It’s becoming increasingly common to hear modern life described as distracted, disconnected, and frustrated. When you look at your own family, community, and profession – not to mention culture, politics, and the economy in the grand scheme of things – it can be hard to argue with those assessments. Yet, some people seem to move through it calmly and contentedly as if it doesn’t affect them at all.
how to embark on a journey of self-discovery? Before embarking, you must remember that everyone’s journey is different but there are techniques that can guide your journey and fundamental elements that will help you measure your progress. A journey of self-discovery will help you understand your dreams, set goals that will enrich your life, pursue them with joy and passion, and, ultimately, become your best self.
If your life doesn’t give you the option of disconnecting and escaping to an exotic land to study at the feet of a guru or a sage, does that mean that you can’t embark on a journey of self-discovery? Not at all!
In fact, all of the important work that will help you make progress on your journey can be done wherever you are.
In most cases, the practices that will give you the most value won’t cost anything more than time and effort.
Why Is Self-Discovery Important?
Self-discovery helps us identify and embrace our authentic self—the essential self is a combination of values, talents, and desires.
Only when our activities produce results that align with our essential self will they deliver true joy, peace, and understanding.
Only when we know true joy, peace, and understanding will we be able to exist within the world at the same time that we escape its pressures, distractions, and distortions.
Self-discovery can improve our relationships, our careers, and our physical and emotional health.
“If you don’t participate in self-discovery, your goals, core beliefs, and values will be dictated” to you rather than coming from and returning to your essential self.
If self-discovery was an easy journey, then every person we encounter would radiate the joy, peace, and understanding of their essential self.
The truth is that it takes concentrated effort, patience, and persistence to accomplish self-knowledge. The biggest challenge in pursuing self-discovery is being completely honest with ourselves—including the wounds of our past, our personal shortcomings, and our fears about the future.
So then, the journey will be hard, and it will take time, but, in the end, you will find that all of your efforts pay off in value that cannot be measured in dollars and cents.
To help you maintain your focus and commitment to the process, this article will offer you some techniques to use and some steps that will break the task up into manageable challenges.
Step #1. Know Your Dreams
It’s hard to imagine a life that is joyful, peaceful, and positive at the same time that it is lived in the pursuit of dreams that don’t resonate with that the essential self.
If financial riches are a dream that someone else had for you, and you pursue that dream, even with great success, you’re unlikely to find the kind of joy that you would experience from modest progress toward a goal that connects with your true self.
For that reason, it’s important to know and understand your dreams before progressing any further on your journey of self-discovery.
Step #2. Set Goals That Will Enrich Your Life
Only when you have invested the time to understand what it is that you truly desire for yourself, those close to you, and the broader world around you will you be able to identify goals that will actually serve those desires.
Asking yourself the kind of questions that help to identify what is holding you back and what has the potential to energize your pursuits is the key to aligning your desires with your practices and your visions.
Goals can serve us powerfully both as ends in themselves and as a means to the greater ends of a life well-lived in service to the self, to loved ones, and to the planet.
Step #3. Pursue Dreams with Joy & Passion
If knowing your dreams supplies the “why” and setting goals provides a “what,” you will still need to address the question of “how.”
It is important to pursue your dreams with the kind of relentless drive that cannot be knocked off course by distractions or completely undone by frustration or confusion.
Cultivating a set of daily habits that will establish a baseline for each day is important to the consistency that pursuing your dreams will require.
Daily habits that enrich the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of the self are crucial to sustaining yourself through the long-journey toward self-knowledge.
Step #4. Become Your Best Self
Once you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, what you are pursuing, and how you are working to get there, you can begin to answer the questions of “who” and “where.”
Being able to answer the question of “who” you are is only possible in relation to the dreams, goals, joys, and passions that align with your truest self.
As you will come to understand through progress on your journey of self-discovery, the question of “who” is closely related to the question of “where.”
There is a mantra in Sanskrit that helps bring this relationship into focus: “Aham Brahmasmi” (I am the universe).
