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How to get to know yourself

We get a first impression with everyone in our lives, except ourselves. We get to ask our first friend at school if they would eat bugs for the rest of their lives or live in a cave and eat whatever they want. We get to me a potential life partner and grill them about what they were like as school, what was it like to grow up in the family. But rarely do we ask ourselves such imitate questions.

It can be hard to get to know yourself. You have been you for today-number of years, you have been by yourside through everything there is nothing you don’t know about yourself right. Right?

Who we are today has been influenced by everything we have been through up to this point. And if you have just kept going and never stopped to ask yourself, is this really what I want, is this really who I want to be. Then how do you know the person who you are is the person you always wanted to be?

Why is it important to get to know yourself?

Generalisations are risky, however it’s reasonable to assume we all want to “live our best life”. The version of “the best life” heavily present in films, tv programmes, advertisements, social media content etc. might pique your interest. But perhaps it feels like something is missing. Getting to know yourself can help you put words around what is most important to you. It will help you identify your values and motivations. So that you can create a unique version of “the best life”.

3 exercises to get to know yourself

1. Time, money and energy audit

Your time, money and energy are the most valuable commodities you have to spend. Completing an audit of how you currently spend each of these will uncover what your current behaviours are.

The aim of the time audit is to show how much time is spent doing different activities. Start off with the bigger chunks of time. For example, if you have a full time job working 8hrs a day for 5 days. That will be 40 hours of a total 168 hour week spent on your job. Sleeping will be another activity that requires a lot of time to complete. Approximately 6 hours a night for 7 nights of the week, totals 42 hours. Together, sleeping and working, they make up roughly 50% of your available time.

The aim of the money audit is to show what your expenses are. Start off with your biggest committed expenses such as rent or mortgage, gas and electricity bill, phone contract, internet, subscription services etc. Give each expense a category, for example Utility bill, entertainment, sports etc. Add up the total value of your expenses, once they have all been listed, and include percentages to see what the biggest chunks of your money is spent on.

Many banking apps have the functionality to produce expense summaries. Which can be useful if you need a hint on what categories to use to group your expenses.

The aim with the energy audit is to make a list of energy boosting activities and energy draining activities. It’s important to put context around each of the activities. Think about what you do when you are feeling good, classify these as energy boosters. And what you do when you are feeling down, classify these as energy drainers. Think about what you do after completing exercise, do you eat balanced meals for the whole day, do you drink more water, do you have a better night’s sleep. How about after a tough day at work. Do you soothe yourself with a scroll of doom on IG, lose yourself in guilty pleasure reality tv drama, have an extra glass even though it’s a school night.

There are no right or wrong answers. The benefit of the energy audit is that it helps to reveal habits and patterns in your behaviour.

After completing all three audits, put them to one-side and set a date to come back and review your answers. Overwhelming yourself with completing and reviewing the answers at the same time can make the possibility of change feel impossible. That’s why it is important to give yourself time to step away and reflect, knowing that you will return to review and assess at a later date.

2. The Importance/Values List

The aim of the activity is to uncover what is important to you and what your personal values are. There are many socially accepted values we all feel an obligation to uphold, for example getting a good education and going to University. It is something that many of us are encouraged to do but is it important to you?

Start off by listing everything that is important to you. Give yourself a time limit of 15 minutes to reflect on what matters most to you. Think about what type of lifestyle is important to you, what field/industry of work is important to you, what type of environment would you want to live in, what are your personal aspirations and ambitions?

When the timer ends, restart it and make a second list of all your personal values. Think about what characteristics, traits and behaviours are important to you. How do you think people should be treated, how would you like people to feel after a conversation or interaction with you?

Once both lists are complete put them to one side and set a date to come back to review your answers. When reviewing our answers rank them most important to least important.

3. A Mindful Pause

Practicing mindfulness helps you to be more aware of how your body responds to what is around you.

Contrary to popular belief the goal of a mindfulness practice should not be to make your mind completely blank. Instead the goal should be to remain present in that moment and notice how it evolves as time keeps moving. There is a podcast episode from NPR’s Life Kit called Mindfulness of Beginners. That helped put my mind at ease and stop beating myself up about being bad at mindfulness practices.

The best bit about the episode for me was the “what to do when your mind wanders”. Because it will. And the answer is not, get mad and give up. But, notice what your mind has wandered to, e.g what you are going to have for dinner. And use that as a prompt to get back to the focus of your mindful practice. I would recommend starting with a practice that gets you to focus on your breath. It’s the most common type of practice, but also it helps you to become more aware of your breath when in other situations such as exercise or before you give a presentation at work.

A few reminders

Think of this like a first date. Completing these exercises is a start to getting to know yourself. In the same way it took a considerable amount of time to get to know your best friend, significant other, child, parent etc. The same is true with getting to know yourself.

Make an appointment to complete each task. At times we can all feel time-poor, as if we are rushing from one thing to the next. To get yourself in the right frame of mind to complete each task, make a calendar appointment to pre-booked time. Which will also allow you the headspace to move through this at a pace that is manageable.

Everything is figure-it-out-able. You might realise you do something that you didn’t know/don’t like. And that’s okay. It’s much easier to make a change to something when you know what it is and why it happens.

After completing these three exercises you will be on your way to developing a better relationship with yourself.

You will have found out how you spend your time, money and energy. What things are most important to you and what values you want to guide your decision making. And you might have started to see where there could be mis-alignment between what you spend and what is important to you.

You will also be more aware of your breath and how your body feels when it is completely relaxed. And where your mind wanders to most when it’s free to roam.

You’re next step from here will be to take what you have learnt and start to make small changes to make your life a closer reflection of what is important to you and what your values are. And we have resources to help support you with making small changes for a big impact, when you are ready.

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