“If I have to spend any more time as a cog in the wheel – sacrificing my own creativity & passion to help someone else’s vision come to life – I am going to scream,” I thought staring at the excel spreadsheet on my screen. At that moment, I gained two essential pieces of self-knowledge:
Awilda prefers to work for herself & Awilda needs to be engaged in work that she is both passionate about and stimulates her creativity.
In the milliseconds after this information was received, I had a choice to make: would I reject this information as a baseless passing thought or would I integrate this new information as self-knowledge and use it to help change my trajectory?
I chose to accept the information because the realizations were based on the feeling that I was no longer capable of going on as I had. I knew that was not motivated to continue, and I was capable of so much more. The self-knowledge I gained in that moment was invaluable.
Self-knowledge is knowledge or understanding of one’s own capabilities, character, feelings, or motivations. One could also think of self- knowledge as Self-Understanding.
Self-knowledge is the keystone in the arc of success, because success requires intentionality. It is difficult to be intentional if you don’t have a clear idea of the type of person you are, what you can do, how you feel, and what motivates you.
Thankfully, every experience and thought you have can provide you with data that gives you an opportunity to gain more self-knowledge – just like my moment of clarity at the computer. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that trying to understand yourself can be life’s greatest challenge because you are both the perceiver and the object being perceived.
Consequently, the idea of actively seeking to attain self-knowledge can be scary and stressful, especially if you feel disconnected from yourself. Luckily, when the process is broken down into 4 digestible steps, it’s a lot less scary and a lot more like solving a cool personalized puzzle. Here are the 4 steps to actively attaining more self-knowledge:
Step 1 – Take a Character Inventory
Taking an inventory of your character is the first step. Ask yourself, “What are my distinct mental and moral qualities?”
Are you quick to anger; are you conservative; do you love easily or are you super guarded? Perhaps you are incredibly honest, or dedicated to your spiritual beliefs. All of these things contribute to your character.
If you are not sure about the answers to these questions, examine your lived experiences. You will find supporting examples that support these character traits among your lived experiences.
Step 2 – Understand What You Can Do
Understanding what you can do is the next rung in the self-knowledge ladder. While you can always become more capable, having an honest grasp of your current capabilities is critical. You don’t want to be applying for your dream job knowing that you are unable to actually satisfy the roles requirements.
If you possess a firm understanding of your strengths and weakness, it will allow you to leverage your abilities in such a way that you don’t overextend yourself. Additionally, knowing where you are deficient in your abilities empowers you to proactively seek out the skills necessary to change that reality.
Step 3 – Feel the Feels
Being able to identify what and why you feel a certain way is an integral part of self-knowledge. Yet this can be the hardest of all.
Feelings are tricky. They give us a lot of information, but they aren’t always warm and fuzzy. Spending time getting acquainted with what you feel about various parts of your life will give you a lot of data. Here again, lived experiences are a fertile ground for supporting evidence that can help you understand your feelings more clearly.
For example, you may be confused about your feelings around applying to a particular job or academic program. To get clarity, think about how you feel in the moments associated with this decision. If you feel anxious and unsure every time you try to submit your application, then your feelings may be trying to signal that this is not the best decision for you.
Sometimes, feelings give us data we don’t want to accept, even though we know it’s valid and true. The choice to integrate the information is always yours.
Step 4 – Motivation Matters
The final piece of the self-knowledge puzzle is to understand your motivations. The question becomes: Why are you doing what you are doing?
Common motivators are: money, prestige, recognition, family obligations, freedom, and personal fulfillment. You may easily identify with one of those common motivators or you may be motivated by something completely different like a desire to save the planet or simply to live a peaceful existence. Freedom, family, and an unshakable desire to help others are what motivate me.
However, I want to warn you that the first thing that comes to mind when you think of what motivates you may not be the true source of your motivation. For example, many think money is what motivates them when in fact, it’s a desire for stability that is their true source of motivation.
Once you have taken the time to intentionally collect more data, you get to decide what to do with it. Will you integrate it and change you trajectory, or ignore it and continue your current path? Whatever you choose to do will undoubtedly be informed by the information you learned about yourself form solving the Self-Knowledge Puzzle.
Inevitably, the Self-Knowledge you gained will help to create immense clarity on your life journey. When you are clear about your character, capabilities, feelings and motivations, it is easier to create intentional strategies for all around success.
Self-Knowledge puts you on a fast track to success; while a lack of information can cause delays, distractions and derailments. If you truly know yourself, you have a better chance of confidently achieving your goals in a timely manner.
More About Self-Understanding
- How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life
- How to Be More Self-Aware and Strive to Be a Better Person
- How to Reinvent Yourself and Change Your Life