- Your ongoing goal should be getting to know and better understand yourself. Every day you should aim move closer and closer to this goal.
- Without at least constantly striving for this goal, it will be all the more difficult to achieve any other goals in life.
- Each and every time something doesn't go your way, ask yourself what you did to contribute to the situation and what you can learn from it.
- The less diverse your experiences and the less diverse the people you hang out with, the less you will learn about yourself.
If you ask different people their specific goals in life, they're likely to give differing answers. Expecting everyone to have the same set of goals would be like expecting everyone to wear the same pair of Spanx. However, there is one goal that everyone should have in life. Because without at least constantly striving for this goal, it will be all the more difficult to achieve any other goals in life. And that goal is really getting to know and understand yourself.
Knowing yourself means really understanding what makes you tick, really understanding why you may react to certain situations in certain ways, and really knowing your strengths and limitations. And in the immortal words of the Spice Girls, knowing what you want, what you really, really want.
Think about it. Would you ever rely on any type of machine without having an instruction manual or directions for that machine available? If someone gave you a new vehicle and told you to use it to navigate the North Yungas Road in Bolivia, affectionately known as “The Road of Death,” what's the first thing that you would do? Probably figure out how the vehicle works, right? You'd make sure that you first understand how to operate the vehicle and what could possibly go wrong with the vehicle. You wouldn't just jump in the vehicle, propel forward, and then blame the terrain every time the vehicle flips over.
Similarly, each and every day you are operating a very complex machine known as your body, your mind, your heart, and your soul. Understanding how this machine works or will work can really help you understand where you can and want to go. What you can achieve, whom you should be with, and what you should be doing each day depends heavily on who you really are. If you don't even get yourself, how can you expect others to get you? Yet, how much time are you really spending each day to learn more about this machine, namely yourself?
I've encountered a number of people in their 70s who remain viciously competitive, despite having already achieved a lot on paper. These include people in academia, in the business world, and in high-level political positions. They still keep trying to turn the spotlight to themselves, surround themselves with yes-people, push away people whom they perceive as threats to their limelight, and occupy high-level positions that don't really suit them.
Clawing for recognition may make sense when you are early in your career and still struggling for survival. However, at much later phases in your career, what needs are you really trying to fulfill?
Then there are the people who still don't quite understand why their past relationships didn't work out, how they contributed to the demise of their own relationships, and what they want in a relationship going forward. I once asked someone what she wants in a guy after she had complained about not being in a relationship. She answered "someone nice." When I asked why her past relationships ended, she went through a litany of complaints about the exes without really reflecting on why she had ended up dating them in the first place.
So how do you get to know yourself better? Chances are you didn't come with an instruction manual, and your parents probably didn't have a full instruction manual for you either, because they were busy figuring themselves out while trying to raise you. Plus, they didn't get a chance to see you each and every minute while you were growing up. And if you are hoping for that special someone to swipe right on your dating profile and help you get to know yourself, please don't. You can't rely on others to help you get to know yourself. You have to do the hard work yourself and make it a daily goal.
The best way to do this is each and every time something doesn't go your way, ask yourself what you did to contribute to the situation and what you can learn about yourself from it. If your answer is ever "nothing," then you are either a piece of furniture like a footstool or wrong. A series of your decisions likely led to the situation.
You can always use bad experiences to change, adjust, or adapt what you do in the future. Or you may even realize that you should try to avoid such situations. Also, ask yourself why you reacted the way that you did. Was it the right response? What should you do differently the next time around?
Just as you learn about a vehicle by driving it around in different places, you learn more about yourself by having different experiences and mixing with different people. The less diverse your experiences and the less diverse the people whom you hang out with, the less you will learn about yourself. It's not enough to just have different experiences with different people, though. You have to learn from each of them as well.
Learning about yourself should be a lifelong mission. At no point will you say, "OK, I totally get myself. There's nothing else to learn." You are constantly changing as time passes. New ideas may enter your head. You may acquire new skills and abilities.
Once you get past the threshold of understanding yourself quite well, something magical will happen. It will become a whole lot easier to make decisions. You will know a lot better whom you are compatible with, what you want from a career, and what you want to do on a day-to-day basis. That's when you will know what other life goals will match what you truly want.