To thine own self be true.”
It’s one of Shakespeare’ most famous quotes, and it seems to be the first in a long line of self-help mantras to come in the following centuries.
And because of the stigma of self-indulgence and naiveté of the self-help industry, many of us have rejected the concept of knowing more about who we are and what we do. But there is a vast difference between self-help and self-knowledge. As Proverbs 14:8 has it, “the wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.”
More and more, I’ve discovered how helpful understanding myself is in the process of thriving in life and getting along with others.
Here are 8 essential things you should know about yourself:
Know Who You Serve
Bob Dylan—sort of the Shakespeare of 1960s New York City—said it best: “You gotta serve somebody.” If you don’t think you’re serving someone, that might mean you’re serving yourself—which is pretty telling. Maybe you’re serving your employer, your checking account or even the approval of others. Maybe you’re serving others. But when you honestly ask yourself, “Who do I serve?” you should be able to answer the question instantly and honestly.
Know What You Love.
Having a broad understanding of what you love is important because it will help you understand how you see the world.
Here’s an example from my life: I’m a big picture person. I often dream about what’s down the road and how we get there. Knowing that about myself gives me the opportunity to put myself in situations in which I get to do that more and avoid situations that are all about details.
But not only is it important to know what you love from a broad perspective, know what you love specifically as well. Chocolate, time with people, time alone, freckles, winter, the beach.
Knowing what you love helps you make decisions more intentionally and with purpose.
Know What Gets You Riled Up.
I was recently in a situation with a person I found to be quite difficult. I felt tense. My heart rate was rising. My palms were getting sweaty. Suddenly, I became aware of all these things happening inside me subconsciously. I asked myself, “Why am I feeling this way?”
It’s important for us to know how we feel, but it’s more important to know why we feel the way we do. Knowing the root of your angst helps you prevent and alleviate it.
Coming to an awareness of the things that make you tense allows you to control your emotions rather than letting your emotions control you.
Know What Drives You.
I meet a lot of people who don’t seem to know what they want. And I suppose the same is true for me at times, as well. But, it’s important for us to ask, “What is the end goal? What am I working toward and why?”
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he talks about how someone becomes an expert at something once they’ve done it for 10,000 hours. At the time, I was engaged in lots of things, and the idea of that kind of time commitment threw me into a crisis. “Am I too divided to become an expert at anything? Am I neglecting everything because I’m not focusing on one thing?” But then I took a step back and realized that in all the things I was doing, there were two common root motivations: to shift paradigms and to create community.
Knowing our root motivations helps us to know what opportunities to pursue and see the purpose and objective in everything we do.
Know What You’re Good At.
The easy answer to this is our obvious talents: baseball, cooking, singing, dancing. But there are things that are more hidden, and the more we come to understand our hidden talents, the more impact we’ll have on other people.
These “soft” talents are things like: leadership, nurturing, encouraging, guidance, support, vision.
It helps you understand not only that you’re good at basketball, for example, but how you’re uniquely able to contribute to your team. Will you help encourage the team when they’re down? Will you help paint a vision for the future and help motivate the team to move toward that vision? Are you best suited to offer support and facilitate meeting the needs of the team?
Know what you’re good at and work to cultivate it.
Know What You’re Not Good At.
So many of us think we’re supposed to be good at everything. But I’ve come to realize it’s not my job to be good at everything. It’s to be good at what I’m good at and platform people to do what they’re good at.
Stepping out of what you’re not good at gives an opportunity for the right people to fill the role well.
As long as you’re trying to fill roles you’re not created to fill, it’s preventing other people from filling those roles and doing those jobs. Not only will it leave you drained, it will leave those around you frustrated. So focus on developing your strengths and let others do the same.
Know What to Give Your Time To.
All the things above are part of the filter for this one. Knowing what you are and are not good at, knowing your root motivations and purpose, knowing what you love and what riles you up—all these things are great factors in helping determine what to give your time to.
Committing to things you’re not good at or don’t care about will make you frustrated and ultimate lead to disappointing the people you were trying to please when you said “yes.”
Know Who You Want to Experience Life With.
This last thing is probably the most important. In the same way we need to know what to say “yes” and “no” to. We need to know who to say “yes” and “no” to.
The most important factor in accomplishing any task is most often who we’re accomplishing that task alongside of.
This isn’t to say that we’re to only spend time with people just like us. But it’s important to know that when we’re setting out on journey, we’re setting out with people we travel well with.
Along the way, there will be strife and angst. In those times, we remember the commitments we made at the beginning and press on together. Don’t give up on the people around you when things get tough. Don’t sacrifice them in the name of moving down the road. When they fall, stop the journey and pick them up. When they’re injured, carry them. And when you’re the one limping, let them do the same for you.
This article was originally posted at colenesmith.com