Your first answer to the title is probably “of course I know myself very well, IT’S MYSELF.” In this blog post, I’d like to talk about how a question that seems so trivial has become my guiding philosophy.
One might think that there is nothing similar between a student who is extremely busy by being involved in many things on and off campus and another student who has a lot of free time because he/she is not very involved. I beg to differ, and I would like to offer my theory on why those two seemingly different people might actually be very similar.
Just a few weeks ago, I attended the Albers Executive Speaker Series and listened to CEO/President of REI, Jerry Stritzke, spoke about the northwest values and how REI embodied and incorporated those values. Near the end of his talk, there was one word that he used that beautifully summed up the idea behind my question in the title. As part of his advice, he urged the audience to “be deliberate.”
In the technological and digital world today, we are being bombarded with a massive amount of information about every corner of the world continuously. With some help from the internet and social networks, we might know about an event that happens in a small town on the other side of earth almost instantly, yet we rarely take the time to connect with ourselves and really try to learn about ourselves.
We often overlook our own values, strengths, and weaknesses thinking that “of course I know myself best.” On the surface, it might seem true. However, the self-awareness I would like to talk about here is not what you want to eat for dinner, or what movie to watch this weekend, not even what you want to study in college. Those are just events and preferences. The self-awareness I’m talking about is whether you know what your values are, what makes you happy and how you define success.
I believe that is what Mr. Stritzke meant when he used the word “deliberate.” It means do you know what is the purpose of the events in your life, do you know the why in every action you take, or are you just taking the default option. When you do something with a purpose, when you’re being deliberate, you will find more joy, drive and motivation; and when you do something with such enthusiasm, it is more likely to be a rewarding experience.
The power of choice is a great asset that is often forgotten. We all possess that power but if we don’t utilize it, someone else will exploit it. In his book “essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” McKeown wrote: “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” Back to the two hypothetical people I talked about above, this is where they coincide. Even though one is overwhelmed by trying to do everything and one is discouraged by not doing anything, they have both failed to effectively prioritize their lives. They both forget about the power of choice that they have.
My final advice for those two hypothetical people and for everyone is to take the time to reflect on yourself, on your values, on what deeply inspires you, on what makes you happy, and on what success means to you. Once you’ve discovered yourself, have the courage to say no to everything else because very few things are essential, yet many things are trivial. There is no such thing as priorities, only priority.
McKeown, Greg. essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Crown Business, 2014.