RHG Magazine March 2022 | Page 27

Spring Forward in Self-Knowledge

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring


Gandalf speaks these famous words in response to Frodo’s lament that the times they are living in feel heavy and the task before them burdensome. The wizard’s words are at once matter-of-fact and heroic for they insist that one must rise to the challenge of one’s time.


And so, it is with us as we begin a new year in the midst of difficult times. The last two years have brought us a global pandemic, racial division and hurt, political upheaval, polarization, travel bans, institutional shutdowns, economic instability, and religious suspicion. Just this week all the Starbucks in my state closed their indoor seating again, as if to remind us that, “No, we’re still not over this thing, yet.” It all leaves us feeling in a bit of a fog. On the whole, we’re muddling through but we’re still feeling a bit adrift. The New York times called it languishing – the feeling of stagnation and emptiness. Person after person that I talk to is feeling it. 


So, in the midst of all that, how do we have hope or set goals for a new year? Will it be more of the same? How do set intentions when so much of life feels out of our control? The answer: we need to embrace a personal path toward flourishing. That might look different for each of us but it’s the next step we need to take so that we can do more than just survive another year. 


The good news is that the scientific evidence is in our favor. God created our brains with neuroplasticity – we have the ability to adapt and form new pathways. Furthermore, numerous studies reveal simple activities that can lead to marked improvement in overall well-being. There is hope! We can flourish even in the midst of difficult circumstances!


I believe that the most helpful one is self-examination or self-awareness. In a nutshell: you need to assess yourself. I have heard it said that self-knowledge is the gateway to almost all life-change. It opens up opportunities for transformative growth by allowing us to pursue inner-work. 


And such inner work allows us to ask the right kinds of questions in order to better orient daily practices and regular rhythms into our lives. 


For example, how do you know if you’re languishing, flourishing or somewhere in between? 


Will practicing more solitude help you flourish or hurt you? How do you know? Should you set a goal to learn to say “no” more often or should you get moving and say “yes” to more things? How do you know? These things are made clearer by more accurate self-awareness. What works for one person in this season, may not work for you. To borrow from Aristotle, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” 


The goals you choose to pursue and the daily practices you want to implement to help you flourish in 2022 will ultimately say a lot about who you are and what you want from life. Self-awareness is a critical first step in your dreaming and goal setting in the coming year. You really need to know yourself before you can choose the goals you want to pursue. 


The journey to self-awareness can take several different avenues. It usually begins with becoming more mindful in our everyday. And as you do, it is crucial that you learn to listen attentively to what’s happening beneath the surface with curiosity and kindness, not judgement and shame.


How can you begin to be more mindful? Simply asking yourself can be an effective tool. Another tool I have found to be incredible helpful is diagnostic assessments. My favorite is the Enneagram, it is a personality theory that yields self-awareness by providing a window in yourself. It does so by looking past behaviors to the motivations and fears beneath those behaviors. Just taking the assessment is a helpful practice but utilizing the information it gives is what unlocks the true beauty of who you are.  (If you’d like some coaching in how to use this powerful too, you can find me at www.theartofyou.us.)


Other helpful tools practices are engaging in silent meditation, deep breathing, or other meditative activities. Things like walking, sewing, painting, listening to music, and journaling are all powerful techniques for calming the mind so that you can hear your emotions speak. 


Whatever avenues you choose, the crucial part is that you learn to listen attentively to what’s happening beneath the surface without letting your mind suppress or distort what emerges. Then use that information to help you set goals that will move you out of languishing into the space of flourishing – no matter what is happening in the world around you! 

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