Next, let’s go dive into more details into each of the steps. I will break down each of the 4 steps and share with you in-depth techniques regarding how to achieve them.
Step #1: Know Your Dreams
What truly makes you happy? What activities bring out the best in you and invigorate your life? What results bring you true joy and provide a sense of accomplishment that resonates with your essential self?
These are difficult questions to answer if you cannot see yourself clearly because your vision is obscured by the influence of others, if you lack a clear understanding of your core values and beliefs, or if you’re uncomfortable acknowledging your desires and pursuing them with passion.
The four steps that we outline below will help you strip away the distractions and distortions that obscure your dreams from you, define your dreams in relation to your most cherished beliefs, and align your desires with your actions.
Tech #1: Differentiate Yourself from Your Past
The influence of authority figures when we are young is an important part of the socialization process. At the same time, when adults try to raise us to be good people, they are doing so from a perspective that is biased by their own understanding of what makes a person a “good person.”
If their understanding of what makes a good person differs from the elements at the core of your essential self, all of the advice they have given you is standing in the way of your reaching a more powerful connecting with your own motivations.
Tech #2: Define Yourself by Your Values
Once you have cleared away the goals, visions, and values that you’ve inherited from others or had imposed upon you by external sources, you are free to embrace the values that define who you truly are.
This cannot be an abstract process. Almost everyone would say that they value loyalty.
Abstract values are at-best placeholders for your actual values in practice in response to a specific context and a particular challenge. This is one of the reasons that self-discovery is a difficult and ongoing journey.
Each time you have to choose to be true to your values, you also have to decide how to enact that value. That is what truly defines that value in its most particular and true meaning for you.
Tech #3: Let Your Desires Shape Your Future
Some of us grow up in environments where we’re taught, either implicitly or explicitly, that it is wrong or selfish to pursue the things that we want.
All we can see in response to that principle is that we recognize the existence of differences in both motives and actions.
Based on that, we have no problem saying that the pursuit of a selfish desire is probably a selfish act, while the pursuit of a pure desire in likely to be a pure act.
When you recognize that it isn’t desire itself that is wrong but that many of us desire things that we should not, you free yourself from the ethical dilemmas of wanting and pursuing the things that resonate with your essential self.
Tech #4: Meditate: Letting Go, Healing, Empowerment
For each step of the journey of self-discovery, there are certain key concepts that we should allow to guide our meditations. The first step is to know your dreams.
This step features work that requires us to engage reflectively and introspectively with who we have been and why we’ve been that way.
As you move through this step in the process, it will be helpful to meditate on topics related to letting go, healing, and empowerment.
Like all of the activities that we discuss in this article, meditation is easy to fake. There is no value to “doing” any of the things that we discuss in this article if you don’t do them with your full attention.
Nobody else will reward you for progress toward self-knowledge, so there’s no point in faking your way through it.
Only by being fully present and doing the work until you’ve accomplished the goal will you receive any of the benefits that the activity has to offer.
Step #2: Set Goals That Will Enrich Your Life
Will material possessions, social influence, and status really enrich your life?
These are the things that our society teaches us to value. As such, we come to expect that they are the things that the people around us value. This becomes a double-edged sword.
We come to understand that money and power are the things we should desire for ourselves, and we also learn that they are the things we must have if we want the respect and love of the people around us.
But we must ask ourselves whether any of these things are more important to us than true happiness.
Tech #1: Accept Your Limitations
The Bhagavad Gita teaches us that we must understand the limitations of our own control. While we have control over our own words and deeds, we do not have control over the consequences of those words and deeds.
Similarly, we do not have control over others. The first step in becoming empower is to accept the limitations of your power to influence the outcomes of your actions.
Once we understand our own limitations, it becomes easier to align our actions with the forces that are at work in the universe and recognize the abundance that flows from those forces and how that abundance can benefit us.
Tech #2: Understand What Abundance Means to You
If you are working hard but still feel like you’re getting nowhere, it could be that you are pursuing the wrong dreams and that even huge successes in your activities will leave you unfulfilled.
