“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman
Self Discovery Questions | The Process of Self Discovery.
Consider the following questions, one at a time, taking plenty of time to explore it fully. If the questions cause you to come up with more questions write those down as well so that you can go back and explore them. Use a journal to record your responses, feelings, thoughts, etc.
Questions for Self-Discovery:
Who am I? Outside of my role as parent/child/worker etc.
When I am alone all by myself, who am I?
What are my unique talents and traits I offer?
What am I afraid of and why?
Do I fear death? Avoid the thought? How do I handle the concept of Death?
What does it mean to be alive?
What person do I admire the most and why? Do I see these qualities within myself?
Which Person do I least admire and why? Do I see these qualities within myself?
What are my dreams? Do I actively pursue them?
What is my life purpose? Do I recognize my higher calling? If not why?
Create an image for your perfect inner sanctuary. Describe this place. What does it look like? Feel like? Etc. Bring it to perfect detail.
The above are just a small sampling of questions for self-discovery that can open up doors to new discoveries and inner peace. Work on these questions and see what other ideas/questions come up.
often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is
not something one finds, it is something one creates. ~Thomas Szasz, “Personal
Conduct,” The Second Sin, 1973
You have to leave the
city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll
discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself. ~Alan
Never mind searching for who you are. Search for the person you
aspire to be. ~Robert Brault, www.robertbrault.com
Man cannot remake himself
without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor. ~Dr. Alexis
The greatest explorer on this earth never takes voyages as
long as those of the man who descends to the depth of his heart. ~Julien Green
There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the
bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anaïs
The value of identity of course is that so often with it comes
purpose. ~Richard Grant
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the
questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very
foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because
you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live
the questions now. Perhaps you will find them gradually, without noticing it,
and live along some distant day into the answer. ~Rainer Maria Rilke,
Letters to a Young Poet
All men should strive
before they die
what they are running from, and to, and why.
I know well what I am fleeing from but not what I
am in search of. ~Michel de Montaigne
If you don’t get lost, there’s
a chance you may never be found. ~Author Unknown
I went to
the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential
facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when
I came to die, discover that I had not lived. ~Henry David Thoreau,
A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and
returns home to find it. ~George Moore
It is good to feel
lost… because it proves you have a navigational sense of where “Home” is. You
know that a place that feels like being found exists. And maybe your
current location isn’t that place but, Hallelujah, that unsettled, uneasy
feeling of lost-ness just brought you closer to it. ~Erika Harris, empathicwriter.com
in the last few years you haven’t discarded a major opinion or acquired a new
one, check your pulse. You may be dead. ~Gelett Burgess
is frequently a form of indecision. ~Elizabeth Bibesco, Haven, 195
Man never knows what he wants; he aspires to penetrate
mysteries and as soon as he has, he wants to reestablish them. Ignorance
irritates him and knowledge cloys. ~Amiel, Journal,
The man who views the world at fifty the same as he
did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life. ~Muhammad
Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake. ~Wallace
One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is
more distant than any star. ~G.K. Chesterton, “The Logic of Elfland,”
If you resist reading what you
disagree with, how will you ever acquire deeper insights into what you believe?
The things most worth reading are precisely those that challenge our
convictions. ~Author Unknown
It is only when we silent the blaring
sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth
that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts.
I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered
myself. ~James Baldwin
There are chapters in every life which are
seldom read and certainly not aloud. ~Carol Shields
To the question
of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are
the only solution. ~Jo Coudert, Advice From A Failure (Thanks,
Not until we are lost do we begin to understand
ourselves. ~Henry David Thoreau
A single event can awaken within us
a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born. ~Antoine de
Saint-Exupéry, Flight to Arras, 1942, translated from
In search of my mother’s garden, I found my own. ~Alice
Why should we honour those that die upon the field of battle?
A man may show as reckless a courage in entering into the abyss of himself.
~William Butler Yeats
If you haven’t had at least a slight poetic
crack in the heart, you have been cheated by nature. ~Phyllis
Learning how to operate a soul figures to take time.
I’ve left Bethlehem
and I feel free…
the girl I was supposed to be
and some day I’ll be born.
Resolve to be thyself; and know that he who finds himself, loses
his misery. ~Matthew Arnold, “Self-Dependence,” Empedocles on Etna, and
Other Poems, 1852
To dare to live
alone is the rarest courage; since there are many who had rather meet their
bitterest enemy in the field, than their own hearts in their closet. ~Charles
Caleb Colton, Lacon, 1825
No one remains quite
what he was when he recognizes himself. ~Thomas Mann
one of us has in him a continent of undiscovered character. Blessed is he who
acts the Columbus to his own soul. ~Author Unknown
a period of life when we swallow a knowledge of ourselves and it becomes either
good or sour inside. ~Pearl Bailey
I can teach anybody how to get what
they want out of life. The problem is that I can’t find anybody who can tell me
what they want. ~Mark Twain
He who knows others is learned;
who knows himself is wise.
~Lao-tzu, Tao te
must learn what life is now, not from me, but from life itself; but, if you will
hear an old man’s opinion, I will give it you. If you think you can temper
yourself into manliness by sitting here over your books, supposing you will grow
into it as a matter of course by a rule of necessity, in the same way as your
body grows old, it is the very silliest fancy that ever tempted a young man into
his ruin. You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge
yourself one. Go out into life, you will find your chance there, and only
there. ~James Anthony Froude, The Nemesis of Faith, 1849, commonly
misattributed to Henry David Thoreau
Finding the real you is an enlightening experience. You become self-sufficient and do things for yourself, for once. You are no longer needy and become utterly grateful for all the things people have done for you in the past. Finding yourself is a time of harmony because you develop the philosophy or belief system that will carry you throughout the rest of your life. How do you know you have found yourself? It is when you are able to help others find themselves. Finding yourself is not easy, but here are a few tips for how to start the process.
