I first noticed that my self discovery took a particular pattern, and had continued to take that same pattern in my several journeys of self-discovery. (This is saying self-discovery is not a once and for all thing— it is once and again).
But through my studies, I have come to find out that that pattern was not exclusive to just me. Everyone who has had some level of self-discovery went through this same pattern, although the specific details might be different— it still points to the same thing.
I call it the Self Discovery Cycle. It’s a three-step cycle that takes you from being clueless about yourself to knowing enough details about yourself that would help you make informed decisions and maximize every single potential you have.
For a solid foundation, let’s look at what self-discovery.
Self-discovery is the process of gaining understanding of one’s personality, potential, passion, experiences, as well as all the other conditioning that makes the individual distinct from others, using them to make informed decisions, and finding how best they can be maximized to live a fulfilling life.
Self-discovery is understanding yourself, not finding yourself. Although the word, ‘discovery’ means to find something for the first time, self-discovery is less of ‘finding’ yourself as it is of understanding yourself.
Wait. If you’re thinking… What’s all the noise about self-discovery, read this first.
3 Steps of Self-Discovery
The first step to discover yourself or understand yourself is to get exposed and explore possibilities. This is not where self-discovery happens but it is where it begins.
Get out of your shell, leave your comfort zone and the environments you are used to get engaged in several activities/communities, and get exposed to diverse possibilities.
If all you know is all you have, there are very few choices you can pick from because all you have (or know) is not all there is.
Without getting technical yet, getting out of where you are used to will let you see something(s) that resonates with your personality but you weren’t doing— just because you didn’t know it existed or could be done in that way.
More technically, getting out of where you are used to places a demand on other aspects of yourself that the environment you were in, didn’t demand. Who you are is not measured by what you take in, but by what you bring out. Neglecting other factors, what you produce tells what’s in you in you or what you are.
Changing environments and engaging in various activities are good way to pull out the potential in you.
Places to get increased exposure include
- New environment
- New friends etc
Platforms to engage in include
- New communities
- New activities
- Odd works
- Clubs and societies
- Service groups etc
These exposure and engagements will point you to what you like and what you dislike; what you are good at and what you do poorly; you can endure and what pisses you off; how to do what you always do and how not to do it. They give you feedbacks that challenge your one-sided or limited ideas about your potential.
This already, is self-discovery taking place. But it doesn’t stop there. Exposure and engagement also kick-start the next step in the self-discovery cycle.
2. Introspection/Spending time alone
Personally, I think this is the most important part of self-discovery, and thankfully, that’s the part that is mostly taught and mostly done. Introspection: looking into yourself to see clearly what is there.
We won’t be looking at introspection as a beginning on its own; instead, as a continuation of the self-discovery cycle.
After you have found so many light about yourself from your exposure and engagements, it’s now time to sieve out what truly is, from why only looks like it. Here, you will need a lot is spending time alone.
You are no longer looking at the environment to give you a picture of yourself. Instead, you are judging yourself as honestly and uninfluenced as possible.
What do I truly like? How do I truly behave compared to what the environment said? What can I truly do if i had no limitations or bias? What are my limitations? What’s are my biases and beliefs?
When you sit long enough with these questions, you will come with clearer views of yourself. However, to get the most out of this, you shouldn’t treat introspection as a singular act on its own; it should be part of the cycle i.e you are comparing what you think and see with what your engagements reveal and say.
Here’s a detailed guide that will take you spending time alone and introspection
But what ever you come up with isn’t final. It is only the raw material for the next step of the cycle.
3. Progressive journalling
This is the simplest part of the cycle and it looks insignificant but just as the name implies, it is highly progressive or progressing: it takes you from one point to another. Progressive journaling simply means writing down all you discover from time to time.
While this may look unnecessary, I have added it to the cycle having seen many people not make progress in their self-discovery journeys because they couldn’t just remember their discoveries.
Personally, I got some understanding about myself in 2013. I wrote them down and totally forgot that the book existed. Of course, my life continued.
In 2016, I got another understanding of myself and it was groundbreaking. “Why didn’t I know all of this about myself all this while? It would have made a lot of difference to my career and even finances,” I thought to myself. I implemented what I learnt and saw massive changes.
2017, I found that book I had written in 2013 and exactly what I discovered in 2016 that was groundbreaking, was what was in my note from 2013. It was a mixed feeling of excitement and slight regret. Excitement because surprisingly, it was the same, and regret because if I had started working on it since then, I would have gotten the changes and be many years ahead.
In my case, I was journaling, but it wasn’t progressive, so I didn’t get the benefit.
Notice, that the purpose of self-discovery is to enhance your life through making informed decisions that will lead to the maximization of your potential. If you are not taking note of your discoveries, the purpose is almost lost.
And what better way is there to take note than to literally, take notes?
If you’re wondering, your notes should contain things like…
- I thought I could do this, now I’m discovering this.
- Based on this discovery, I should stop this and focus on this
- This that I discovered I can’t do, is a must-have. I will leverage this that I have to develop it
- To enhance my productivity in this new engagement, I need learn this and spend more time on this
- Since these are my weaknesses, I should avoid situations that trigger this.
There is a section of this article that teaches you how to live a calculated life. You should read it.
You can also go deeper into the self-discovery cycle by reading this in-depth article on self-discovery.
After you write your discoveries and the implications they have on your life, restart the cycle again.
This is the self-discovery cycle.
There are so many things we know about ourselves that just aren’t visible enough. We are aware of their existence in our lives but don’t know the full implications of them. When those things become obvious, it is more of self-understanding than self-discovery.
This isn’t to say there is nothing to discover about ourselves. It’s just that there is more to be understood than discovered. For instance, one of the random thoughts that come to mind when people hear of self-discovery is passion and purpose.
For passion, I have noticed over and over that, you don’t really discover your passion, you only realize your passion.While discovery talks of finding something you didn’t know, realisation is clearly seeing (or understanding) what you have always seen but didn’t see to that extent.
Now, like I said, there’s a bit of discovery there— you discover a new bit that you totally didn’t know— but the whole picture of it is a fuller understanding of what you have always known.
Practical example: if singing is your passion, you must have been singing all your life (maybe just casually). Now, you know you always sing, but you just didn’t see it as something worth taking note of because it’s “just casual”.
If you go through the self-discovery process and find out that singing is your true passion, that’s not a discovery; it’s only a realisation of something you have always known, but at face value.
Since we talking about passion already, let me quickly say this: if you are still trying to find your passion, here’s how to find it– stop ‘finding’ it. If you have to ‘find’ your passion, it means you aren’t passionate about it.
Passion is a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement about something. From experience, the word ‘strong’ in the context of passion doesn’t mean overwhelming; it means deep rooted or firm. When you have a natural flare or inclination towards something over and over again for a continuous period of time, that’s your passion.
I don’t think anyone needs a ‘finding’ to find what they are naturally inclined to– it’s obvious. This is what I do most of the time. It’s just natural. If you need any help in finding your passion, it’s the help that will draw your attention to something you are doing already, not something new.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.