It could also be the case that you are failing to recognize the abundance that the universe is sending you as abundance that is meant for you.
Setting personal goals can help you see the bigger picture and understand how the flow of the universe is supporting your personal pursuits.
Tech #3: Invite Abundance into Your Life
When you have a plan and commit to the execution of that plan, you’re sending out signals to the universe.
If your planning and execution are aligned with your dreams then everything the universe sends to you will also be aligned with those dreams.
If you fail to set goals or set goals that aren’t aligned with your dreams, the universe will be sending you an abundance of resources that are misaligned with your essential self.
Take the time to understand how to set goals and the time that it takes to set good ones for yourself.
Tech #4: Meditate: Envisioning, Easing Urgencies, Abundance
The second step in your journey toward self-discovery is setting goals. This step requires you to identify goals that align with your dreams and make plans that you can follow to accomplish those goals.
As you move through the process of setting goals and making plans it will be helpful to meditate on concepts related to envisioning to help you see more clearly.
Another important concept to meditate on is the easing of urgency. This will help you open up to the realities of the balance between control and lack of control and how that balance relates to the execution of your plans.
A final concept to meditate on during this step is abundance. Abundance will be central to the work that you do in both the second and third steps of the journey that we are outlining here.
Step #3: Pursue Your Dreams with Joy & Passion
Why would anyone bother pursuing a dream if neither the dream itself or the activities they engaged in to pursue the dream brought them any joy?
We all know someone who has or who plans to work their entire life to save up for retirement.
Their plan is always something like this. Make money while I’m young and save it up for when I’m old. I’ll skip vacation days and experiences now so that I can have them when I retire.
We wonder if they’ve ever stopped to consider who they’ll be after 40 years of being miserable and exhausted every day.
Does the person that your plan turned you into seem the kind of person that you want to work your whole life for?
Tech #1: Daily Habits
There is a quote from the author Neil Gaiman that we’ve found particularly inspiring in our efforts to cultivate healthy habits that make more and more of our everyday existence conform to the goals and plans that we have to realize our dreams.
“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”
– Neil Gaiman
The reason we bring that quote up here is to remind you that what has worked for us may not work for you and that ultimately, the best measure of whether a habit is good is your own estimation of its worth.
- Yoga: You don’t have to be very good at yoga for yoga to be very good for you. It is a low-impact exercise that improves flexibility.
It also helps to center your emotional and spiritual aspects. Give yourself enough of a chance that you are able to get better over time.
There are many types of yoga, and you can try more than one before you settle on a practice that works for you.
You might find that you like practicing in solitude or that you prefer to go to a yoga studio to be a part of a community.
- Meditation: We’ve already discussed the importance of meditation to the project of self-discovery at some length in this article.
We recommend making it a part of your daily routine and incorporating it into your habits in whatever way will provide the most value to you.
There are apps that you can download to your phone that will ease your transition into the practice of guided meditation.
Once you become more accustomed to the practice, you will be able to decide how to sustain your practice in a way that’s right for you.
- Gratitude: Simply taking the time to acknowledge all of the things in your life that you are grateful for can be a powerful source of resolution and persistence as you make your way through the long process of achieving self-knowledge.
We recommend keeping a gratitude journal. Not only will this force you to devote time to gratitude each day, but studies suggest that the simple act of writing something down helps commit it to memory.
In addition to those benefits, you’ll also be able to use the journal to look back on the progress that you’ve made.
- Diet: What you put in your body can make a big difference in how you feel. It can be equally helpful to spend more time thinking about how you feel about the things you put in your body.
It’s great to eat healthily, but are you eating food that is good for your community and the planet in the process? Are you using food, alcohol, or drugs to fill holes in your life?
- Exercise: Marathon runners talk about the point in their run where the endorphins take over, and they find themselves in the zone.
