Studying Ourselves

I love the fact that there are so many interesting topics to learn about!  While the list of topics we can take an interested in could easily fill multiple blog posts, I think the most important topic each of us should spend time studying… is ourselves.

If we’re interested in living a fulfilling and satisfying life, we need to regularly spend time understanding how we’re uniquely wired.  This can come through reading about behaviors and habits we’d like to embody, taking (and reflecting on) self-assessments, and journaling.  While this is not a comprehensive list to self-discovery, it is a good starting point.

As you begin learning about yourselves, you start to discover things like:

  • When are you at your best?
  • When are you at your worst?
  • What captures your heart?
  • What were you uniquely created to do?
  • How do your respond to stress?
  • What do you do better than most other people?
  • What should you avoid doing?
  • What are some areas of your character that you need to improve?
  • When do you feel most alive?
  • What drains you?
  • Where in your life are you living below your ability??

The more we understand how we’re created and what makes us tick, the better we can decide how to invest our lives during the years we’re blessed with.  Because it’s challenging to know what to do with something when we don’t understand how it works.

Stop and Ask

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”  ~Socrates

An unexamined life can certainly be worth living.  Actually, it can probably be quite fun and, to a degree, free of the stress that comes from examining one’s own life.  If you’re not examining your life, you’re not worried about whether you’re making progress toward your potential or cultivating and using your gifts and talents wisely.

However, the problem with an unexamined life is that when it is drawing to an end, we may realize, only too late, that the body of work we’ve created with our life is not what we had hoped for, or what we would like to have done with it.  At this point, we may determine that if we had it to do over again, we would have paid more attention to where we were going.

I think it’s important to regularly stop and examine our lives. How else do we know if we’re making progress toward the things that are important to us if we don’t stop long enough to assess whether or not we’re on course?

One of the best ways we can do this is to determine where it is we’re trying to go in life, and whether the path we’re on is taking us there.  If it is, great!  Stay on course and keep checking in with yourself to make sure you’re not straying off course.  If you find that you are off course, or have never been on a specific course and are lacking direction, spend some time with paper and pencil (or any medium you prefer to capture thoughts) and ask the following:

  1. Where do I want to go?
  2. What do I need to do to get there?
  3. What’s the next step I can take to start moving in that direction?

Then take that step today!

We could have fun on a journey but be disappointed with the destination if it’s not some place we’d like to be.  Examining one’s life is much like consulting a map, or stopping and asking for directions as we travel.  It’s how we ensure that we’re on a journey toward a destination we’d like to reach.

Know What It Costs

I’ve been doing some research on mutual fund fees lately (I know, really exciting!) to determine what some investments actually cost. It’s pretty easy to go along for several years without even knowing what an investment is costing you, unless you dig in and find out.  Knowing the cost of an investment is important, because without this piece of information, you may not be able to tell if the investment is worth making.

The same is true for how we’re investing our time.  Have you ever thought about the cost of a habit done over an extended period of time?  Take the habit of eating fast food for lunch every day.  There’s obviously the monetary cost, but consider the health cost you’ll pay as a result of prolonged poor nutrition and the impact that will have on your lifestyle.  A very real cost, indeed!

On the other hand, there is also a cost to exercising and engaging in physical activity every day.  There’s the cost of getting out of bed early, giving up your lunch hour, or getting home later after work, so you can have time to go to the gym or do some exercise at home.  However, this cost over time yields a very significant and positive return!  The cost of this habit seems worth it when compared to the return.

Are there any activities you’re currently doing where the cost is bringing about the positive results you desire, or at least getting you closer to a goal you’ve set, or the life you desire to live?  If so, I encourage you to stick with it.  However, if there are activities you’re currently doing that have a significant cost, but yield poor or negative results, perhaps it’s time to revisit your objectives and maybe even change course.

The important thing for us is to know the cost of the activities we devote our resources toward, and determine if that cost is worth it.