Getting to Know Yourself
“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” – Socrates
As you live your daily life, you can look for clues to what are essentially the 6 building blocks of YOU. Don’t forget to grab your free VITALS worksheet while you are here!
Why is it important to know yourself?
Getting to know yourself is so important. Especially now. With our busy schedules it might be difficult to find the time to think about who we are, our strengths and weaknesses, our drives and personalities, our habits and values. Besides, many of us just aren’t inclined to spend much time on self-reflection. Even when personal feedback is presented to us, we’re not always open to it, because honest feedback isn’t always flattering. Consequently, many of us have a pretty low level of self-awareness. That’s unfortunate, because self-awareness is an essential first step toward maximizing management skills. Self-awareness can improve our judgment and help us identify opportunities for professional development and personal growth. Here some other quick reasons to get to know yourself:
Happiness. You will be happier when you can express who you are. Expressing your desires, moreover, will make it more likely that you get what you want.
Less Inner Conflict. When your outside actions are in accordance with your inside feelings and values, you will experience less inner conflict.
Better Decision-Making. When you know yourself, you are able to make better choices about everything, from small decisions like which sweater you’ll buy to big decisions like which partner you’ll spend your life with. You’ll have guidelines you can apply to solve life’s varied problems.
Self-Control. When you know yourself, you understand what motivates you to resist bad habits and develop good ones. You’ll have the insight to know which values and goals activate your willpower.
Resistance to Social Pressure. When you are grounded in your values and preferences, you are less likely to say “yes” when you want to say “no.”
Tolerance and Understanding of Others. Your awareness of your own foibles and struggles can help you empathize with others.
Vitality and Pleasure: Being who you truly are helps you feel more alive and makes your experience of life richer, larger, and more exciting.
Now that you understand the WHY, let’s talk about the WHAT. In other words, what are the building blocks of YOU?
To understand your building blocks, there is one word to think about: VITALS
V = Values
“Values”—such as “helping others,” “being creative,” “health,” “financial security,” and so on—are guides to decision-making and motivators for goals. Research shows that just thinking or writing about your values can make it more likely that you take healthy actions, for example. The motivation provided by worthwhile values can also keep you going even when you are tired, as shown in many psychology experiments. If you want to self-motivate, know your values!
I = Interests
“Interests” include your passions, hobbies, and anything that draws your attention over a sustained period of time. To figure out your interests, ask yourself these questions: What do you pay attention to? What are you curious about? What concerns you? The focused mental state of being interested in something makes life vivid and may give you clues to your deepest passions.
Many people have built a career around a deep interest in something. For example, when someone gets hurt so they see a doctor – then they grow up to want to be a doctor because of an experience.
T = Temperament
“Temperament” describes your inborn preferences. Do you restore your energy from being alone (introvert) or from being with people (extrovert)? Are you a planner or go-with-the-flow type of person? Do you make decisions more on the basis of feelings or thoughts and facts? Do you prefer details or Big Ideas? Knowing the answers to temperament questions like these could help you gravitate toward situations in which you could flourish and avoid situations in which you could wilt.
A = Around-the-Clock Activities
The “around-the-clock” category refers to your internal clocks. Are you a morning person or a night person? At what time of day does your energy peak? If you learn this about yourself, you can schedule your day to be at maximum potential.
L = Life Mission and Meaningful Goals
“What have been the most meaningful events of your life?” This was a question I liked to ask when students would see me for career counseling at the community college where I worked. One woman of about 40 got teary-eyed as she tried to answer. “Recently,” she told me, “I’ve found it incredibly meaningful to care for my aging father as he declined and went into hospice. I was able to be there and hold his hand when he died.” As we talked about the difficulties and rewards of her father’s last days, she had an “aha” moment and realized she wanted to become a hospice nurse. (She accomplished her goal and was one of the leaders of her class.)
“What have been the most meaningful events of your life?” You may discover clues to your hidden identity, to your career, and to life satisfaction.
S = Strengths
“Strengths” can include not only abilities, skills, and talents, but also character strengths such as loyalty, respect for others, love of learning, emotional intelligence, fairness, and more. (See here for a list of “Character Strengths”). Knowing your strengths is one of the foundations of self-confidence; not being able to acknowledge your own superpowers could put you on the path to low self-esteem. Become a person who “takes in the good,” listening for compliments and noticing skills that could be clues to your strengths. Example: An acquaintance tells you she loves the soothing sound of your voice. What could you do with that knowledge? Likewise, knowing your weaknesses can help you be honest with yourself (or others) about what you are NOT so good at. You might decide either to work on those weaknesses or try to make them a smaller part of your personal or career life.
Do You, Booboo
Even if you know your “VITAL Signs,” it’s hard to remain true to yourself because you are constantly changing and because society’s values often conflict with your own. I love this quote from fellow habits author Gretchen Rubin:
But there are a few signposts. When you’ve made a discovery about one of your “VITAL Signs,” you’ll feel a sense of excitement. Acting on self-knowledge will give you energy and save you energy. You’ll feel better and stronger because you no longer conform to how you “should” feel, think, or act.
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