Why do you need to get to know yourself?
Surely you know yoursef? You have spent a whole lifetime in your own company, you must know yourself really well, right?
Wrong. Almost certainly wrong.
On a day to day basis we are acting pretty unconsciously, reacting to situations according to long established patterns and habits, we don’t even know we are doing it.
This leads us to lots of behaviour patterns that we may wish we didn’t have, but in our ignorance, we think ‘that’s just the way I am’ and accept that we can’t change.
We tell ourselves that we are ‘too old to change’, or that’ well, my father was like this, so am I’ and other unhelpful stories.
We may not even recognise the patterns as negative.
I spent years just thinking my erratic, highly strung, addicted personality was just normal, it was just who I was, and didn’t even question it.
I accepted it as my identity, and created situations, relationships and disasters that reinforced this identity.
Fortunately, I discovered the life changing benefits of self knowledge.
This sometimes painful but ultimately liberating journey into the truth of who we are is an immensely powerful process.
It is not easy, once you discover truths about yourself you cannot go back, but moving forward can take you into a glorious future, one in which you are living the life you were born to live.
Swadhyaya, or Self Study, is one of the Niyamas of Yoga.
These are the foundations on which a good, whole, Yogic life is based.
The Niyamas help us to become the very best human being we can possibly be.
We cannot grow and evolve ourselves as people unless we know where we are starting from, who we are, which bits of us need to change, so self study is clearly a fundamental element of our growth.
So how can we begin this process of self discovery? If we are operating according to unconscious patterns, how do we make them conscious?
There are many ways to do this, here are 5 techniques that you can get to know yourself a little better.
Switch off to tune in
Technology provides us with endless ways to be creative but it offers so many distractions as well.
I gave myself the gift of a month off Facebook back in April, and wrote a book in just about a week! I would never have achieved this had I had Facebook to distract myself with when the writing got hard.
We miss so much of what the world has to offer when we are constantly stimulated. Our minds are not meant to have so much data to process.
Technology is progressing at an alarming rate, our brains are not evolving as quickly as computers. It is no wonder that so many of us feel dissatisfied with our lives, when we have to keep running to keep up with the technology we are creating.
Spend some time away from your phone, from your laptop, your tablet, your TV, all the gadgets we fill our lives and our minds up with.
Spending time away from technology gives you a chance to be more present in your life, to concentrate on your own life instead of peering constantly into someone else’s.
Just as our devices need to be switched off sometimes to allow them to perform better, so do we.
Go in to yourself
We are so busy rushing around, immersing ourselves, and being immersed in, constant stimulation, that we never give us time to stop and really pay attention to ourselves, to our inner wisdom.
When we stop and allow ourselves the space and the stillness, it is remarkable what we can discover about ourselves, what we find we are capable of.
We can find ourselves in the stillness in ways that we cannot possibly do in the noise and frenzy of the modern world.
Spending a few minutes each day in quiet, sitting still and focussing the mind on the breath, is a powerful way to gain insight into yourself.
When we are still and quiet, we can hear our inner Self, our inner wisdom, and we can really come into alignment with the truth of who we are.
Many highly successful people such as Oprah and Arianna Huffington famously make their time of stillness a fundamental part of their day, and attribute much of their success to this time of stillness.
Write it down
Free writing, when you switch off the internal editor and just write, can be a really powerful way to access the thoughts and feeling that are hidden away in the subconscious mind.
When I was writing essays for my Yoga teacher training course, I would find myself in a real state of free flow with my writing, and would often sit back in astonishment on reading some insight about myself and my life that I didn’t know until I had written it down.
Writing allows us free space to get thoughts, feelings and ideas out of our mind and into the physical world where we can process them properly, allowing us to move on from the way those thoughts might be holding us back or limiting us.
Back in March I joined in with a 1000 word a day writing challenge that my friend Natasha Davies decided to set for herself and anyone else who wanted to join in. Being the true ENFP that I am, couldn’t be restrained by the routine for long and didn’t stick to the terms of the challenge.
I did get a lot written, and when, just a few weeks later in April I was challenged by Pat Duckworth to finish my book ready to release at the Women Economic Forum in India in May, I rose to the challenge, thinking I almost had a book written.
When I looked at my ‘book’, however, I realised that what I had written was not a book, but was the offloading of my brain I needed to do in order to be able to write the book.
Writing those words helped me understand a lot of my past better, and allowed me to get a lot of stuff out of my system, but it was not for anyone else’s eyes but mine!
That challenge had helped me grow to into the person I needed to be to write the book I did complete in time to release at the Women Economic Forum. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of writing it, and enjoyed becoming the person I needed to be to achieve a lifelong goal of being a writer!
Read all about it
Books offer a tremendous resource for personal and intellectual growth, the many articles, websites, tutorials, courses and more available on the internet offer a mind blowing array of learning materials.
Spiritual guide books such as, in my case, Swami Gitananda’s Step by Step Yoga course, Dr Ananda Balayogi’s Yoga Darshan, Georg Feurstein’s ‘The Lost Teachings of Yoga’, and the Bhagavad Gita obviously have a great deal to teach us about spiritual and personal growth, but I also found more secular books to be of tremendous benefit.
There are some universal questions that I think we all ask when we start looking for greater meaning in our lives, and novels, and other types of books, can often provide answers, or at least suggestions of answers, to these questions.
Know your type
Some of the most reassuring answers I have had recently to the sometimes infuriating aspects of my personality has come from delving deeper in to my Meyers Briggs personality type.
I first discovered I am an ENFP several years ago, when I commented that reading the description was like ‘reading myself as a character in a book’.
I have returned to delving into my personality type with a real passion recently, and, thanks to 16personalities.com, and Heidi Preibe, I now understand all the parts of myself that I have found so amazingly frustrating over the years.
When we are aware of something we can do something about it.
I now know that the way I behave is down to the type of personality I have, but that doesn’t excuse it or tell me I can just accept it – knowledge is power, and now that I know how I operate, I can work out strategies to work around it.
For example, I know that I can achieve remarkable things when I am really fired up and can put the blinkers on so that all I see is that project.
This means that I need to make sure that I find projects for my business that really spark my imagination, and quickly get myself to a place where I can afford to hire someone to do all the stuff that send my brain to sleep, the routine, admin tasks that my brain just really can’t stay focused on.
I know I need to develop strategies to minimise distractions when I have to perform a task, and find ways to make the routine tasks as fun as possible.
What are your strategies?