Thursday, 8 March 2018

Knowing your 'True Self' and finding your purpose


I’m not gonna lie, I hear the word “Mindfulness” and my mind instantly flicks to images of yoga retreats in the mountains and whole-food dinners on Instagram. It is something that I have always associated with them unattainable lifestyle blogs, and never with me. It wasn’t until I decided I wanted to write a series of posts helping you guys transform your lives that I realised just how important mindfulness can be, and how it is something we all practice to some extent in our lives already. What’s even better, it is a skill we can practice that makes navigating through our hectic life easier (without becoming a slightly hippy-ish cliché).

So, recently I have had a lot of time on my hands to think. I decided I wanted to write this blog series on how to transform your life and find balance during this time, and spent several weeks researching and planning for these posts. There will be 10(ish) posts in the series full of information and activities for you to get involved in and, although they do follow a vague order, you will be able to dip in and out of them as you fancy. I am using my experience and knowledge of working with children in care to write the advice in these posts, but still need to make the disclaimer that If you are dealing with serious mental or physical health issues the advice within these posts may be unsuited to you and your needs - Please go and seek help from a professional or visit your GP. This being the first post, I’m focusing on the importance of knowing your true self before you try to make changes.

Kate loves blog - Mindfulness - True Self


By developing a true understanding of who you are, and what makes you tick, you begin to make better decisions on everything from small things like what to have for lunch, to big things like where you want to live. The problem a lot of us face is that we never take the time to sit and reflect on ourselves and learn who our “authentic self” really is. We effectively float through life making decisions based entirely on what is expected of us by others, or what we see those around us doing – which is part of the reason people say that we are a sum of the people we spend the most time with. You may find you get no real joy from your achievements or feel out of place in a position you have worked hard towards, because it is something that means nothing to you and your values as an individual.

I am as guilty of this as everybody else. All the way through my childhood I was very academic, and I thought the harder I worked then the more likely I would be to get into university and get a job that I wanted. I drifted into my A-level subjects, taking topics that my friends were taking, or that I thought looked easy. Because I was not passionate about the subjects I went from attending meetings about going to Oxbridge in my first year, to attending what had been my 5th choice “backup university” studying Psychology. I loved the experience of getting my degree and being a student and it is something I would not change for the world, but I would have made different choices had I been encouraged to actually reflect on what I wanted or to find my ‘authentic self’ rather than just applying because everybody else was.

Knowing how to discover your true self is a challenge. Not all of us can afford to have a gap year to “find ourselves” and it can take a lot of time - especially as you need to think of not only every area of your life how it is now, but also how it has been impacted by your history, choices, and relationships up to this point. I was incredibly lucky (if you can call it that?) and had two months that I was unable to work. I had a lot of time during this period to sit and contemplate just about everything.

Take stock of where you are
With a focus on the things in your life that you would like to change, have a think about where you are right now, and what set of decisions lead you to this moment. Notice during your thoughts that some decisions you have made in this area will have worked well for you, and others will not, and contemplate what has influenced your decisions in these areas.

There are many factors that can influence our decision making as we go through life, including our physical and mental health at the time of making the decision, our relationships with others, the expectations of our families and cultures. By becoming more aware of the things that may sway our decisions we can be more in control of whether we are making the decisions for our own needs, or for others.

What do you enjoy doing?
What are you passionate and interested in?
What do you want to try?
Who do you enjoy spending time with?
What time of day do you feel most motivated?

Most importantly… why?
It is these questions that make us all individuals and influence the ways our minds work. By finding what activities give us energy we understand what makes us happy.

Read books & take personality tests 
It seems almost too obvious to read about different personality traits and behaviours when you want to discover more about yourself.It is important to take what personality tests reveal with a 'pinch of salt', most are designed for a UK/American culture so may not be relevant if you are from a different culture, they're also usually trying to reduce the billions of people in the population into a limited number of 'categories' so you may not find a description that fits you perfectly. My favourite books for this are The 5 Love Languages and The 5 Personality Patterns.

Pay attention to your strengths and weaknesses
We are all completely individual and have our own strengths, weaknesses, and passions to bring to the table. By increasing our awareness of these things about ourselves we can use them to identify things that may make us happy, as well as things that may block our path to success. Think about the tasks that you are most likely to avoid, or jobs that you never quite get around to completing, and see whether they link to your weaknesses, or if they have a common pattern in them. People tend to avoid doing things which would mean putting themselves in a situation where they have little control, which is exactly why people avoid doing things that involve a skill that they aren’t good at.

Once you have identified tasks you avoid, or skills that you are not as competent with, you may be able to see ways that your strengths can compensate and help you in completing the tasks. You may decide to get help with your weaknesses. You may decide to abort the task completely and focus on a different area with your goals – It is completely up to you, but you should have more of an understanding of why some things always feel like an uphill battle to you when others seem to find them a breeze. A really good book to explain this concept is bestselling motivational book Eat That Frog!

Listen to your self-talk
“If you think you can or whether you think you can’t you’re probably right” – Henry Ford

I have always been a firm believer that when we are talking about ourselves, we tend to be our own worst critic - however if we talk to ourselves as we would speak to our friends or family we are much more supportive and understanding of our own needs. Easier said than done, trust me, I know. Try to listen to the way that you are thinking about yourself, and for every negative thought you have, try and think why you believe it, and then think of three positives in its place.

It is also worth noticing how your internal voice reacts to the environments and people that you are around – If your first thought when thinking of seeing a particular person or about going to work is a sinking feeling of dread (beyond the usual Monday blues), then maybe there is something about that situation that you need to avoid. Maybe it is a person who doesn’t value you, or a workplace that doesn’t motivate you, it is worth investigating why you have these feelings before you set your goals. 

Focus on what makes you happy
I found that after years of pursuing goals that I had drifted into I was no longer sure what I actually enjoyed and what I didn't. I used the time that I had to try out a few new activities, and read a lot of posts from other bloggers about how they found their passions and what they had done to find what they loved. If I'm honest, I spent a lot of time doing a lot of things I was not passionate about and smiling at people as I pretended that I had enjoyed their events before I found anything that I wanted to do again, but then I also got to meet a lot of very interesting people along the way who suggested more things for me to try and expanded my horizons. 

As well as trying new things, I was looking backwards. I tend to focus a lot on my hobbies when I was a child, because that is the period of my life that I was most comfortable in being myself. (lets face it, not many of us look back and want to change who we were as a child before we began to be concerned with other people's influences). When I had been young I had been very active, participating in several different sports and being very sociable. I picked out a few activities that I had enjoyed and found taster sessions in my area, I also looked to get back in touch with some people that I had lost touch with from this period of my life. 

Mindfulness isn’t a hippy term for meditation and detoxes, it quite literally means paying attention to how different activities and factors influence our wellbeing and how we feel, and the effect of each decision on your feelings of happiness. You can review your feelings and reasoning behind every decision within your life, from what to have for lunch, to whether you wish to go for a job. By focusing on how your choices make you feel, you will eventually be more competent in understanding what we truly want, and what actions we can take to help us feel more content and less stressed in our lives. 






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2 comments

  1. This was a really good post, thank you so much for sharing these tips and also your experiences. I've also started going for things that I enjoyed doing as a child, like drawing and writing, but it's kind of hard to balance that with school and studies Dx at least I know what I enjoy doing- even if I don't manage to find time for it :(
    Kanra Khan

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  2. Thanks Kanra! I really struggle to find time for everything I want to do too, it's a constant battle between things I 'have to' do, things I 'want to do', and actually getting enough rest :( This may end up being a future post... x

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