Everyone wishes for a great life. In fact, most of what we do for our job or our family, ultimately they’re all for the end goal to make our life great. But sometimes, what we do for that goal might end up being the main thing preventing us from reaching it.
For instance, you might feel bogged down by your job but you can’t just leave because you need it to make a living. Or you’re taking specific classes even though you’re not interested, just to fulfill certain expectations others or even you yourself have on you. Or pretty much staying in a relationship you know is doomed to fail just because you don’t want to hurt anyone.
You can probably relate to one or even more of these. So naturally, we want to change it all. Redesign our life. Get rid of all the bad parts and bring in the better ones. Though, think about this: do you know what you really want? Even if you moved on to a whole new thing, could you guarantee that was what you wanted the whole time? How confident are you?
That’s where the meat of it comes in:
The most important element to change your life is how much you know yourself.
Why should you know yourself
What are your strengths, weaknesses, your likes, and dislikes, your deepest thoughts and feelings, your vulnerabilities, your purpose in life, everything about you should be clear. It’s when you know yourself, that you know exactly what is it you want to do as a job, what you’re looking for in a partner, what you want to study, who you want to keep around you, everything becomes obvious. You know what to do to make your life better.
Knowing yourself might seem counter-intuitive. It’s probably a given if you go about life as you usually would right? Not necessarily.
Starting from when we were children, we were brought up with certain belief systems and values, which comes from the people around us. Like our parents, relatives, and friends. For instance, the belief that to succeed in life, we need excellent grades or follow a certain career path to be happy. Or we must find a particular type of soulmate to find a long-lasting relationship. These may or may not align with our skills or talents. But we believe it to be so due to our experiences in our childhood and adolescent years.
It’s only much later, probably in our adult years, that we realize something is missing in our life. That what we do doesn’t make us truly happy at all.
That’s why it’s important to keep aside what you think we know and try to find it yourself.
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People with a clear sense of themselves tend to have higher self-esteem. Having a clearer sense of self is related to lower levels of depression and rumination, and it’s also related to reduced general and social anxiety. It also has extreme control on stress and loneliness. People with a clear sense of self also have better relationships with others. In romantic relationships, this can mean greater satisfaction with your partner and relationship. They also tend to be less aggressive and hostile.
After you know yourself, building up the determination and self-discipline for it is much easier.
How do you know yourself
Knowing yourself is more difficult than you would think. We might have hobbies and passions which we think might be a good fit for us to build a living out of. But is that what is truly meant for us? For example, I have a confession to make, I’m interested in cinematography and camerawork and the like. But I’m not really great at it. At least not great enough that I can go tomorrow or even in the next 5 years and become a feature movie cameraman. That’s just insane. It’s my passion/interest but it doesn’t align with me as a person and what I can do.
And an unfortunate truth about passion is that it’s fickle. What you like today may not be what you like 10-20 years down the line. Or you may still like it but you may not be excellent at it. It’s just a hobby that you enjoy doing in your free time, nothing more.
So we can’t chase passion for changing our life.
Then the best way to turn your life around is not to go after passion but do things that you are good at and which brings meaning to your life.
Changing your life starts with finding all of this and everything else about yourself.
Here are some ways on how to find it that might be helpful to you:
1) Embrace the Randomness
One of the easiest ways to know yourself is through experience. Say you like cooking. But you only found that you like it when you actually tried it out. It wouldn’t just out of the blue come to you in a dream, right?
Pretty much our entire life and what we know of us has been discovered through experiences of different people, activities, entertainment etc. So with that in mind, wouldn’t it be possible to understand even more by getting new experiences?
Which is where “Embrace the Randomness” comes in.
Don’t only just do things that you think you like or should do. They may not be what we can actually be good at. Try new things. Talk to different people. Try different hobbies. Go do different sports or activities. Try cycling, trekking, watching random movies, talking to your neighbors who you haven’t talked to yet. Each time you do this, you gain just a little bit more understanding of what you liked or didn’t like. About what you can or cannot do. Or if you just spend a little time on any particular thing, you know you can become good at it. And maybe even, make a living out of it.
These are all experiences that make your life all the better. Keep trying random things. If one doesn’t work out, move on to the next. None of your experiences will ever actually go to waste.
Steve Jobs had one such story that he said during the 2005 Stanford Commencement Address. He had dropped out of college and since he didn’t have to take normal classes, he took a calligraphy class where he learned about serif and sans-serif typefaces and what makes great typography. None of this had any use to him in his current life, but they became extremely vital when he designed the Mac and its various typefaces.
Even though this is an extreme case, it goes to show how any experience we have or anything we’ve learned may actually be useful to us. At times when we may even least expect it. So don’t pass up on unique opportunities and go ahead with each one seriously.
Who knows, that random thing or person you’ve talked to may change your whole life completely.
2) Look at mistakes or failures as a learning opportunity
When we try so many random things, of course not everything is going to end up in success. Some of them are bound to not go so well. But we still can learn so much from it. What went wrong, what could we do better, what all factors does it depend on, what specific skills are required, can you learn them and try again etc. So in the sense, they weren’t failures at all. They teach you so many things.
In truth, all successful people you’ve ever known have failed at some point in their life. But what sets them apart from others is their willingness to learn from their mistakes. We only ever hear about their successes, but they’ve failed much more times than they succeeded.
To use a quote from Michael Jordan,
I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
3) Don’t get caught in expectations
Try to let go of all expectations when you embark on trying to know yourself. Forget about the idealized (or terrible) images you have in your head about the world based on what society tells you and what you yourself don’t know.
When you have pre-set expectations when you try something, the chances of that actually fulfilling them are low and you end up being disappointed. But when you don’t have any, everything is a pleasant surprise. You have no preconceived notion of how it is. You’re encountering and learning everything for the first time.
You’re more open to watch and learn.
4) Know that your life is not set in stone
Never get stuck in your past. Don’t look at past experiences and use them to dictate how your future should be. When one opportunity closes, a million others open. Always have an open mind.
As Helen Keller once said:
When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.
In Ancient Greece, the philosopher Socrates declared that the unexamined life was not worth living. When asked, Socrates summed up what all philosophical commandments could be reduced to. Which he said, quite simply,
Share your experiences and feedback with firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment down below. This’ll really be worthwhile knowing if you guys could take something out of this or if you have any new topics you want me to write about.
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