Bruce Lee once said that all knowledge ultimately leads to self-knowledge. But for that to become a reality you’ll need the correct mindset and the accurate tools.
In this article, I’m going to lay out a simple strategy that will teach you how to embark on a journey of self-discovery using five simple questions.
After you’ve answered those questions, we’ll dive deeper into some of the more “advanced” self-discovery techniques you can use to identify your true needs and desires and get in touch with your authentic self.
Let’s get started.
5 Questions to Begin a Self-Discovery Journey
1. What Feeling in Your Life Do You Seem to Be Pursuing?
What is the emotion that underlies all of your habits and behaviors? What is the feeling that you’re after that controls everything that you do?
Human beings are only motivated by two things.
- Escaping pain
- Pursuing pleasure
To begin a self-discovery journey, we must start by examining our motivations and determining exactly what it is that we’re after.
Are you trying to feel like you’re enough by chasing the approval of others? Is your primary goal to feel alive and on fire? Are you simply trying to escape the pain of your life and feel “ok”?
What are you pursuing and why?
2. What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning
Zooming in on the day to day, what is it that motivates you to get out of bed every morning? What excites you in your day to day life?
Do you have a career you live? Friends you want to spend time with? A lover that you can’t wait to see?
What are the practical things every day that motivate you to get up adn get going?
3. What Brings You Joy and Peace? Is There a Way to Do It Everyday?
Even if you hate your life, there is something you do on a regular basis that brings you joy and makes you feel at peace.
Maybe it’s going to the gym or spending time with loved ones. Maybe it’s playing an instrument, reading a certain genre of book, or learning new things.
Whatever it is, write it down.
Now ask yourself…
What must be done for me to enjoy this activity (and the feeling it brings) every single day?
4. Does Your Current Job Allow You to Fulfill Your Core Need?
Later in this article, I’ll teach you exactly how to identify your core needs, but for now, just go with your gut.
Do you feel like your current job is allowing you to be who you want to be? Do you feel like your position supports your self-discovery journey?
Do you enjoy what you do–even if you don’t always love it–and feel like you could do it for a long time?
If yes, why?
If no, why?
5. If Money Were No Object Would You Still do the Same Things You Do Today
How would your life look if money didn’t exist?
If you had a fat trust fund that covered all of your living expenses and allowed you to have, do, and be anything you want…how would your life change?
These questions are not meant to provide you with all of the answers, simply to get the ball rolling and help you consider your life from a new angle.
Before moving onto the next section, take a few minutes right now to answer all of these questions and take the first step on your self-discovery journey.
Taking It to the Next Level: Psychological Principles to Accelerate Your Self-Discovery Journey
We’ll break down into simple steps a technique that psychologists use in career counseling to help the client understand himself deeper and align his career with his most intrinsic existential needs.
First you have to understand the following premises:
- Your life story, alongside your personality, has transformed you into a unique individual with its own psychological needs.
- Those needs were formed during your childhood and persist into adulthood.
- As a unique individual, you’ll search environments in life that allow you to meet your psychological needs.
- When these needs are met a feeling of fulfillment is achieved.
- Your professional activity will be the best vehicle to meet those needs on a daily basis.
Short and simple: Doing what you’re supposed to do will make you feel happy and fulfilled.
Easy, right? Not so fast. Most people I’ve met don’t know what the hell are their needs or how are they supposed to conduct their careers! All their lives they floated like an abandoned boat in a high sea. They just “went along” and eventually finished high school, took a major – or not – and now work somewhere. And in all of this time, they never took a moment to listen to themselves.
Choosing a career doesn’t make it fit for you.
Plus we live in a world where information is overly abundant. Horoscopes tell you what your personality is like, Cosmopolitan calls you dump material and facebook gives you shitty personality tests. All of this bullshit has been distracting you from following what comes from within you.
The question is how can you truly understand yourself without falling into these fast gratification, unfounded, ego-feeding ways?
Introspection, that’s how.
First of all it is crucial that you do the following:
1. Open Word
2. Write your future career plan. What do you have right now planned for your live? Where would you like to be in terms of work in a medium-term future? Whatever comes, that is what you should write.
Now understand that humans have an intrinsic need to feel that they have control over their own life. People project patterns of behavior that allows them to adapt and respond to an ever-changing environment.
What you wrote on that WordPad is in some way a projection of who you have been and what you think you need for your life, which may or may not be accurate. To understand if what you wrote is aligned with your core needs (or if it is just some bullshit that society led you to believe was best for you) you need to understand what your core needs are.
The 3 Human Needs that Drive a Journey of Self Discovery
1. Autonomy – The feeling that: you control your own life; that you’re an independent individual; that you’re self-sustainable; that you can make your own decisions…
2. Competence – The feeling that: you are capable of doing a good job; that you master some field in your life; that you are recognized by your competence in some area…
3. Relationship – The feeling that: you can form and maintain meaningful bonds with other people; that you can be appealing and captivating to somebody that you’re attracted to; that you can find support from family and friends…
These three command our lives and our feelings of adequacy toward the world.
They become real when compared to our surroundings as they give us information regarding how fit for survival we are, how much self-power we have and how much we have grown.
Being the employer of the month at McDonalds can give you a high level of competence, unless you’re 35 and have a bachelor degree.
Not having a date to prom is not so bad if half of your class doesn’t have one also. But if they do, your needs regarding relationships will hit a low point.
Living in your mother’s basement doesn’t bother you at all…until you get a girlfriend with her own house and car, then how can you feel autonomous?
One day you’ll understand that you’re enough and that you need by no means to compare yourself to others. But until you reach that enlightenment level you’ll have needs.
And by now I believe you have realized that the people around you also have needs that you have to respect because what’s meaningful for them is different from what’s meaningful for you. Which includes respecting someone else’s Bieber Fever.
What matters is the meaning that the person attaches to it.
On the other side, respect from others toward you comes from you feeding their deepest needs – giving them value where value is needed.
How Can You Fulfill These Core Needs?
When children are developing they build representations of themselves, the world and of their interactions with the world. They form expectations and interpretations of their own behavior and how the world reacts to them – which will guide them through the world of social interactions. It is believed that in our early development these intrinsic needs will be constantly present and will be put to the test. Some of them will be met, others will be more neglected.
Meaning that your development was formed around the way your needs were met and how they were not met.
Maybe getting that motorbike at 16 was your way of restoring your feelings of autonomy. Maybe learning pick up at 25 was your way of finally satisfying the need for mastery over relationships. Maybe desperately trying to become a millionaire is a way of feeling competent in a way that your father never made you feel when you were six and receiving a compliment on those drawings meant the world to you.
And there is nothing wrong with any of these (as long as you’re not harming anyone). The problem arises when you’re repeating patterns of behavior that bring you disappointment and suffering.
So we have two goals here: To raise awareness to your own behavior so that you can make sure that you’re not following any maladaptive pattern of behavior in your life; And that you can consciously get into the path (professional or not) that will satisfy your unique intrinsic needs and grant you a more fulfilling life.
And this is where Bruce Lee’s quote kicks in: everything you do, feel and think will allow you to have a better understanding of yourself. Those are the true sources of information about you, not some quiz, facebook or horoscopes.
“The unexamined life is not worth living”. – Friedrich Nietzsche
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