You become a successful entrepreneur not because you know how to build a company, but because you have a superior understanding of the customers and their needs. You can simply hire people for everything else (very simplified). It’s the same in your personal life. If you want to be really successful and happy in life, you have to know who you are and what you want very clearly and also understand your environment in order to build the superior strategy for achieving your life vision.
Knowing yourself is one of the most important things in life. It's the first step. It’s also the most important foundation of the AgileLeanLife lifestyle. In life, you either follow your own goals or goals of other people. But if you want to follow your own goals, you must first know what you truly want and how you function as a person.
Most really successful people had known what they wanted to become from a very young age. They discovered what they’re good at early in their lives and devoted their life to that one thing with all their passion and focus. Well, even if it doesn’t happen early in life, it happens at some point. When the right opportunity comes, you simply know you were born to do that with your life.
You can unlock your true potential when you get the insights in your true self: not only into what you want, but also into how you function, what your psychological survival mechanisms are, your desires and fears, strengths and weaknesses and other personality traits, how the environment works, what are the upcoming trends and paradigms, then you can unlock your true potential. If you want to transcend, you have to first understand yourself.
There are several ways for getting to know yourself. Let’s look at them.
People and activities you like
The first one is very obvious. People with the same values always group together. People who surround you and you like to hang out with usually have the same beliefs, values, likes and hobbies as you do.
We all know that, but what you can do to systematically get to know yourself is to carefully analyze who are the people you like and what activities do you do together. Same goes for the activities you like to do alone. Think of your hobbies and why you like them. Ask yourself what topic you would like to teach if you had an opportunity or what you would love to blog about.
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You are and become more and more similar to the people you are spending your time with. Analyze the people who surround you.
Your values very clearly show what’s important to you in life. But here’s the trick. Your values are not what you say is important to you, but how you allocate your time, money and energy. For example, if you have to decide between working out and going to the pub and you choose the latter, socializing is more important to you than health. If you have to decide between spending time with your spouse or friends and you choose the former, your partnership is more important to you than your friends. And so on.
Carefully analyze how you’re spending your time, money, energy and other resources. When do you say no and to whom, and how do you make a choice between two different activities. Analyzing that will clearly show you your personal values. You can also help yourself with this value list and then prioritize chosen values based on your decision-making system.
You may find out one very painful thing, namely the inconsistency of what you say you value and what you actually do. But don’t torture yourself. There are no wrongs and rights. It’s about really knowing yourself and living life true to yourself. That kind of exercise helps you develop integrity and honesty.
Your talents and fields of interest
When you are analyzing yourself, a very pleasant part of it is analyzing your talents and fields of interest. Every single one of us has talents, things that we are naturally good at, and so do you. May it be sports, mathematics, some sort of arts or anything else. Each of us has special talents and gifts. This is also where one of your greatest potentials lies, be it financially or in self-actualization terms.
Think about the subjects you liked when attending school, which activities were natural to you and you had to put in much less effort than other people, which activities make you lose sense of time and you simply enjoy them, what are your hobbies and so on. But also go one step further with your analysis. Think about all different kinds of strengths that accompany your talents.
A good tool to do that kind of analysis is the so-called SWOT analysis. You analyze your strengths on the one hand and weaknesses on the other. You also analyze opportunities and threats as outside factors that can influence your ability to achieve your goals and desires. Much as you have to be aware of your advantages, so you have to be aware of your disadvantages as well.
People you hate
It may not seem that obvious, but we can really learn a lot from people we hate or dislike. We always dislike people who have personality traits that are a part of our character yet unresolved (we deny them) or that remind us of a bad experience we had had in our past. Additionally, we usually also have values very different from those of people we don’t like.
Nevertheless, there are two different states or situations. We can have different beliefs and values from people and have neutral feelings about it. That is what we call rational behavior. People have different views on life and there is nothing wrong with it. Every one of us has the right to live life as they want, as long as they cause no harm to other people. But when we are not neutral in this kind of a situation and we get negative feelings about a person that simply means we have some internal issues that are not being solved. We can learn a lot about ourselves by observing who we hate or dislike.
