Studies show that being self-aware helps us become more peaceful, confident, and creative. When you know your purpose, you are also likely to have better control of your life. On the other hand, not taking the path of self-discovery will rob you of an opportunity to understand who you are and what you want out of life.
If you’re at a stage in your life where you are struggling with identifying your real-life goal, then some soul-searching can help you begin the journey of independence and self-development. The quest for self-discovery, however, isn’t that simple. The following tips might help you get started.
1. Evaluate each area of your life
The most important step you can take to begin your journey is to first evaluate each area of your life and analyze what you want. That’s a great way to set goals based on your desires and needs.
Divide your life into the following sections:
Now, identify which needs you would like to meet in each aspect and then set goals related to each of those individual aspects. For example, you are now retired so career isn’t that something you think about. But you do want to improve your relationship with your family and want to explore your spiritual self. Or maybe you want to build your intellectual self at this stage in your life.
Once you see all your needs with regards to all the major life sections, it will become a little easier for you to figure out what you want in your life.
2. Visualize your ideal self
For some reason or the other, you might not have given your true self much thought. A lot of us end up defining ourselves by our relationship with others – a mother, a grandparent, a best friend, a younger sibling, an employee, etc. But if you don’t have a clear idea of the things that matter to you or the kind of person you want to become, you will always end up living for your relationships than for yourself.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Who do I want to be?
- Where do I see myself in 5 years?
- What do I regret the most?
- What makes me proud of myself?
- What worries me most about the future?
- What matters most in my life?
- What am I really scared of?
- Am I holding on to something I need to let go of?
Take your time to answer each of these questions. If you feel you are getting stuck, pause and reflect on the time when you felt happy or satisfied and take note of the things that contributed to it. Maybe it was a passion that was keeping you contented or a desire to keep exploring new hobbies based on your interests. Keep looking for those answers as the findings will catalyze your imagination and help you carve a path that is unique to you.
3. Make a list of things that make you happy
Even though the most mundane day or a depressing week, there are things and activities that make you happy or give you pleasure. Similarly, some things make you uncomfortable or irritable. Now, make an ‘Okay’ and a ‘Not Okay list.
For example, your ‘Okay’ list might contain stuff like “listening to music”, “reading a book”, “going for an evening walk”, or “spending some alone time”. Similarly, your “Not Okay” list might consist of things such as “working overtime”, “letting your partner mock you”, “going out every weekend”, or “talking on the phone with a particular person”.
The idea is to stop doing anything that goes against your constitution or makes you uncomfortable and devote more time to the things that bring you some happiness. Once you have the list in front of you, it will be easier to focus on what makes you feel the most alive, even if it's just for a few minutes a day, and take steps to cut out the “Not Okay” stuff from your life as much as possible.
4. Seek out new experiences
When you reach a stage in your life where you feel comfortable, you tend to stop learning and exploring yourself. It’s therefore important to actively seek out new experiences and push yourself out of your comfort zone at times. That doesn’t mean, of course, that you suddenly go bungee jumping or river rafting. But it’s important to make an effort to try something new every day, even things that have previously didn’t enjoy. Maybe it’s painting, or hiking, walking on the beach, or cooking.
Who knows there might be something waiting for you that will trigger a fire in you or spark a new desire or need that you didn’t know you had.
The point is that trying new things will help you learn new things about yourself. If you don’t, you might get too comfortable and fall into the habit of losing yourself.
5. Determine the things you value about yourself
What are the things that you value the most about yourself? – this is a question you need to ask yourself from time to time. All of us have certain qualities and values that are important or meaningful to us. They can help draw a picture of the life you want to live and it’s, therefore, vital you identify them.
The principles you find most valuable might include:
- Emotional intelligence
Once you’ve determined these values you can evaluate whether you’re living them out. If not, you can take steps to make them a part of your self-discovery process. This will eventually make you feel more fulfilled.
6. Keep asking yourself questions
One your path to self-discovery, never stop asking yourself these questions:
* What drives me?
* What’s missing in my life?
* In what areas of my life I am lacking?
* How have my choices impacted the kind of life I want?
These questions can apply to all areas of your life. Do remember that you might not get immediate answers to these questions. Self-discovery takes time, and you should carefully reflect on each question. Be honest to yourself and don’t answer something for the sake of it. If you can't find an answer to some of your questions, then don’t get discouraged. It only means that a few changes might help you get there.
For example, you might not know what’s missing in your life. Take your time. Analyze your journey carefully and you will eventually find the answer. Once you do, you will have a clearer idea of who you are.
7. Have a thoughtful conversation with your inner child
No matter how old we become, there’s an inner child in all of us. It seeks our attention and carves to be comforted and acknowledged. Psychologists say that revisiting our childhood – the good and the bad memories and the wishes and wounds – is a crucial part of any self-discovery journey. It helps us understand why are we the way we are and why we are sensitive or averse to certain things. Your inner child needs to be heard to allow your adult self to stop hiding and fully understand who you are.
8. Give yourself time
A huge part of finding your true self is accepting the past as you work towards improving your future. This takes time and patience and won’t happen overnight. Acknowledge this and don’t be too harsh on yourself. You can’t change the past but it's okay to let go and move forward.
Feeling anxious, stressed, or insecure can be part of the self-discovery process. But it’s also exciting and gratifying to learn something that you did not know about yourself before. Give yourself time to reach there and focus on enjoying the journey. It might turn out to be a trip like you have never taken before.
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