I started writing last week a new series of articles, out of which I am now publishing part 2 of 4. You may read part I here.
I know this kind of advice, “know thyself”, is very vague as for some people it might mean meditation, traveling around the Earth, or reading the horoscope. What I refer to is none of these, but actually abandoning the idea that you are a victim and get strategic, actionable intelligence about how your mind works and, even better, how other people’s minds work. This can be done through work which can be expensive, in time and money, and you won’t like all that you find. It involves completing extensive personality questionnaires, getting paid interpretations from experts about what are your weak and strong points, your downfalls, and your talents, and reading specialty books about how these work and how to use the information to find your path.
In my life experience and in working with clients, one’s dealing with own self after 360 degrees evaluations and/or psychometric evaluations is usually emotionally consuming, but priceless, because it helps you make major decisions such as in what country/city to work, what to study and what career to choose. Not knowing yourself or delaying this moment means thousands of hours possibly lost doing something you don’t like, or you’re not good at, or not worth your resources.
Some people say “nobody can tell you who you are” and “life experience is best” because “we all have our own lives”. In my opinion, such perspectives may be related to the fact that these people most often don’t like to know the truth, weren’t taught to learn, or have had a lot of criticism around the paths to be chosen, and want to make their own point to growth. This is also a path, one which can build character (the best case), waste a lot of time and opportunities for development, and disrespect the objectivity, professionalism, and life experience of HR profilers. Usually, the parents should be preoccupied during the education of the kids of which would be their strengths and talents, but if they aren’t, the children must be able to trust some sort of authority for career guidance in life.
Learn to learn.
There are differences between growing up, education, and animals’ training, but somehow all these get messed up and mixed up in the process known as “school”. It happens right around the period of time when real learning should happen, preferably through modeling and best through modeling for practical learning and efficient theoretical learning by speed reading, memory techniques, and concentration. Also, lately, in the past decade and even more in the following, most of the learning, modeling, and concentration abilities of kids will vanish before high school.
Of course, you can learn these also later in life, but until then, there is the guarantee that you will get frustrated or traumatized through what is called “formal education”, lose a considerable amount of resources (especially time and money) in bad decisions, inefficient work and limited liberties. I have always considered learning how to learn as the fundamental basis of personal development.
During this period of life, children (or adolescents) should have a balance between their psychological needs for learning, exploration, development and modeling, and their other emotional needs. For example, they must have the freedom to express themselves and play even while making some mistakes without being overly criticized. Learning to learn after high school usually opens up the door to emotional, sensitive traumas connected to inefficient education within the family and/or school system. From my experience, the people who weren’t taught to love to learn and/or who were very traumatized by caretakers, teachers, professors, or colleagues don’t even want to read, and out it goes for the rest of their lives the concept of “personal development”.
Learn to change, starting with what stops you.
This is another seemingly counter-intuitive step, as opposed to concentrating first on your qualities and dismissing your weak points. But now, there have been developed and discovered countless techniques and approaches in psychotherapy and personal development areas (such as schema therapy, transactional analysis, coaching, and NLP) that you can find resources to deal with your problems, no matter how serious they may be. Chances are that if you’re young, your life is not perfect and you’ve had traumas, limiting beliefs, no matter how great the education received in the family was. The longer you waste time avoiding them, not solving them, or fighting with what you don’t like, the harder it will be for you when you fall from the success you try to build for yourself on a house of sand.
If you develop, let’s say (a mere example), your professional abilities but neglect family issues, your performance will at a certain point become limited because of the lessons not learned at the right moment and you will have to go back to a certain level of development to truly accept yourself, unconditionally, with all the terrible issues you’ve been through. The more you prolong this waiting, the more chances are you might lose at least some of what you build on faulty bases. After you know yourself, you have to accept yourself, and then decide what to change, and in what order. This is capital. There is no way around that. Based on how serious your problems are, you might need the help of a psychiatrist, or a psychotherapist, or a psychological counselor. In other, more mild cases, a coach or a personal development consultant can suffice. You can consult with a Mental Health Facilitator to decide. Dismissing this under the rug increases the chances of developing a mental disease later in life.
The parents which want to facilitate their children’s access to change must give them examples of balancing different aspects, contexts, and needs in life, such as that between work and play, between their own needs and others’ needs, between internal and external beauty, between exploring and expressing their inner world and listening and knowing the outer world. This is very difficult and can’t always be obtained because no parent is perfect, but whatever you want to inspire in the direction of personal positive change, must be lived as an appropriate example.
Cultivate your potential through learning and practice.
Most people develop through facing problems, getting kicked in the behind. But the ones who outlive the previous step know the value of orienting oneself towards goals. While or after changing key aspects of your issues, it is worth getting specific training appropriate for your natural talents, inclinations, and gifts. Getting the psychometric evaluations before college helps you choose the right career and prepare for a University which will help you excel. The next step is to study on your own the theory which will help you be a good practitioner and exercise to train your skills and get experience. Knowing yourself also enables you to choose an appropriate job, at the right place in an organization or to choose a niche for your business as a freelancer or entrepreneur. It is worth investing somewhere between at least 10.000-100.000 $/€ for your formal + informal education in the right field for your talents (I am only referring to the University+master period).
Not knowing yourself before studying means risking the same amount or (most likely) more and years of your youth doing something you won’t practice so well later, leading to disappointment, mediocrity, and sometimes big failure. Also, not solving your main inner challenges before or in the time that you’re dedicating cultivating the potential means you will be as strong as your weakest link (which will definitely break sooner or later). Also, as an alternative or a complement to training, you can now learn by reading, watching video seminars, participating in webinars, and especially getting customized consulting, coaching, or mentoring from specialists in the niches you want to model in.
The people who only rely on faculty and job training will be soon replaced by robots and the immigrant labor force in this century. They might also be aware of this too late when it may be too expensive to really change something. I am confronted with this when I talk to people in their 30s or 40s who realize they have chosen a wrong career, and they try hard to perform in a job they hate and they want all the results really fast like I would be supposed to do in a few sessions what they haven’t done in self-knowledge, learning and practice all of their lives. Progress can be made at any age, but harder and with bigger costs (especially time and money) and sacrifices (especially for those who have families).
PS: Thanks to Corina Andreea Popa for the practical suggestions and feedback on this article before publishing.
Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, 2016-present