Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” He adamantly instructed his students to know themselves in every area of life. Knowing yourself takes hard work, intense contemplation and discipline. Therefore, you must remain committed to learning more about yourself even when you think you know everything about yourself. Because as Socrates also said, “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.” In short, you must learn about yourself, then learn, and learn some more.
5 ways to know yourself
Take personality profile tests
Get online and take personality profile tests. If you would like to take more extensive tests the cost is minimal, but there are many free tests you can take which will offer you in-depth explanation of your personality type and how it affects your tendencies, your habits, and your interpersonal relationships. Take as many tests as you can and examine the results.
Ask someone you love and trust
NOTE: In this exercise it is important for you to remain objective and to refrain from becoming defensive. Some of the things your confidant will tell you may hurt, but if you remain objective the information they share with you could catapult your knowledge of yourself.
Sit down with someone you love and trust and ask them to give an honest evaluation of you. Ask them to describe your greatest strengths and weaknesses. Ask them what they see as a great career for you. Ask them to evaluate you as a father, mother, friend, sibling, co-worker, boss, etc. If you can have a list of questions for them before you meet that will help them prepare their answers.
Write a timeline of significant events from your life
Take a sheet of paper and write a line horizontally. Think back to your childhood and write the date of significant events, both good and bad, from your life. Examples could include: Hit my first homerun, made friends with (name), family vacation, Mom and Dad divorced, graduated high school, won championship, etc. You should write anything you consider significant, even if it seems trivial. After you write the timeline, get a separate sheet of paper and write how each event affected your view of yourself.
Christina Baldwin said, “Journaling is a voyage to the interior.” Journaling allows you to precisely see how you are feeling and thinking about past, present, and future. You should carry a journal with you almost everywhere you go. Journaling will help you gain clarity if you are pondering an important decision, but it also gives you a great opportunity to write down creative ideas you may have for business, relationships, and leadership. Additionally, carrying a journal will increase your learning from others. If you hear a great quote or idea, you can jot it down in your journal. One great quote or idea can sometimes be the difference in our success.
Journaling is a voyage to the interior – Christina Baldwin
Most importantly, by journaling you begin to see yourself from the 3rd party perspective. You’ll build a relationship with yourself like you’ve never had before. And ultimately, the better you know yourself, the better decisions you will make. For example, if I discover through journaling that I’m an easy sell and I’m trying to save money, then I will better prepare myself if I’m put in a situation where someone is trying to sell me something.
· Admit your weaknesses
Psychologist Roy Baumgardner says that 87 percent of people are overconfident in their abilities. A major reason people are overconfident is they aren’t honest with themselves. Most people are great in talking about their strengths, but are afraid to admit weaknesses. Admitting weakness will give you freedom. Knowing your strengths will give you clarity in where you should spend your time, talents, and effort. Knowing your weaknesses will help you lean on others who are better than you in those areas of your life. For example, if you’re a salesperson and you’re not particularly good at writing proposals, you can lean on someone else to help you write proposals. If you’re an excellent teacher but unorganized you can ask an accountability partner to help keep you organized. An ancient proverb says, “Our strengths are made perfect in weakness.” Think about this proverb for a moment. If you were to delegate your weaknesses to others who are strong in that area, you are perfecting your weakness and vice-versa. Additionally, you will be more effective in your strengths because you will have fewer weaknesses hindering your progress.
Once you begin to know yourself you will be able to appreciate who you are. It will also help you make better decisions and not make rash commitments. How often do you say “yes” without knowing whether or not you’ll be effective in your commitment? Those who know themselves well only make commitments in their strength zone. Take the time to learn about yourself and it will lead to better decisions, better leadership and a better life.
(This subscript is from my book A Clear View: Unleashing the Power of a Positive Self-Image)