For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of discovering my strengths to help me be my best, so I can play to them and be of service to others. It’s the only way I know to experience true fulfillment. After all, we are not born into this world to be and to do everything.
Learning about myself was a journey in itself; it began when I serendipitously picked up a copy of the book, The Truth About You more than a decade ago. I gravitated towards it after finding myself dissatisfied, frustrated, and clueless with what I wanted to do in life and more importantly, who I wanted to be. Reading that book was only the start of a long journey to self-discovery. Not long after that, I found a coach who helped me discover some of my strengths through the personal stories I shared with him. It was the first time I somewhat understood myself and could articulate those strengths with some confidence.
Over the years, I’ve invested a lot of time and money in myself. For instance, I spent some time learning about my WHY in the past couple of years. About a year ago, I discovered how a manifesto for my business turned out to be my vision for the world I wanted to live in. This changed everything for me.
Needless to say, it has taken a lot of soul-searching over the years for me to discover my strengths and to put them to use. Of course, the path was anything but linear. While it seems clear in hindsight, it was anything but in reality.
Over the weekend, I happened to read about my personality type (INFJ-A). While I remember taking similar assessments earlier, it was uncanny to read how scarily accurate this was for me. Of course, I have the humility to take this knowledge with a grain of salt and to not allow myself to get carried away with it. While I appreciate what I read and learned about myself through these profiles, I don’t let it define me (and neither should you). It was only after reading this, did it occur to me to write about how we should all invest some time and energy in ourselves over the course of our lives. It’s only then we can be of true service to others.
When we learn about ourselves, it helps us explain the choices we make in our daily lives and why we do what we do. It also reveals our weaknesses. For instance, I know I make better choices when acting with intention rather than impulse. Another example. I know when I rush into things, I feel drained by that experience. For me, it pays to slow down and to give each thing its own undivided attention; I suspect I’m not alone.
Speaking of strengths, I shared earlier:
A strength is something that leaves us stronger before, during, and after we do an activity, while a weakness is something that leaves us weaker before, during, and after we do it. Our strengths are where we have the most capacity to learn and grow.
As we invest in ourselves over time, it’s imperative that we learn about our strengths as well as our weaknesses, so we may play to the former as much as possible and work with others who will make the latter feel inconsequential. This will help us move forward with gusto and confidence without holding ourselves back.
Learning about ourselves doesn’t always have to happen through personality tests. In fact, when we come across a work of art (such as writing, music, books, etc.), our taste reveals itself to us, and we learn about ourselves a little more. You see, our tastes and preferences are not arbitrary. It’s a matter of exploration. It’s only when we take the time to learn about the world and how it works that we will learn about ourselves. It’s only when we expose ourselves to a wide variety of art through different media that we are going to learn about what we aspire to, and it’s only by doing the work we can close that gap.
Sometimes, it can take a lifetime to figure out what not to do. American jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie once said:
It’s taken me all my life to learn what not to play.
Conversely, when we open our mouths to describe the world, we are essentially describing ourselves. We learn to value our differences with others and remind ourselves we are more alike than we are different. It helps us appreciate others more for who they are and what they do. It humbles us by showing no one person can be (and do) everything. We all have our own strengths that we can use to work with others, and together, we can make a difference in this world.
In the past, I’ve read numerous books, attended various workshops and conferences, interacted with people from a variety of disciplines from around the world (as we all have), and as a result its made me become the person I am today. In fact, I can say without a doubt that my real education started after I left school. This reminds me of a quote by Isaac Asimov:
Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.
By investing in ourselves we ultimately inspire others to follow the same path and they’re more likely to invest in themselves. For instance, I’ve long believed the best way to learn is to teach/share (and vice versa). I wrote earlier:
Keep a website/blog to write about things that interest you. Build your home on the web. Share things you’ve learned. Share your expertise and process with others. We learn by teaching/sharing, and we share/teach by learning.
When I look back at the last 10 years of my life, I can connect the dots. It all seems clear in retrospect. Who I am and what I do now is the culmination of years of soul-searching, doing the work, and learning from others. In some ways, we all know in our hearts where we are headed in terms of that inner journey. What remains to be discovered is only how we are going to get there.
Here’s the thing; the greatest investment we’ll ever make is in ourselves. If we don’t have the desire to learn about ourselves, no one can create that desire for us. We are not meant to be and to do everything in this life. Investing in ourselves isn’t a one-time activity, but rather an ongoing journey that we consciously undertake in life. The sooner we understand this, the quicker we can narrow our focus. It’s good in a way because then we can channel our efforts on a few areas where we can make our greatest contribution and be the best we can be in terms of our character. Simply knowing what we do is not enough; knowing why and how we do things gives context and meaning to everything we do.