having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions
The following phrases are actual statements different people told me multiple times, be it in different wording.
- My job is great actually. Even the pay is fine! But it’s just not for me…
- I hate my job! “So why do you stay?”, I ask. What else should I do?!
- I keep ending up with these wrong type of guys
- This is my third education, but it’s still not what I’m looking for
- Dan, how’d you advise me to get a sense of direction..??
Imagine being eighteen and having the idea that you have to choose the direction of the rest of your life. You choose to attend university to become a high school teacher. In the third year you think: “what on earth am I doing here?!”. You’re about to quit, but you get offered a job as a teacher. You take it because you’ll make money, and because it’s “not that bad” (and because you are 21 years old). Of course your motivation is so low that you don’t make it to the finish line and you take another direction. You start a business with a friend in an utterly commercial sector which strands for certain reasons. Then you’re 25 and standing clueless in a retail store for a while. Diagnosis: Self-Awareness-Lack-itis.
Without a Root, There’s no Grip
Self-awareness is the necessary root for the right direction. It’s the little brother/sister of self-knowledge, and they go hand in hand. Respectively they’re the what and the why of your feelings, thoughts, emotions and actions. Together, these elements determine where you are and where you will be in life.
Self-Awareness, together with self-knowledge, will provide you with a grip on your life. Control. Control might have a freakish connotation about it. But paradoxically enough, control leads to freedom. Two fundamental needs of our human species. The freedom to choose, the freedom to have an own opinion, the freedom to execute on your ideas. Personal control, inherently, is a premise to these propositions.
Answering the Questions Asked
Now let’s address the questions we started of with. What exactly can, and in my opinion, should you do to become more self-aware.
This one is by far, by miles distance, the best place to start and the biggest shortcut. To become self-aware, you have to be mindful of the things you do (or don’t do), think and feel. Meditation is about observing the contents and the qualities of your consciousness, which are the senses plus the thoughts and emotions. Meditating is for the mind, what sports is for the muscles. The more you train, the stronger it gets. Your awareness in general will expand, which is a life changing event in itself. I’ll stop myself from listing the other benefits science has ‘discovered’, millennia after the far east monks had empirically tested this already.
- Ask the right questions
The last question in the introduction was asked me by a colleague a few years ago. The answer I gave him, I’d still give today. They seem so simple, yet they are fundamental. Just as the questions asked are fundamental questions. And the questions posed here connect seamlessly with Michel’s most important question. (Any questions?)
- What makes you happy? What daily events put a smile on your face?
- What are you good at?
- How can I make a money with this? How can I arrange my life so that my priorities will be in the foreground?
Answering these questions isn’t a matter of minutes. So don’t expect to answer them in a jiffy. To answer these questions you’ll need to prioritze them and be mindful (#1) of the answers daily life gives you. Also answer the opposite of questions a & b. Don’t underestimate it, and use #3!
- Write. Shit. Down.
In an older post I’ve already written about the con artist living in our skull. Some people are blessed with a memory like a vault. I only know a few of them. Good thing is, it is 2017. From 5 to 85 years old, everyone walks around with an external hard disk in his pocket. I’m in love with Evernote, but there are plenty of other ‘note’able apps (pun intended) that will improve your memory and creativity.
Be mindful, notice what makes you happy, and write down how you can build your life around it and monetize it (you have to eat after all).
Another phenomenon that I underestimated for the biggest part of my life. Reading the right books will give you perspectives you’ve otherwise would never get. It will give you new insights. It’ll take you to places you’ve never been, and it’ll teach you about yourself in a way that other people wouldn’t be able to.
We lose ourselves in books. We find ourselves there too
- Life is an experiment
This is how I look at life. And it’s actually quite a scientific way to look at it. You have to try to prove or disprove your hypotheses, your assumptions, beliefs. This leaves room for mistakes, which supports the idea of freedom. Basically you have to be ready to get high fived. In the face. With a chair. Preferably not by the Hulk, but it’s a possibility! It’s not the end though. That’s freedom.
Good things don’t come easy. Absent self-awareness will not appear on it’s own. So you have to give it some effort. If you’re not prepared to put in a few minutes of your day, to determine the course of the rest of your life, then this post is not for you. And on top of that, you’re breaking our heart. Now you wouldn’t want that, would you?!
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