Create your own lifeline. Write down all of your major goals in your life that you feel you achieved and want to achieve. In turn, write down the events in your life that have already happened that you believe have affected you. When life hits with problems or misfortunes it shapes our belief system and makes us think differently. When you believe in something or see beauty in something, you should do it no matter what anyone else thinks. If you have found something that is worthy of your best efforts, sacrifice, and tears, then you have found the most important pursuit of your life.
- This isn’t an exercise in wallowing. It’s about clarification and identification of issues. These issues might be keeping you from reaching your present potential and letting your true sense of self blossom.
- Spend a little time writing with clarity about the past in your timeline. A timeline is an incredibly objective method for marking down past occurrences in your life that you consider to be major. You can look at them as formation blocks and as changing experiences along your timeline without imbuing them with too much emotion (as would occur within a diary account). Keep it simple, real, and condensed to the major effect or lesson learned from each past incident.
- When analyzing negative past experiences, look to the positive learning message in it and don’t dwell on the mistakes or the negatives. Everyone has these blips in their timeline but pretending they are either worse than they were or non-existent won’t do you any favors. Instead, recognize that if it had not been for those past experiences you would not be where or who you are today.
Prepare to begin again with a clean slate. Develop your own moral conduct and practice sticking to it. Remove vice from your life; vices are any actions or habits that tie up your true self and let you escape having to think about the harder questions.
- Stop smoking over-eating, and abusive drinking. These are examples of lapses or habits that will prevent you from functioning at your peak. They also let you “off the hook” by sidestepping the analysis of why you use these crutches instead of finding better ways to brighten your life.
- This step may take some major rehabilitation for some individuals but putting it into the too-hard basket won’t make it go away. Remember, you can’t drive your life forward if you are always gazing through your rear-view mirror.
Sort out your career path. If you’re meandering all over the place looking for the right “fit,” chances are that you’re not happy inside. You could be using the job-changing as an excuse for not fully realizing your true potential. Finding yourself by really taking an interest in what you love to do. If money weren’t an issue, what would you spend your days doing? Is there any way you can monetize this activity/skill?
- Spend some time free-associating. Think about what you like and don’t like; think beyond those things to other ideas that simply pop into your mind while you’re associating. Keep a record of these things. Then, come back to the career question and look at the free associations. What type of career seems to gel most with the things that excited, moved, and really energized you from the free-association exercise? As Alain de Botton says, this exercise is about looking for “beeps of joy” amid the cacophony of must-dos, shoulds, and expectations.
- Bear in mind, however, that work may not be where your “calling” is. If that is the case, you’ll need to work out a work-life balance that lets you pursue your “true self” more outside of the workplace, even if this means more hours and less income. It is all possible, especially if it’s in the pursuit of finding and sustaining your true sense of self.
Immerse yourself in solitude. Give yourself some time and space to get away from the expectations, the conversations, the noise, the media, and the pressure. Take some time each day to go for a long walk and think. Plant yourself on a park bench and look. Take a long, thoughtful road trip. Whatever you do, move away from anything that distracts you from contemplating your life and where you want it to go. In solitude, you should feel independent and self-sufficient, not lonely, needy or afraid. Think about the hard questions.
- “If I had all the resources in the world — if I didn’t need to make money — what would I be doing with my day to day life and why?” Perhaps you’d be painting, or writing, or farming, or exploring the Amazon rain forest. Don’t hold back.
- “What do I want to look back on in my life and say that I never regretted. Would you regret never having traveled abroad? Would you regret never having asked that person out, even if it meant risking rejection? Would you regret not spending enough time with your family when you could? This question can be really difficult.
- “If I had to choose three words to describe the kind of person I’d love to be, what would those words be?” Adventurous? Loving? Open?Honest? Hilarious? Optimistic? Don’t be afraid to choose words that are considered negative because that proves you’re a real person, and not a lopsided combination of parts other people want to be known for.
Act upon your newly discovered knowledge. Do the things that you want to do! Pick up those watercolors. Write a short story. Plan a trip to Mombasa. Have dinner with a family member. Start cracking up. Open up. Tell the truth. Whatever it is that you’ve decided you want to be or do, start being and doing it now.
Finding yourself is a journey, not a destination. A lot of it is trial and error. That’s the price you pay in return for the satisfaction you receive: More often than not, you hit a bump in the road, and sometimes you fall flat on your face. Be prepared to understand and accept that this is a part of the process, and commit to getting right back up and starting over.
Serve others. Mahatma Ghandi once said that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”. All instrospection and no reaching out to others can cause you to navel-gaze and shut yourself off from others. Service to other people and to the community is the ultimate way to find purpose and a sense of your place in the world. When you get to see how hard life can be for those in greater need than you, it’s often a wake-up call that puts your own worries, concerns, and issues into perspective. It helps you to see what you do have and the opportunities you’ve been able to seize through life. That can fuel a great sense of self because suddenly everything can fall into place for you and you realize what matters most. Try it. You’ll like it.
For so many years, I lived a life without new experiences. Not by choice, but by marriage. My marriage, not all marriages. I have been happily divorced for almost 20 years. Almost as long as I was married. I would change this quote slightly, “Without new experiences, something inside of us dies. The dead must arise” (Frank Herbert). Now that I have arisen life has been a true journey with the awe of new and great experiences and transformations. This is how life should be. To all who are sleeping or dead, I say to you “Awake”.