Person smiling

Image by Valerie Renee

This post was provoked by a comment on a previous post on choices. I suggested that once we had a good idea of who we are then we could sort out our priorities and choosing was much easier. Barbara left a comment saying something like: Well, that’s all very well, but how exactly are you meant to know this? (Barbara was more polite than this). This got me thinking. So here are some ways to get a sense of who you are and what matters most to you. This doesn’t try to be comprehensive, it’s just ways that I have come across and have worked for me.

1. Reflecting on what grabs your attention. Sometimes we are going along quite normally and suddenly we are gripped by something. The most striking time this happened for me was seeing a picture of a house (Gabrielle Poole’s Tent House). I saw a picture of it in a newspaper and was transfixed. It took me a couple of days to realise how strange it was for me to be interested in a house. Then I wondered what it was about this house – with its roll up walls – that I liked so much. It came down to two qualities – it was light and open. At this time in my life I had just fallen in love for the first time. This house helped me put labels on my experience of falling in love – delighting in lightness and openness. This also helped me to realise that it was OK to ‘lighten up” be more relaxed and not so intense.

This was a very intense experience. It can be much more humble too: being struck by a peaceful picture can be a clue that we need a holiday.

2. Disgust is a visceral reaction that lets us know quite forcefully that we don’t like something. The trick is to get clear what it is that we particularly dislike. The reaction can feel overwhelming – that we “don’t like anything about it” or “we don’t want anything to do with that person.” If we can get clear about the quality that is turning our stomach we will be clear about what we don’t like.

3. What you can’t do. For me I can’t pretend that crap teaching is good teaching. (This has made me unpopular in a number of courses where I have been a student.) My choice is to either admit that at some level I simply am a teacher or try to fool myself (not something I want to do). For a writer it may be something like not tolerating a bad sentence. For an artist it may be not wanting to get caught repeating themselves and denying their creativity. What we simply can’t pretend about, what we simply can’t do, says much about who we are.

4. Where you lose a sense of time. Sometimes we stop what we are doing and realise we have lost a sense of time. We have no idea how long we have been engaged in the activity. For me this happens when I am exploring ideas and possibilities in my journal. When what we are doing flows from the core of who we are our experience often has a timeless and effortless quality. (By effortless I don’t mean that it is not strenuous but that there is no sense of forcing ourselves to do it.)

5. When you are rude. When we are totally caught up in something we often don’t worry too much about others – even if we are talking to them. This can come across as rudeness. (This was pointed out in the book Success Built to Last, which I plan to do an extensive review of in the next few weeks.) It may be kinder to say that we are so caught up in the subject that we lose a sense of the people around us.

6. Laddering. Laddering was first named by Kurt Lewin. It is a process of repeated questioning, at its simplest just asking “Why?”. You choose something you like (or dislike) and then ask “Why?” You then ask “Why?” to that answer. You keep going until the answer is something like: just because I do, or, that’s just me.
For instance, I like the art of Salvador Dali. Why? Because of his technical brilliance? Why do I like that? Because it’s dazzling and clever. Why do I like that? Because I want to be good at what I do? Why? Because then it’ll be OK to be me. (For me competence is a core issue. This is me.)

So I hope these clues are clearly explained. Each of them I think can give us valuable information about who we truly are and what we truly value.

If you would like to tell me of your experiences about when you have realised who you are and what matters to you, I’d love to hear them.

4 Comments to “Six Clues To Knowing Who You Are”

  1. John says:

    Great post.

    I am especially fond of laddering, myself. What I find to be especially fun is “laddering down” from different directions. You take a complex experience and ladder the various elements, and you see how everything interacts.

  2. Evan Hadkins says:

    Thanks John,

    I’m glad you like laddering. Could you say mor about laddering down and how you deal with the interactions? I’d like to know more.

    Thanks for taking the time and effort to comment.

  3. Cindy says:

    I never thought of “disgust” as a way to better know who I am. Great point and post! I’m going to need to think about these a bit. I think self-reflection is so important in developing and socializing with those around us.

  4. Evan says:

    Thanks Cindy.

    I’m glad you liked the post.

    I too think self-reflection is important for our relationships.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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