I love a story with a soul searching quest. A great example of this is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I am a fan of both the book and the author. For a similar story with a male perspective, there is Honeymoon With My Brother by Franz Wisner. Both books were on the New York Times best seller list. Apparently, I am not the only one who enjoys these types of stories.
If you’ve never read the books they are similar in the fact that something goes horribly awry in their life, and they leave on an extensive trip to go find themselves and discover life truths. So many interesting details to mull over. I read and reflect and then part of me gets pissed off!
Seriously, who does that?
Isn’t that a fantasy for most of us? Just drop everything because we don’t like the way it’s working out and go play for a while to figure out how to make it better when we decide to attempt real life again. I don’t begrudge them the opportunity to do so but what about the rest of us…the majority of people. We have lives. We have responsibilities. We have people counting on us (neither of those authors was married or had children when they wrote their books). We simply can’t just take a break for a year or more to explore.
What about all the people who stick around despite the sucky situations and prevail? I know, it’s not nearly as dramatic a novelty for a story line. It might not make a great book. But it’s far more realistic. And aren’t they the real heroes for making it work within their responsibilities and the mundane part of life?
What the heck does “finding yourself” really mean anyways?
Have you ever tried googling that? There isn’t one official answer and many are contradictory and confusing. Please feel free to look them up and try to come to a consensus yourself. The following is my definition.
To find yourself means to discover things about your own self. The good, the bad, and the ugly. You want to know what motivates you, what angers you, what inspires you, what your purpose is, and how you want to bridge the gap between how you see yourself and how the world sees you.
Why should I find myself?
To give yourself peace and happiness. It will give you clarity and help you focus on your priorities.
To better navigate the world. It will give you confidence when you know what strengths you are working with and more humility when you know what your weaknesses are.
To develop a larger sense of appreciation. Being able to look at the core of who you are gives you an odd sort of panoramic view of the world. When you really see you, you can also really see outside of you.
Steps to take to find yourself from right where you are
Take a time out. This may be a day. This may be an evening. This may be bits of time here and there over the course of the week. This will be different for everyone depending on your situation. Get a babysitter or swap sitter services with a neighbor if you have to. This rest is going to be important because the hard work is going to come. Many times we’ve just run ourselves ragged trying to avoid what is coming next. Stop. Breathe. Give yourself an intermission.
Two: Accept and Own
It is what it is.
Our life is where it is at through things we can control and things we can’t. Many of those things shaped or contributed to who we are. We have to own our part in our choices, our reactions, and our inactions. We have to own our temperament and our quirks. We have to own how we choose to participate in the world at large.
If we skip this part we will never be able to come to the core of what makes us uniquely us.
You can’t find anything unless you look for it first. You need to gather information. Consider it continuing education for your life . Start with looking back at the experiences you’ve had and question yourself about what you learned in each situation.
Then look at what isn’t working in your life and find out how others are dealing with the same thing and how they are making it work. Figure out how you contributed to your circumstances and what the possible solutions are for it.
This is the information age. Read a book, a blog, an article. Listen to a podcast, TED talk, or an audio book. Talk to your friends. Is there anyone who can give you a personal critique (A critique is information that is welcomed by you and can help you, even if it doesn’t put you in the best light). If you find potential solutions, it gives you insight on how your internal processing works.
Once you’ve looked at what doesn’t work for you, look at what does. Appeal to your strengths and see if there is something in one part of your life that could help you deal with another part of your life. Examine what you really like about yourself.
Make a list of your talents. As many as you can. As minor as you think they might be.Learn to 'marinate' in your thoughts. Click To Tweet
I know- ‘marinate’ makes you think of a piece of meat- but it really is the perfect word for what you need to do next. You need to take all the information you’ve gathered and sit in it for a while. Immerse yourself in it. Let it all wash over you and contemplate. Move it around a little bit and sit in it some more.
This marination process will uncover more information about yourself and then you can add that to the pot, too, and marinate a little longer still.
After you have sat in the information for a while you can start to distill everything. First, decide what is really you and what is you living in someone else’s expectation. Is that really a quality you have and value or is it a quality that someone else convinced you that you should value? Next, choose, what you believe is truly you. Your philosophies, your priorities, your mantras. Focus on them.
Once you’ve really examined everything, start experimenting. Work to see if what you believe is you is, indeed, really you. Work at improving your version of you. Not a dictated version of you. This is a process that doesn’t really end. We change and develop every day we grow older. Be patient. This is a lot of internal work. It isn’t as easy as completing a checklist.
How to find time to do this?
Everyone finds time for things they really want to do. Is this something you really want to do? Even the busiest people can carve time out to do this. Try commute time. It doesn’t matter if it is by bus, car, truck, motorcycles, bikes, or feet. We all have time to use.
We can carve out time, first thing in the morning or last thing at night. We can abstain from tv, social media, and video games. We can even do a lot of it while accomplishing our regular household chores (seriously, there really isn’t much excitement going on while you’re cleaning the tub and the toilet).
Bottom line: find the time that works best for you.
How to jumpstart the process
If you need something to get you started here are some suggestions:
Make a list of your talents. Or strengths. Or weaknesses.
Discuss it with someone you trust.
Pick a dramatic event in your life and analyze it.
Read or listen to someone else’s story and find parallels to your own.
Photo credit: Monica Arellano-Ongpin
Please share how you were able to find yourself without leaving home.