inward. Become curious about what it feels like to not distract yourself, but to sit with your thoughts and feelings in the present moment.
Give your curiosity something to examine: start asking questions. Anything and everything is fair game…as long as the subject matter is you. Once you’ve found something that grabs your attention, give it some time. Don’t try to think your way through to the answer. Simply hold space for it, allowing emotions and associations to drift up. Consider the question more than once to investigate it completely.
Maybe you want insights on why you rush to judgment in relationships. Perhaps you want to discover what kind of work inspires joy and success. Or start smaller… Would the latest purchase you’re debating add real value to your life? Are you enjoying a current hobby or commitment, or would you feel lighter by letting it go?
If you’re stuck, pick a question from one of the weekly posts, and see if it motivates you to explore the subject and how it holds meaning in your life.
No matter which questions you choose, or what responses spring to mind from your subconscious, greet them with acceptance. There are no right or wrong answers in self-discovery. Who you are and what you value is uniquely perfect, and all self-knowledge is worth having.
If you find a large gap exists between who you are, what you want, and how you are currently living, don’t despair. Practice self-compassion…acknowledge that you’re a human being, struggling through life like everyone else, making wrong turns and losing sight of your desired outcome. Seeing yourself through the clearer lens of self-discovery can inspire change, but always start with gentleness and respect for the journey you’ve taken so far.
Being willing to examine your inner life and values can clear the fog of unconscious thinking and automatic action. Self-examination is the first step to loving and accepting yourself for who you really are.
If you take the time to accept and befriend yourself with compassion, then you’ll gain the strength to open yourself up to connection with others. From there, you’ll have the support and confidence to live life fully awakened to your purpose.
While that sounds easy to write in a couple paragraphs, it’s the pursuit of a lifetime. Progress can only be achieved if you’re willing to take the first step on the journey and explore who you are.
Begin by setting aside two blocks of time this week, aiming for 15-30 minutes each. These can be back-to-back or separate, depending on whether you prefer a break from pursuing a concentrated, interior focus.
1) For your first time block, spend some time diving deep into the last personal insight you can recall. The goal here is to examine the details surrounding your discovery and how it came to pass.
Use the following questions to delve into the realization, and write a few notes down if you like:
Spend this first time block articulating your reasons for wanting to know yourself better:
Use this time to discover your motivations, because you are the one constant in your life. You wouldn’t move to a town and never explore it, buy a house and only live in the front hallway, or partner with someone you barely knew. So why settle for a superficial relationship with yourself? It’s unsatisfying and robs you of a deep and beautiful connection.
2) For the second time block, decide what conditions provide the best ambiance for self-discovery.
When you arrange a first date or meeting with a new client or friend, you probably plan it out…selecting the right spot and circumstances so you can become better acquainted with them. I’m asking you to give yourself the same consideration.
Spend some time contemplating:
3) Finally, you know what comes next…
Find a spot on your calendar sometime over the next month and provide yourself with the conditions that make self-discovery possible for you.
Will it happen? Who knows…but the gift of your time and attention should help convince your Authentic Self that you’re willing to listen and learn about all the glorious things that make you You.
This post is asking you to conduct a deeper investigation of those parts of your life where you want insight.
If this seems strange, or you’re feeling a bit stuck, find another post whose questions speak to you, and gift yourself with the time to allow your answers to drift up.
That’s what this blog is trying to encourage…
Every. Single. Week.
Get to know yourself on an ongoing basis. Keep asking questions as you grow, mature, evolve, and ultimately strive to fulfill your deepest longing for connection—with Self.
Download your worksheet by clicking below to learn more about You…and then share a self-discovery you have with us.