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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Gain Self-Knowledge and Live up to Your Potential

How to Gain Self-Knowledge and Live up to Your Potential

“If I have to spend any more time as a cog in the wheel – sacrificing my own creativity & passion to help someone else’s vision come to life – I am going to scream,” I thought staring at the excel spreadsheet on my screen. At that moment, I gained two essential pieces of self-knowledge:

Awilda prefers to work for herself & Awilda needs to be engaged in work that she is both passionate about and stimulates her creativity.

In the milliseconds after this information was received, I had a choice to make: would I reject this information as a baseless passing thought or would I integrate this new information as self-knowledge and use it to help change my trajectory?

I chose to accept the information because the realizations were based on the feeling that I was no longer capable of going on as I had. I knew that was not motivated to continue, and I was capable of so much more. The self-knowledge I gained in that moment was invaluable.

Self-knowledge is knowledge or understanding of one’s own capabilities, character, feelings, or motivations. One could also think of self- knowledge as Self-Understanding.

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Self-knowledge is the keystone in the arc of success, because success requires intentionality. It is difficult to be intentional if you don’t have a clear idea of the type of person you are, what you can do, how you feel, and what motivates you.

Thankfully, every experience and thought you have can provide you with data that gives you an opportunity to gain more self-knowledge – just like my moment of clarity at the computer. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that trying to understand yourself can be life’s greatest challenge because you are both the perceiver and the object being perceived.

Consequently, the idea of actively seeking to attain self-knowledge can be scary and stressful, especially if you feel disconnected from yourself. Luckily, when the process is broken down into 4 digestible steps, it’s a lot less scary and a lot more like solving a cool personalized puzzle. Here are the 4 steps to actively attaining more self-knowledge:

Step 1 – Take a Character Inventory

Taking an inventory of your character is the first step. Ask yourself, “What are my distinct mental and moral qualities?”

Are you quick to anger; are you conservative; do you love easily or are you super guarded? Perhaps you are incredibly honest, or dedicated to your spiritual beliefs. All of these things contribute to your character.

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If you are not sure about the answers to these questions, examine your lived experiences. You will find supporting examples that support these character traits among your lived experiences.

Step 2 – Understand What You Can Do

Understanding what you can do is the next rung in the self-knowledge ladder. While you can always become more capable, having an honest grasp of your current capabilities is critical. You don’t want to be applying for your dream job knowing that you are unable to actually satisfy the roles requirements.

If you possess a firm understanding of your strengths and weakness, it will allow you to leverage your abilities in such a way that you don’t overextend yourself. Additionally, knowing where you are deficient in your abilities empowers you to proactively seek out the skills necessary to change that reality.

Step 3 – Feel the Feels

Being able to identify what and why you feel a certain way is an integral part of self-knowledge. Yet this can be the hardest of all.

Feelings are tricky. They give us a lot of information, but they aren’t always warm and fuzzy. Spending time getting acquainted with what you feel about various parts of your life will give you a lot of data. Here again, lived experiences are a fertile ground for supporting evidence that can help you understand your feelings more clearly.

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For example, you may be confused about your feelings around applying to a particular job or academic program. To get clarity, think about how you feel in the moments associated with this decision. If you feel anxious and unsure every time you try to submit your application, then your feelings may be trying to signal that this is not the best decision for you.

Sometimes, feelings give us data we don’t want to accept, even though we know it’s valid and true. The choice to integrate the information is always yours.

Step 4 – Motivation Matters

The final piece of the self-knowledge puzzle is to understand your motivations. The question becomes: Why are you doing what you are doing?

Common motivators are: money, prestige, recognition, family obligations, freedom, and personal fulfillment. You may easily identify with one of those common motivators or you may be motivated by something completely different like a desire to save the planet or simply to live a peaceful existence. Freedom, family, and an unshakable desire to help others are what motivate me.

However, I want to warn you that the first thing that comes to mind when you think of what motivates you may not be the true source of your motivation. For example, many think money is what motivates them when in fact, it’s a desire for stability that is their true source of motivation.

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Learn the 9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams.

Final Thoughts

Once you have taken the time to intentionally collect more data, you get to decide what to do with it. Will you integrate it and change you trajectory, or ignore it and continue your current path? Whatever you choose to do will undoubtedly be informed by the information you learned about yourself form solving the Self-Knowledge Puzzle.

Inevitably, the Self-Knowledge you gained will help to create immense clarity on your life journey. When you are clear about your character, capabilities, feelings and motivations, it is easier to create intentional strategies for all around success.

Self-Knowledge puts you on a fast track to success; while a lack of information can cause delays, distractions and derailments. If you truly know yourself, you have a better chance of confidently achieving your goals in a timely manner.

