The better you know yourself the more likely you are to do what matters. Study your strengths, know your weaknesses, identify your values, define your success, learn the things that excite and those that terrify you.
It is easy to focus on our weaknesses, or what we perceive as our weaknesses. Do we do enough to focus on our strengths, what we are good at? Do you really know who you are or do you have a picture in your mind of who you think you should be?
It is important that you let go of the imaginary person in your head. It is important that you let the mask drop so that you can see yourself, naked to the world.
A human being has so many skins inside, covering the depths of the heart. We know so many things, but we don’t know ourselves! Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, as thick and hard as an ox’s or bear’s, cover the soul. Go into your own ground and learn to know yourself there.”Meister Eckhart
My wife takes great care to tell me what I am good at. She emphasises what my talents are and what I succeed at. She ensures that I stop and celebrate our successes. SHer knows that it is important to know yourself.
She does this to make me feel good about myself, but she also does this because I tend to focus on what went wrong or what did not work. I do this because I want to improve and be better next time, that is good but not enough. It is important that I see what does work and my wife reminds me to do this. I am grateful to her for this because without it I would move on and forget.
I have experienced the failure of a couple of businesses. It is good to learn the lessons from these, but it is not good to dwell on them. To focus on business success is to learn an even greater lesson, what it is that you do right.
To know yourself there are three key elements that you need to keep in mind.
You must start with your strengths, what you are good at. One useful way of doing this is to look at everything through an ‘appreciative eye’ rather than a ‘critical eye’. A ‘critical eye’ looks to what can be corrected or changed while an ‘appreciative eye’ looks at what is working, what is great. When looking for improvements it is best to start here.
Improve what you are good at, focus on what people approve of.
As an exercise write down everything that has worked or gone well over the past year. Include everything you can think of. Think of the times when people have praised you or complimented you on something specific. Think of when people have responded to what you were doing. Think of the times you felt good about what you were doing, times you felt on a role.
Look at your list and identify common threads. Tease out the three strengths that you see there. Focus on these strengths and look at how to improve them, make them stronger.
I did this exercise and identified the following there strengths in myself: Communication (the ability to listen and connect to people), Certainty (the ability to be confident in myself and encourage confidence in others), Creativity (the ability to create what people want and allow it to flow).
I am constantly improving my creativity, but I know that my communication could be even better.
Only after you have worked with the ‘appreciative eye’ can you let loose the ‘critical eye’. You may find that with frequent improvement of your strengths your weaknesses fade away. Focusing on the positive will dramatically change how you view yourself.
It is important that you know your weaknesses and whether you need to do anything about them. It may be that you can let them be part of you, that you can just let them fade away. It is crucial that you do not suppress them.
I have known for many years that my greatest weakness is anger. I struggled for years trying to control it, trying to suppress it, but without success.
I found that I had to accept it into my life and realise that it would always be part of me. When I did this it ceased to have any control over me and faded into the background. I remains one of my weaknesses but now I accept it as that it is no longer in charge.
You can use the same exercise as for strengths but analyse all the things that have not worked for you.
My three greatest weaknesses are anger, procrastination and fear of ridicule.
Our values are what drive us. Our values are the bedrock of our personal code of ethics. To fully understand your life you need to understand the values that guide your life.
Focus on identifying four key values. Start with random lists of values. Google this and add what you find onto one big list, the more the better. Then do a rough pass and delete any that are not you, these should be obvious. Get down to a list of 10 to 15.
Now you start at the top with the first value. You check it against each of the others in turn and decide which is more important to you one or the other. You either leave it above the ones it is more important than or move one that is more important above it. Go through the list this way until you are happy with the order they are in.
Cut the list down to 6 and re-confirm the order, then cut it out down to your 4 top values.
Check this list against what makes you feel excited or worthwhile and add anything in that occurs to you and repeat the above process. Eventually you will have your top four values. Remember them and cherish them.