The whole idea of self-improvement and personal development hinges on a desire to become better in some way in order to get what you want. It is easy to recognize that your life is not how you want it to be; perhaps you want financial freedom, relationships that are more rewarding or a successful career. Whatever the dream, many people believe the first step in allowing it to manifest in your life is working out what changes need to be made.
There is, however, a crucial step which many people overlook. How can you make changes without first knowing yourself well enough to recognize where you are going wrong? The phrase ‘getting to know yourself’ is a tricky one. What exactly does it mean to ‘know yourself’? Surely, everyone knows himself or herself?
But while we may know the superficial things; what we like and don’t like, how we are feeling from one moment to the next… it is harder to know what aspects of ourselves are stopping us from fulfilling our potential. It is hard to be honest enough with ourselves to get anything productive out of self-analysis, but remember that you can only gain from being open and honest with yourself.
It is easy to blame outside circumstances, other people and elements beyond our control for why we have not succeeded in the way we want to. The idea that we are not only responsible for our successes but also for our failures is often hard to take. It takes a real brutal honesty with yourself to allow you to get to know yourself to such a degree that you are able to take positive steps to balance your personality, identify where you are weak and strengthen yourself!
I am going to show you how you practical ways to get to know yourself better through keeping a focused notebook. This is not a soul-searching diary or journal, which may work for some people and make others feel limited. This is a proven, targeted exercise in self-improvement. So let’s get started.
Choose a blank notebook and keep it with you constantly for a month. Use the following guidelines to fill the notebook with observations – about yourself. How often have you looked at someone’s life and felt it should be so easy for him or her to see where they are going wrong? This is the benefit of detachment, so in order to discover yourself; you need to approach yourself like an observer.
1. How do you think?
This is all about checking your responses to the world around you. The biggest test is the brink of disaster. When you have tried (and tried again) and still you are heading towards failure, what do you think? Be honest with yourself – do you doubt yourself or your abilities? Do you think of people or circumstances to blame? Lost people naturally think negatively when things look bleak. If you do then think about how these thoughts affect the outcome of your endeavors.
Keep a record of thoughts you have had which could be damaging, any negative responses, times when you have talked yourself out of an opportunity, situations in which you let yourself be ruled by disbelief. Write down how you felt, what you thought and possible reasons why you thought that way.
Whether you think you can, or think you cannot – you are right! Stop the negative thought before it has time to do any damage. Do not think unrealistic thoughts, replacing ‘I’m going to fail’ with ‘I will never fail’ may lead to disappointment. Replacing ‘I’m going to fail’ with ‘I am not going to give up!’ is a much more positive thought, and one that guarantees to increase your chances of success. Write down replacement positives for the negative thoughts you have recorded. Practicing this will eventually make it come naturally to you.
2. How do you see yourself?
There are so many problems within people, which are caused by lack of self-esteem. If you are determined to make your dreams a reality, you have to believe in yourself first. If a dream is worth pursuing, then why bother unless you are worth the dream? ‘I probably can do it’ or ‘I’ll give it a go’ just aren’t good enough. Things will be hard, times will be tough, and unless you know that you have what it takes, you may fall at the next hurdle.
Keep a note of self-deprecating thoughts, is there a theme? Do you treat yourself badly because of an element of yourself that you do not like? Is it your looks or your education? Then don’t let these thoughts damage you sub-consciously, see them for what they are and decide – what is it that needs to change? Is it a part of yourself or is it the way you feel about yourself? Record detailed accounts of times when you have let low self-esteem or poor self-belief stop you from succeeding or taking an opportunity.
Make a list of the things you love about yourself, again be honest. This can be harder than finding things you don’t like about yourself. What are you proud of? Focus on these things, find ways of capitalizing on your strengths and write them down. Enjoy them!
3. How do others see you?
Ask honest friends or family members if you are sure you will get an unbiased response. Be prepared to hear things you might not like – try to view the negatives in a positive light, these are things you now have power over – these are things you can change!
Write down times in the past when you have been misunderstood – why did this happen? Think carefully over these incidences and identify where the misunderstanding arose – was it something you said? By identifying times when you have been misunderstood, you can discover the causes, way in which you have presented yourself wrongly perhaps, and eliminate them from future encounters. Write down how you plan to avoid misunderstandings and express yourself better in the future.
By keeping track of your thoughts, your feelings about yourself and how others react to you, you can become better acquainted with yourself and you will learn things about your personality and thought processes that will surprise you. This provides a solid foundation for you to build success upon. Whenever things are not going well, look to yourself for answers, and check you have not slipped back into negative thought patterns and poor self-esteem.
By knowing yourself well you will be better placed to keep yourself primed for success. Keep the notebook close by and read over what you discovered about yourself when times are tough. Remind yourself what areas you need to work on and the things about yourself that you need to appreciate more.
It will look like this: Knowing Yourself – The Notebook Technique