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Featured photo credit: Thomas Griesbeck via unsplash.com

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Awilda Rivera

Success Coach - Author - Speaker - Yogi - Advisor

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Published on March 4, 2021

24 Self-Reflection Questions To Get You To Rethink About Life

24 Self-Reflection Questions To Get You To Rethink About Life

“Oh no, Oh no! AHHHHHHH!” These were the only words I could manage as my car spun out of control, hydroplaning across multiple lanes of the slick freeway. It was one of those moments you see in the movies where your life flashes before your eyes, and you instantly begin the process of asking yourself a slew of self-reflection questions.

I was driving back from a children’s birthday party with my wife and two very young daughters on board. My girls were strapped tightly in their car seats and sleeping peacefully. My wife had just told me to be careful as it had begun to rain heavily for the first time in months.

“Yes, sweetheart, I am.” I had responded, wanting to keep everyone safe and knowing that my tires were due to be replaced. My caution didn’t matter. Once the millions of tiny pockets of water had taken over, we were at the mercy of my out-of-control Pontiac Grand Prix.

We ended up careening across four lanes toward the center divider only to spin back the opposite direction to the right shoulder, off the road, and up a dirt embankment. We somehow had managed to avoid every other car, but that didn’t matter. What we couldn’t avoid was the six-foot cinder block wall that lined the highway. We slammed into the wall with incredible speed and force—so much that the impact caused the car to flip 360 degrees and ultimately land back on the wheels.

Witnesses said it was the most incredible thing they had ever seen and that we would not walk away. I, too, felt it was incredible but for different reasons. The impact for me was not the crash into the wall or flip. It was afterward during a time of deep self-reflection about life when all the questions hit me.

The movies make you believe that everything slows down during an experience like this to the point that you can reflect on life. Trust me, rethinking about life comes much later when your ass isn’t spinning out of control.

So, what did I ask myself? What were the self-reflection questions that came as a result of my accident?

They mainly centered around the essential components of my life—family, faith, relationships, beliefs, and actions. I had focused on these areas to that point, but I was unsure of where I stood, not just for me but for everyone I came in contact with daily. It all boiled down to being the best version of myself, which we should all truly strive for in life. I mean, it’s why we’re here, isn’t it?

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Before you answer that question, take a look at the following 24 self-reflection questions to get you to rethink life.

1. Am I Living in the Moment?

Living in the moment is effortless in our go-go-go world to live on autopilot. This is fine for things that don’t matter as much to the big picture but not for the whole picture itself. Go ahead and brush your teeth or take a shower on autopilot. Heck, our brain is very comfortable in this setting. But have you ever drove to work and not remember the trip at all? I’m sure you have, which is terrible when you think about it. It is not just because of its safety but also because of the beautiful things you may have missed along the way.

2. Do I Cherish Every Second With My Loved Ones?

While this sounds like number one, it is actually quite different. Time is one of the most valuable resources we have in this world. There’s an old saying that “time is a gift.” Think of it as precious as a gift from a loved one, and you will cherish it with the same passion and importance.

3. Do I Accept Everything as a Gift?

There are plenty of other gifts in life besides the time that blesses us each day. What gifts are a part of your life? I’ll bet something like good health or a loving family was the first thing to mind. Positive things are easy to view as gifts.

How about the not-so-obvious or even horrible? Even something as traumatizing as a life-threatening car accident can and should be considered a gift. As Steve Jobs famously said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”[1]

4. Do I Treat Everyone With Respect and Kindness?

This is one of the most often-ignored self-reflection questions yet also one of the most important. You flip the bird to someone who cuts you off in traffic, you make fun of a total stranger’s attire to a co-worker, or you forget to say please and thank you to the cashier at the grocery store. Flip the script and imagine yourself on the receiving end of all the hurt, and you’ll see it’s simply not necessary.

5. Am I Being Harmful With My Words or Actions?

Like number four, many of us practice bad habits with things that are harmful to others, and we do not even realize it. Research on communication from Dr. Albert Mehrabian showed that we get 7% of the message from the words, 38% from the tone, and 55% from the body language.

Thinking of this before you speak or act really puts this question into perspective. Any word or action can be harmful if spoken with a harsh tone or offensive body language. Check your words and actions to ensure they aren’t taken in a harmful way.

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6. Am I Foolish?

Another important self-reflection is “Am I foolish?”

Mr. T famously said in Rocky III, “I pity the fool!” when asked about his upcoming fight with Rocky Balboa. He continued saying he pitied Balboa for being predictable and stupid. What are the areas of your life where you lack good judgment and are unwise?

7. How Wasteful Am I?

We live in a throw-away society where things are quickly thrown away in the blink of an eye. These wastes are not always material objects as we can be wasteful of things like time and energy. Before you discard anything material or otherwise, think of how you can fix it. You’ll be amazed at how easily you can mend things with the proper attention.