Thoroughly asking ourselves why we hate or dislike someone can tell us a lot about ourselves. Are we envious (of what and what our desires are), did somebody in the past treat us the same way etc.
5 Whys is a simple technique also used in business to identify the cause and not only deal with the effects. If you want to get rid of the consequences for good, you have to get to the root of the matter. You can identify the real cause by asking yourself “why” several times in a row. It’s a way of identifying your deeper volitions and why you behave in a certain way.
Let me give you an example. I like geeky superhero movies. Why? Because the good always wins despite the inoperative formal protective and legal system. Why? Because there is “someone” more competent to protect the victim from the bad. Why? Because no one deserves to be a victim and bullied by others. Why? Because I know how awful it feels. Why? Because I experienced domestic violence as a child.
There is also a big systematic step further you can do to analyze yourself. Psychoanalysis, the psychological technique popularized by Sigmund Freud, is based on you reflecting on your behavior, talking about yourself and coming to small epiphanies and insights into why you are behaving in a certain way and what drives you. It’s especially based on free associations, fantasies and dreams. And you don’t need a therapist for that.
Explained in a very simplified way, self-reflection means that once per week, you take an hour or more to reflect on your goals, behavioral patterns, negative and positive emotions and everything else that is happening in your life. It’s even better to do this daily, by writing a journal, but you need a lot of time for that, of course. Nevertheless, you can have great breakthroughs by knowing yourself.
Reflecting is also an integral part of agile software development (SCRUM), where the team reflects on how they work and where they can improve regularly on a weekly basis. I do self-reflection at least two times per week and I come to a small insight about myself every time.
Having a persona coach is also a viable option to help you with self-reflection. You are always very biased when judging yourself and others. It’s a no-brainer that you judge others much more strictly and that you are indulgent towards yourself. An honest and tough, but fair, coach could greatly contribute towards more realistic reflection.
A much more fun way to get to know yourself is testing and trying different things in life. Based on the AgileLeanLife principles, I call that the search mode. You may assume what you like and dislike in life but you don’t really know until you try it. Besides developing yourself (personal evolution) and providing value to the world (creating), another important purpose of your life is to be happy and experience as much as possible.
Why not try as many things as imaginable. You can then do the ones you like over and over again, and simply discard the ones you don’t. But at least you know you’ve tried. You should always be in the search mode in your life – testing, trying and experimenting new things. New travel destinations, new meals, new people, new sex poses, you name it.
Routine is a much more popular approach to life, but only because it’s easy and safe. Nevertheless, routine is a partly wasted life. There are so many things to do in life, so many things to try. Never settle for a routine just because it’s easy. Your life starts at the end of your comfort zone.
Another approach for getting to know yourself are personality tests. There are many different personality tests you can take. You can find many of them on the internet, some of them you can even take for free, but they are not usually the best.
Investing into knowing yourself is one of the best investments you can make, so spending some money on that kind of a test should not sound like a waste of money to you. Maybe you can also contact one of the HR agencies or personal coaches to help you choose the right tests and give you additional directions. Well, even if you didn’t like tests in school, these tests should be fun.
Here is an example of really good personality test.
Primary and secondary socialization
A good way to see some parts of yourself is to analyze your parents and their personalities and behavior, your family history, schooling process, your nation’s history and current state, culture and so on. The less you know yourself, the less you are determined to live your own life, the more you are only a product of the environment.
Nevertheless, whether you want it or not, most parts of your personality are not chosen by you but are rather inherited and imparted. Understanding your roots, history and especially your parents can help you a lot in understanding yourself and becoming closer to your real self, in knowing which parts to keep and which parts to discard.
Analyzing these factors can really help you understand who you really are, what are your inherited positive and negative behavioral patterns, what kind of stuff was imposed on you, how you are similar or different from your parents, what they did right and wrong when raising you and so on.
