I’ve always been curious about people who go on journeys to find themselves. I imagine someone going to a far-off land, being isolated from everything that was once familiar, and connecting with a spiritual side, just like a page out of Eat, Pray, Love. I realized two things: “finding” yourself is important; and you don’t have to travel to do it (although your self-discoveries may be more intense if you do; since I haven’t done it, I wouldn’t know). Here is what “finding” yourself (or self-discovery) does:
You understand why you do what you do. As GI Joe would say, “Knowing is half the battle.” When you understand your character, your behaviors, what makes you you, you can start to predict how you will react in future situations. I know if someone asks me to do something I’ve already done, I get snippy. I know why I do this, too (I will spare you the gory details). Or if I’m in a meeting and someone asks a question, even if they call specifically on someone else, I will answer the question (does this sound like anyone you know? Maybe from Harry Potter?). If you take the time to understand yourself, you can determine your behaviors and really understand what the motivating factor behind them is. And once you know that…
You can change your behavior in the moment. It’s not easy. We are creatures of habit, and we have a standard set of responses we use in situations. However, once you can isolate those situations, you can start to change your behaviors in the moment. For me the process was something like this:
- Identify the behavior (usually it’s a behavior that I want to change)
- Identify the situation the behavior emerges in
- Identify the behavior I would like to see in its place (if it’s a “bad” behavior)
- Realize after the situation occurs that I have done the offending behavior again
- Repeat Step 4 many times
- Realize I’m in the situation and I’m about to do the behavior and stop myself, inserting a new behavior
- Intermittently repeat Steps 5 and 6 until 6 becomes the more frequent behavior
I’d like to say after this process you never have to think about the other behavior, but in my experience, the original behavior is the one that is a result of your personality and your upbringing, and therefore it’s hard to eradicate. I find these behaviors reappearing in tenser situations or crises.
It’s good to understand your “good behaviors,” too. There are things I like about myself that aren’t appropriate in every situation, which leads to the next step in self-discovery…
You can understand the impact you have on others. Once you understand you, you can understand how you interact with the rest of the world. You see how your behaviors invoke certain responses from those around you. When you dominate a conversation, you can observe how others shut down and are less likely to volunteer ideas. This step in self-discovery is huge, and it leads to the most important aspect of this journey…
You can respond to the world in a way it can hear what you are saying. Now you can change the way you interact with the world. And if you understand how people around you respond to you, you can change your approach. By doing this, you start speaking their language. You start acting in a way they understand. This increases the chances those around you will comprehend what you are truly trying to say and hopefully will increase how often people align to your vision.
In short, you can get more done because you aren’t wasting time bristling feathers and cleaning up the debris of your interpersonal collisions. By taking the time to understand you, you can have more influence over the world and spread your ideas further. (Click to tweet).
Jana Axline is Chief Project Officer at Project Genetics and the author of Becoming You. Through her leadership musings, she inspires audiences to grow as leaders and ultimately achieve who they were created to be. For more information visit Project Genetics.