8. Am I in a Hurry?

We are too often focused on a destination that we fly through the process and don’t enjoy the journey along the way. We may miss crucial details, opportunities to learn, or experiences with others. A mentor once told me, “Don’t be in a hurry with anything.” These are wise words for all of us to live by every day.

9. Am I Myself in All Situations, No Matter What?

A lot of us find this challenging as we have our work persona and family persona. We are all beautiful individuals that are both flawed and awesome. Don’t deprive yourself or other people in your life of your “flawsome” self.

10. Is My Heart Open?

When you live with an open heart, you allow all the fantastic parts of life on earth to be a part of you as you connect with others in the universe. Don’t be afraid to be open to new possibilities in any facet of your life. You’ll be glad you did.

11. Do I Take Anything for Granted?

Unfortunately, we don’t often realize this is happening until it is pointed out by someone on the losing end, usually a loved one. Never take things for granted. Trust me, you don’t want ever to have regrets. By asking yourself many of the self-reflection questions on this list, hopefully, you won’t.

12. Am I Putting Enough Effort Into My Relationships?

This is another self-reflection question that others frequently answer for us by letting us know where we stand. Your answer to the question, “How much does each person contribute to the relationship?” should be 100% and nothing less.

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13. Do I let Matters That Are Out of My Control Stress Me Out?

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it,” according to author and educator Charles R. Swindoll. This quote emphasizes the role our attitude plays in life and whether we are affected negatively by things outside of our control. The more you accept what happens and live by this quote, the happier you are.

14. Am I Taking Care of Myself Physically?

One could easily relate self-reflection to mental and spiritual health as it is considered internal. It’s important to remember that we are genuinely at our best possible self when our mind, spirit, and body are all running at optimal levels. This is enough of a reason itself without considering all the health benefits one gets from taking care of their physical self.

15. Am I Achieving the Goals That I’ve Set for Myself?

A wise man once said, “A life lived without achieving your goals is not a life worth living.” He was definitely someone who accomplished a lot in his life. Goals are not just something to write down at the beginning of the year, but they also give your mind purpose and clarity.

16. What Does a Perfect Day Look Like for Me?

The beauty of this self-reflection question is that you may answer it in hundreds of different ways throughout your life. This also makes the question extra special. Whenever you are feeling down, take a few minutes to answer this question for yourself and put more of the components you come up with into your everyday life.

17. Am I Holding onto Something I Need to Let Go Of?

At the center of this question, you will usually find forgiveness of some sort. When you answer this question honestly, you will realize that you need to forgive yourself or someone else. Please make this happen ASAP because forgiveness is one of the most incredible things we can do in life.

18. When Did I Last Push the Boundaries of My Comfort Zone?

Living comfortably may sound nice at first, but it truly means you have stagnated. To get the most out of life, you need to grow continually. So, get uncomfortable and push past the comfort.

19. What Do I Need to Change About Myself?

The subtly in this question is that it asks “need” rather than “want.” Many of us get caught up wanting to do things but never translating them into action. When something is important enough, it becomes a need, which means it will get done. Needs lead to action, and action leads to change.

20. Am I Serving Others?

According to Zig Ziglar, you can have whatever you want in life. You just have to help enough other people get what they want.[2] This is one of the secrets to an abundant life. Serve others, and both of you will reap the benefits of goodwill.

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21. Who Has Had the Greatest Impact on My Life?

Reflecting on one’s life would not be complete without realizing the impact of others. All of us have had someone that had helped steer us in the right direction when we needed it the most, whether we knew it or not. Acknowledge them in your heart and to their ears by expressing gratitude for grabbing the wheel when needed.

22. Do I Have a Purpose?

Ask any of the most successful people in this world what is the most important for them, and they will tell you that it’s not the riches, fame, or power that is matters—it’s purpose. When you have a purpose, you are fulfilled, and a fulfilled life is one worth living.

23. What’s the One Thing I’d Like Others to Remember About Me at the End of My Life?

This is a question that typically isn’t thought of until someone is at the final stages of life because it’s usually related to question 22. Be proactive in life and ask yourself this self-reflection question early enough to make that “one thing” your mission.

24. Am I the Best Version of Myself?

This question may seem difficult to answer at first glance, but it’s really not. Just ask yourself every other question on this list first, and you’re sure to have your answer to this one.

Final Thoughts

Looking back on these questions now, I realize my answers have changed since my accident—mostly for the better. I’m grateful that the life-changing experience happened nearly twenty years ago because it set me on a path of development and growth.

So, I ask you, what is your path? Hopefully, you won’t need an accident to answer that—you’ll only need the 24 questions above.

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Featured photo credit: Matthew Henry via unsplash.com

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