Your outer world is merely a reflection of your inner world. At some point, when becoming an adult, you choose almost all elements of your environment. Besides analyzing people, analyzing your environment can reveal a lot about your personality and who you are.
Is your desk tidy or not, where do you live, which applications are you using on your computer and mobile phone, do you have animals or plants at home, the culture of the company you work for, the places you choose to travel to or visit etc. Everything reveals small parts of your character and who you are. Analyze it carefully. You can help yourself with all the elements of life strategy.
Ask other people
The next technique for getting to know yourself better is simply asking other people. There is one simple trick to doing that. We all love praise and hate criticism. Thus we have to prepare ourselves for good and bad feedback, as long as it’s constructive and fair. The good thing is that we can usually learn much more from the negative than the positive feedback. Ask people to give you feedback.
In business and human resources, there is a very well-known evaluation method called the 360-degree feedback. The main point of this analysis and reflection is to include direct feedback from all the different stakeholders – an employee's subordinates, peers and supervisor(s), but a self-evaluation is also included. In some cases, it also includes feedback from external sources, such as customers and suppliers or other interested stakeholders. The more feedback, the more angles, the more ways to improve.
Thus you can ask your friends, coworkers, spouse, parents, kids etc. for feedback about yourself.
There are also some alternative methods you can use, like astrology (a natal chart) or other spiritual techniques (numerology and hundreds of others). I don’t see any arguments against that kind of tools and techniques if they work for you. And if you think they are useless, ignore it.
That is the basis of the AgileLeanLife and I don’t want to go against it in any kind of situation. Choose the tools and things that work for you personally as an idividual. Having an open mind is essential in life. As the famous quote goes: your mind is like a parachute, it only works when it’s open.
Listen to your inner voice
If you really want to be happy and successful you always have to be in touch with your true self and your inner voice.
The first problem is that you already somehow lose touch with yourself through primary and secondary socialization. The less your desires are listened to, the less you get heard and valued and loved at a young age, from your parents, teachers and other people, the more you start suppressing your desires and living to expectations of others and the society.
The second problem is that there is too much noise out there because of all the interactive devices, advertising billboards, chores, tasks and other activities. Rather than listening to ourselves and our true desires, we tend to behave according to the society’s expectations.
Don’t do that to yourself, your life is just too precious. Get to know yourself, always do regular reflections and stay connected to your inner voice and true self. It will do miracles for the quality of your life.
You can help yourself perform self-analysis with the template below. Download it for free.
At the end, here are some additional ideas for what you should clearly know about yourself:
- What you want to experience in life and making the list of it as a life vision
- How you learn best – look at the different types of learning and think about which method usually helps you learn a specific topic the fastest
- Environment in which you function the best – is it stressful, calm, organized, creative etc. How big of an organization suits you best etc.
- What are your main talents, values, beliefs, hobbies etc.
- How you can contribute to the world and make it a better place.
- In which environments, organizations and with whom do you really blossom and can really be yourself.
- Who you were, who you are and who you want to become (your ideal self).
- What are the things that you would regret in life
Here is the homework you should do to really get to know yourself better:
- Analyze the people who surround you. What kind of people do you like and what kind of acitivites you do together.
- Make your personal enjoyment list, the list of activities you like, your hobbies etc.
- Carefully analyze how you’re spending your time, money, energy and other resources.
- Perform a personal SWOT analysis.
- Analyze what kind of people do you dislike and why.
- Learn to analyze your dreams and fantasies.
- Consider having a mentor or a coach.
- Try as many things as possible to figure out what you really like and what you don't.
- Do the 16personalities or any other personality test.
- Analyze your parents and their personalities and behavior, your family and nation's history and culture etc.
- Analyze environment you currently operate in.
- Go through the life strategy template to become aware of your different beliefs and behavior patterns (here it is).
- Ask your friends, coworkers, spouse, parents, kids etc. for feedback about yourself.
- Do your ideal-self persona.
- Think of all the things you would regret in life if not trying them. Ask yourself why.