“Know thyself,” is a classic Greek ideal that is nearly impossible to achieve. It’s impossible if that adage means that we should know completely, consciously who we are and how we think and what we feel and what our motives are at any given time. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t embark on the path to getting know ourselves better.
The more you know yourself – your personality, your strengths, the way you’re perceived by your employees or coworkers – the easier it is to find meaningful work. Once you know what you want what your purpose is – you’ll be more determined to get it.
Self-knowledge – recognizing your character and your young genius – is crucial for any entrepreneur, business owner, visionary, leader, or creative. Regardless of your industry, field, or line of work, knowing yourself is the beginning of a meaningful life. But it requires you to perform intentional reflection and uncover your best self.
Getting to Know Yourself
Why do you act the way you do? Why do you believe what you believe? Why do you conduct business the way you do? Come up with a conscious rational answer. It won’t be complete. That’s why – without being self-indulgent and narcissistic – the quest to remember who you are as a leader, business owner, or creative influencer of any brand is essential.
Why do I say that? In part from experience and in part from research in cognitive science. Cognitive linguist George Lakoff surmises that most of us human beings are not aware of our mind’s operations. Most cognitive scientists estimate that what we call rational conscious awareness accounts for about 5% of the mind’s operations. The other 95% comprises the adaptive unconscious. The adaptive unconscious includes a pool of unconscious memories, image-shards from last night’s dreams, physiological operations – like blood flow, heart rate, and respiration – all of which influence brain functioning and conscious awareness.
What exactly does this mean? Most of our decisions, actions, and behavior depends on the adaptive unconscious part of the brain. This is how we understand the world. But getting to know yourself? That takes a lot of intentional effort.
You are unique, that we know. Somehow your unique imprint in this life – a combination of DNA, experience, personality, and more – has given you a distinct character. Maybe it’s part of your role to keep remembering that imprint.
Studies have shown that self-awareness can improve your creative accomplishments, make you a more effective leader, and help you lead with more integrity so if you’re going to lead a group, speak out your point of view, and build an influential brand, it’s important to know yourself.
Remember we’re all testing the waters. Raise questions you really don’t know the answers to. Invite people into your questions. Recognize that your unique imprint has a “young genius” which is your force of character.
Recognizing Your Young Genius
If you’re operating your business solely from a rational, conscious mind, then you might be missing a whole 95% of potential. Bring your young genius forward. That young genius was likely alive and kicking when you were eight, nine, or ten years old and it’s your job to remember the best of that young genius and bring him or her to the forefront of your work.
Let your mind wander into other territory. To trigger other parts of your personality, read fiction, listen to music, take your creative mind for a walk. Look at art that challenges your default way of seeing. Reflect, question, dive. A little self-awareness goes a long way. If you never stop to question, you’ll likely never penetrate that lonely 5% range. Pay attention to when you feel alive and true. When you’re at your best, your body aches and your mental blocks dissolve.
When you do feel most alive – or creative? What are you doing? What challenges are you meeting and how? In what way are you performing? Who are you relating to? How do you feel when you’re at your best? Is there a pattern? Think back over your career years, but also think back to your childhood. In what circumstances did you thrive?
“Who you are” is not an answer. It’s a question that propels you to do your best work for the greater good. When you’re self-aware, you’re capable of producing meaningful work and discovering more about yourself, your business, and your purpose-driven goals. Character is action. Character is in the quest. If you recognize – and understood – all layers of your character, you will find yourself on the journey to a more meaningful life.