Self-Awareness | A Practice in Understanding Who You Are
I’d like to begin this with a quick disclaimer. I do not believe in destiny. I do not believe in fate. I do not believe in pre-disposition.
However, I do believe in purpose.
Everyone who knows me, and I mean truly knows me, knows that I’m busy. Extremely busy. Often, my months, weeks, days, and sometimes, minutes are planned. Once in a while, someone will tell me that I need to ‘relax’ and ‘enjoy’ my life. What many can’t and don’t seem to understand is that this is the life that I chose (as opposed to the life that chose me) and that I thoroughly and wholeheartedly love my life. Busy as I may be, I am very relaxed and I find my life to be very enjoyable.
What little free time I have is dedicated to my family, my girlfriend, and a small handful of friends. The friends who you know are with you through thick and thin whether you see them once a week, once a month or once a year. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Drinks with a Good Friend – Time for Reflection
This past Thursday, I met with one of these friends. For the sake of anonymity, let’s call him Brady. Brady and I have known one another for the better part of a decade and have been comrades since the start. We have a lot in common. We both love to play sports. We both love all things health and fitness. And we both love business. However, it was only recently that I realized that it wasn’t all of these mutual interests that kept us close. It was actually our own respective understanding and appreciation of who we were as individuals that were the basis of so many of our conversations.
Brady proceeded to tell me that, over the course of the past year, he began this new exercise of setting annual, monthly, weekly, and daily goals and that, through extreme dedication, he’s been achieving them at a very high rate. I didn’t ask for more details beyond that. I’ve known him for years and I know that he sets the bar high. As do I. But that’s really not what this is about.
This is not about setting or achieving goals. This is not about setting the bar high (or low). This is simply about knowing who you are as an individual. This is about purpose. Brady and I both understand ourselves and both know our respective purposes.
Understanding Who You Are
Being busy is not who I am. Being busy is a result of who I am. I strive for self-betterment: physically, mentally, socially, and psychologically. I am passionate about health and fitness and I am dedicated to bettering the lives of those around me. I want to leave a positive mark and have a positive influence on the world. Maybe that sounds a bit self-righteous. But that’s who I am. I love it and no one can change my mind.
Although many have tried.
If this exercise is new to you, the thought of it might be absolutely daunting, nerve-wracking, or downright frightening. Well, take comfort in knowing that in this exercise of self-reflection, self-determination, and self-definition, there are no right answers or wrong answers. Who you decide you are and what you determine your purpose to be are completely personal, relative, and unique. It's all relative to your personality and your experiences and, therefore, no one can take that away from you or decide it for you.
Even though I know who I am, I am always looking to further develop that definition. Here are 7 Self-Awareness exercises that I’ve used in the past and continue to use today in order to further understand who I am and what my purpose is:
1) Read – learn from the experiences of others.
2) Meditate – silence the world around you and listen to your inner voice.
3) Draw or Write – expand and develop your creative intelligence.
4) Travel – see the world from a different perspective.
5) Find a Mentor – ditto reading.
6) Find a Mentee – learn about yourself while enlightening someone else.
7) Take Courses – quench that thirst for knowledge.
Why it’s Important to Know Who You Are
Let’s not confuse this concept with something as profound as the ‘meaning of life’. Having a good self-awareness will simply help you become a more efficient and fulfilled person. A happier person. And simply put a better person. You will become a better father, mother, son, daughter, spouse, and friend. You’ll naturally become someone that others want to gravitate towards because they feel good about themselves when they’re around you.
Those Self-Awareness Exercises Didn’t Help? Try These Questions
Maybe I just like to ask questions. I ask a LOT of questions. I like to ask them of myself. I can’t guarantee that asking questions will help you find answers. However, I can guarantee that you will not get answers to questions that you don’t ask. Here are 5 questions that might help set you in the right direction:
1) What helps me get out of bed in the morning?
2) What are my biggest fears (answering this question alone will be profound)?
3) What are my greatest strengths (notice I didn’t ask about the weaknesses)?
4) What am I most proud of?
5) What makes me happy (a simple question that many don’t know the answer to)?
The Sad Truth
Perhaps in all of my personal self-reflection, I’ve become a bit of a cynic. I have learned, in my humble experience, that you will always have critics and will always be subject to critique. But if this is truly the case, why not live the life that you’ve defined? Again, who you are and what you determine your purpose to be is extremely personal, relative, and unique.
No one can take that away from you. It’s yours!
For some of you, this might be an easy exercise. For others, it might be difficult. Regardless of which bucket you fall into, it's a worthwhile exercise. And if, through these self-awareness exercises and questions, you manage to define who you are and what your purpose is, I urge you to be that person with no reservations.