Knowing Yourself

It’s a funny thing that—even in a class that lasts for a full year—so much gets unsaid, so much depth is left unexplored, so many stories go unrelated. In this forum though there are no such limitations, so let’s see what there is to explore.

What’s the best way to get to know yourself? The problem with this question is that most adults don’t think it has anything to do with them. It might be a good exploration for teenagers or someone coming through a crisis, they say, but they long ago have stopped asking it; they have solid answers based on long experience and have no time for nonproductive excursions into the deep recesses of their psyches (actually, they say they have no time for “navel gazing”).

All, or at least some of that, would make sense if we were inert objects that did not change as time goes by. Or if we changed in predictable ways. But of course both premises are false. So back to the question.

I think that the answer is totally dependent on what we want to do with what we find out: start or stop a relationship? Move to a new job or stay put? Become a parent? What we are looking to learn shows us how to conduct our exploration.

That then could be Part One of an answer.

There is no “best” way to get to know yourself; it depends on what you’re intending to find out. Not having a best way also includes the understanding that there is no final, fixed answer—because it shifts by the manner of inquiry—as well as remembering that we keep changing, and that different circumstances bring out different aspects of ourselves (for example, being at a party with old friends, presenting in front of potential investors, or stepping out of your car right after someone has crashed into it).

With all of that as background, let me make some suggestions that I’ve found to be useful:

  • Write down all the goals you’ve had for your entire life: as many of them as you can remember. Then investigate which ones you pursued, which ones you abandoned, which ones you were talked out of, which ones you forgot about. What do all these responses tell you about yourself, including what made something important as a goal?
  • List all the people who are important to you in your life right now. What part of you comes alive/goes dead when you’re with each person? Write down names for the parts of yourself that you encounter in the exercise and begin to observe how/when they show up. Learn for yourself what parts are most enlivening, most afraid, most creative, most greedy, etc.
  • Look around at everything that you own at home or work. Check out drawers, closets, basements, attics, storage areas, book cases, CD shelves—everywhere. Ask yourself, who is it that would acquire, maintain, store these things?
  • Keep an exact time diary for a month. Keep track of every moment. Next to each block of significant time put a one- or two-word description or a color-coded dot to indicate what your experience was like at the time.

Those are some ways to start. Try them out and see what happens.

Your comments are welcome. Take care of yourself.

New Ventures West