Aristotle once said, ‘Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom’.
Our personal and professional selves are more integrated than most people would like to think or admit, one impacting the other. During my presentation at the Forum, I enlightened everyone on ‘The Iceberg of SelfKnowledge’ where aspects of ourselves such as gender, ethnicity, physical features and certain personality traits are all obvious aspects of who we are, but below the iceberg where personal ambitions, motivation, intentions, perception, values, attitudes, beliefs, talents, strengths, to name a few, are self-knowledge that may not be as obvious to some of us, without some deep diving into the past and reflecting on our current states of being across different areas in life.
These fundamental but often overlooked elements of ourselves pave the foundation for our understanding in pursuing purposeful work and projects, meaningful relationships and social networks, and applying our strengths and best attributes to every aspect of our lives, realizing our full potential while also recognizing where our time and energy can be best spent.
You may know what motivates you and what your non-negotiables in life are, but do you know:
A few significant areas I feel important to comprehend, as they regularly surface with clients, including myself in the past, is the connection between our upbringing and our cultural conditioning and how they have shaped the person we have become. Often, in my private work, once clients gave a glimpse of their personal history, some of the common issues such as low esteem or need to control (often reflected in the way we parent or lead), perfectionism, high expectations of self and others, ineffective communication habits, attitudes, or high needs for external validation, etc. comes to light.
Recently, two female clients came to me for career coaching. Both were encountering crossroads in their careers, confused and dissatisfied with their direction in life and also questioned if they wanted to remain in Hong Kong (having only been here for a short period). They each lacked knowledge about themselves or knew where their strengths lay, making it challenging for them to know the work they want to transition into. Without this fundamental self-knowledge, any decisions around work or personal pursuits would not be sustainable.
One gal was unclear about her values (guiding principles for our decisions and choices) and felt she was not honest with how she felt towards her personal and professional dissatisfactions. The second client had a habit of making rational decisions about the type of work or education upgrade she wanted to pursue, not certain of the reasons behind such options. This is common in individuals with a high need to accomplish, which she also admitted to. For many, tackling random goals do fulfil such a need, albeit briefly, before their goal-setting obsessions kick in again wondering ‘what’s next?’
The initial part of the sessions with both clients above, based on a pre-session questionnaire they each filled out identifying a topic they wanted our session to focus on, led to my curiosity to want to understand the environment in which they grew up in, family dynamics, major events in life, and a brief sharing on the journeys that have led each of them to their current place in life, and their reasons for wanting career changes. One shared her upbringing in a traditional immigrant Asian family in a western society with high expectations of children for achievement and the geographical moves she has made in recent years. The other client grew up in a broken home with emotional issues transferred from a primary caregiver, with nobody in the family currently speaking to each other, parents or siblings. An obvious desire in career change brought out other issues that needed to be sorted out first, getting clear on her value set and her lack of self-belief and direction. These types of cultural conditioning and personal events have major impact resulting in a host of issues spanning ineffective communication habits to the way we lead others at work, trust and relationship issues, and our self-belief.
Self-knowledge could simply be information we have learned about ourselves through reflection or shared by others. Self-understanding, however, is making connections between this knowledge and the past or current events in our lives and making meaning of their occurrences and how they might be linked to our personality and behaviour, and using such insight to make leaps and bounds in life to reach our goals and
Below are only a few of the benefits I have gained from my own journey of self-discovery, and also witnessed others in gaining:
A better relationship with self Become a better model for my child and those I have influence over Sustainable career and life choices Build Confidence & Strength Less Self-Doubts Congruency and alignment between all roles in life
There is no right time when one should start their self-discovery journey. Sometimes we have no choice when pushed against the wall. Usually
When we are confused and lost in life, missing clarify of direction.
• When we tend to job or relationship hop, an obvious sign that we do not know what we want. There is a difference in wanting to build skills and grow and living situations every time we are dissatisfied.
• We are not attracting (jobs, friends, situations) that align with our values or energy.
• When there is a repetitive occurrence of undesirable incidents, an examination of the way you do things (including hindering personality traits) would benefit from the exercise.
Whether you self-coach or seek external assistance through life’s challenges, you will still yield results. It is a journey that we need to be patient with and not be rushed through. Our lives evolve infinitely and improvement is continuous. Progress is key.
Ken W. is a British born fitness manager I met many years ago at a club in Hong Kong where I was a member. Married young, the responsibilities of a young family with children set him back on his opportunities. He felt he could be more. This was his view on what coaching was and how it could benefit him.
‘I was looking for an unobtrusive, non-judgmental discussion leading to the realization of points for action. I see a coach as being someone who is there to help an individual to understand a side of ourselves that often cannot be accessed alone, a reflection tool for understanding our past and allows me to banish all self-imposed limitations. Another recent client, whom I will call RM, shared the value of understanding the connection between her upbringing and her current situation. ‘It has become more apparent to me that my upbringing has had an important impact on how I view myself and the world outside of me. I have learned that it is important to look back on our childhood and heal from cultural impositions. Though emotional, I think being open and honest about my experiences has made me realised that I need to make some changes in my life. I am committed to not hold onto beliefs that no longer serve me.’But Coaching is only one method to gain deeper knowledge about ourselves, getting in the habit of daily or regular self-reflection, seeking constructive feedback from others, using personality tests or psychometric, and self-awareness work are all workable approaches.
The most important person we need to befriend in life is ourselves, though many people are fearful of looking inward or to reflect on what holds them back from achieving the things they want in life or attaining personal effectiveness. Our willingness to look ourselves in the mirror and commit to making changes takes courage and commitment. Avoidance weakens our ability to be strong and in becoming a better version of ourselves. Have the courage to recognise our strengths, navigate through our inner demons, and work on the weaknesses that hold us back. The hard work will make your proud and the inner strength helps build the resilience you need to weather all storms in life.