“Pause. Take a look inside and see what you can learn about yourself, from yourself, for yourself.” This is the advice I just gave to my son, then I challenged him to be my test subject for the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide. I challenged him to disconnect from his external sources of learning and spend a week studying only himself, nothing else.
My son is a voracious reader. He loves ideas and plays with the conceptual frameworks for examining the world that he learns from other scholars and experts in various fields. He is inspired and excited by how much there is to learn and humbled by how much he doesn’t yet know. Although since he has acquired so much information from his reading and listening (to books on Audible and podcasts) he’s realizing that he is neglecting reading and listening to himself and his own life. He spends more time learning from others than he does from himself. He reads mostly about what others think and writes less about what he thinks.
So I challenged him to be my test subject for the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide. I challenged him to disconnect from his external sources of learning and spend a week studying only himself, nothing else.
“Why?” he asked me, “Why should I study myself? Every time I look for myself, I realize there isn’t one,” he said to which I replied,
“You’re not looking for a self. You’re looking at this human being that is you, to describe yourself in writing as best you can at this point in time, using the five parts of the Self Study Wheel.
See what you can learn from understanding your own attention by observing it using the activities in the Self Study Guide. Write everything down in your wisdom and wellness journal. Take the personality test in the self awareness section and write about your habits and patterns of behavior using the journal prompts. Do the activities that ask you to assess your self-talk. Watch how you respond to problems or fears or discomfort and be specific about what they are and how you coped (or failed to) with them– in writing. Keep track of both the relatively routine decisions you make throughout an hour and about more significant choices throughout your week as part of the fourth part of the Self Study Guide. And finally, practice the open and vulnerable mindset of a learner– examine yourself and consider your experiences as teachers from whom you shall learn. Again, write everything down!”
He said, “Okay. This reminds me of what my therapist told me to do. He said to keep a journal and practice mindfulness meditation.”
“Yes,” I replied. “Study yourself non-judgmentally to learn, and for no other reason. Just keep track of what you notice. At the end of the week, you can review all the activities and see what you know that you didn’t before or that perhaps you were wrong about.”
“It seems like a lot to observe. So many activities and so much writing!” he said.
And I said, “Yes, there’s a lot to learn because there’s a lot to being human. There’s a lot to being you. You’re complicated. But you’ll be less a mystery to yourself, if you explicitly try to understand who you are by looking at what you’re paying attention to most, putting attention inward to understanding some of your habits, likes, dislikes, and your personality type, and seeing how you respond to challenge and how you make choices.
Did you react rather than respond to various stimuli in your environment? Did anyone or anything in particular get under your skin or push one of your sensitive buttons? Write about it! You are not accountable to me. You are only accountable to you. So enjoy the process of getting to know yourself as well as you can. And then rinse and repeat for the rest of your life.”
Self Study is reading and writing about yourself and your life experiences. Writing is a tool to see what we think, process our emotional experiences, and use reflection and imagination to create new ways of interpreting our experiences. Our mind is a powerful tool for what we manifest in our life. We’ve got to see what we think by writing everything down and sorting through it to make sense of ourselves. Reading, listening and writing are crucial language arts skills that will help us become more literate about ourselves.
So, as I advised my own son, study yourself as much as you study the work and ideas of others to gain more and more wisdom (not just smarts) and optimal wellness. You’ll be glad you did and amazed by just how much you will learn about the person you think you know pretty well but who you can always come to know better.