You don’t have to commit to a huge undertaking like a marathon to enjoy the benefits that daily exercise can have for your life. Elevating your heart rate for as little as a half-hour each day can have an amazing impact on both your physical and emotional well-being.
Tech #2: Education & Enrichment
In addition to the daily habits that you cultivate on your journey to self-understanding, it is also important to take on larger projects from time to time.
While you fill your daily routine with beneficial habits, you can expand your reach and enrich your understanding by studying subject that are interesting to you or practicing skills that will improve your abilities in areas that will help you achieve the goals that you’ve set in relation to the dreams that you have for your essential self.
Tech #3: Family & Friends
So much of what we’ve discussed in this article focuses on your pursuit of self-understanding as an individual project made up of solitary practices and habits. But there is something inherently social about the pursuit of self-understanding.
It is a project that will help you become your best self, and being your best self is not only a gift that you give yourself but also a valuable gift that you offer your community and the wider world.
Rely on your family and friends for support if you can, but don’t let their lack of support become an excuse to give up the pursuit of your goals. Remember that what you are doing is a benefit to them as well.
Don’t let their failure to appreciate this frustrate you or distract you from pursuing your goals.
Tech #4: Meditate: Gratitude, Abundance, Commitments
The third step in your journey toward self-discovery is pursuing your goals with joy and passion. This step requires you to identify build good daily habits and identify beneficial projects that are bigger than your daily routines but smaller than the search for self-understanding.
As you move through these processes, it will be helpful to meditate on concepts related to gratitude, abundance, and commitments.
Step #4: Become Your Best Self
Ultimately, the only reason to invest the time and effort that it takes to achieve self-knowledge is to prepare yourself to be a better person. As a better person, you’ll be a better member of your community and a better citizen of the world.
“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
– Nelson Mandela
At a certain point, you will realize that becoming a better person can only go so far without requiring you to do work that benefits others in order to continue your personal progress.
Sure, you’re making the world a better place simply by being a better person than you were before.
But there’s so much more than you can and should do, and doing those things will only reveal more about your self to you.
Tech #1: Practice Care of the Self
As you progress on your journey toward self-discovery, it is essential that you maintain or expand on the practices and habits that brought you to the point that you are at.
You’re never beyond the need for the benefits that these habits and practices introduce to your daily existence. You’re never too far along to backslide and lose ground.
Tech #2: Share Your Abundance
Humans are social animals. So, from a certain perspective, it’s impossible to know yourself except that you know yourself in relation to others.
If you want to make sure that you’re going to like the self that you’re getting to know, make that self the kind of self that helps others.
Tech #3: Reflect and Renew Your Commitments
It’s a long journey – the path that leads to self-discovery. Just because you’ve made progress doesn’t mean that you can’t backtrack and re-do work that you’ve already done. There’s no game clock, and there aren’t any referees.
No one is going the throw a penalty flag or call a foul. Use each new understanding that you achieve to illuminate your understanding of the work that you’ve done previously and the results that you got out of that work.
Tech #4: Meditate: Chakras, Flow, Gratitude
As you move through the fourth and final step of the journey that we’ve outlined for self-discovery, you will want to meditate on concepts like Chakra cleansing, flow, and gratitude.
Stay engaged in the process. Stay mindful of how much more there is for you to accomplish and how much you’re capable of if you remain committed to the process.
Whenever the universe presents you with an opportunity to benefit yourself by helping others, thank the universe and take advantage of the opportunity.
The journey of self-discovery is an intensely private and personal undertaking that you’ll have to work on with commitment and dedication even as you balance that process with all of the other demands that your life places on you and your time and your energy.
Hopefully, you’ve found our plan for taking the steps on this journey to be both informative and inspiring. Even if you still feel a little uncertain about whether you can do it, or what exactly you should do—you’ve got to start somewhere.
Remember, self-discovery means that nobody else can do it for you and that you won’t know what you need to know until you’ve figured it out for yourself.
Follow the steps that we’ve given you here, but remember that this journey is more about the results you experience than the steps that you take.