“Know Thyself” is one the most ancient and relevant adages for people to contemplate and act upon in the age we live. Multiple sources indicate that ancient Egyptians originated the concept. (Asaf Braverman, History of Know Thyself, 2018) Socrates, and Plato after him stated that “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
It is probably elitist in some ways for me to spend as much time as I do involved my development of personal awareness. Lots of folks have to work multiple jobs, parent children, confront prejudice in all of its forms, enjoy recreational endeavors, battle addictions, and accomplish countless other human activities. And, Socrates was no wealthy man, elitist professor, dazzlingly handsome, or popular hero. He was a complicated sage. I rationalize the time I spend as soil for becoming a better priest & person.
In contemporary and adaptive terms, personal growth and the exercise of leadership requires observation, analysis, and interventions. There are lots of perils and opportunities in becoming more wise and honest about myself. Such wisdom requires experimenting with my beliefs and behaviors. I have to discover new ideas while casting off habits, memories, and assumptions that are no longer accurate or beneficial. Walking The Wisdom Way means adjusting to life over times, building positively upon past experiences, transforming assumptions and values, and maturing into a self-aware and compassionate adult.
Lots of folks want the world to change, including me. Such transformation begins with one’s self rather than someone or something else. It requires faith, loss, and a devoted practice of living a life with a open heart, persevering soul, and embodied sense of purpose. Anyone who calls themselves an expert should heed Socrates’ teachings regarding ignorance. (“I do not think that I know what I do not know.”)
I started following the School of Life on Twitter a few months ago. I learned of the school after hearing Alain de Botton speak. I was inspired as I listened to de Botton‘s On Being conversation with Krista Tippett . They spoke about The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships.
De Botton said a couple of things back then that I still try to put into practice. First he said: “The Ancient Greeks had a view of love which was essentially based around education, that what love means — love is a benevolent process whereby two people try to teach each other how to become the best versions of themselves.” He also said that there are three keys to living into a truly loving relationship. Those keys are: 1.) Be Empathetic, 2.) Manage your emotions rather than letting them manage you, and 3.) Set aside the bad things in order to observe the good things. (De Botton, On Being Project Conversation, Feb. 2017). I understand him to say that you (or I) can’t love someone else without, once again, knowing yourself (or myself) and being comfortable with who were are as well as who we desire to be. Many weeks I take three steps forward and two steps back in my own life’s process. Sometimes vice versa.
So, I take advantage of many tools from a variety of sources. Some are Psycho-Spiritual such as Bill Plotkin’s weekly Soulcraft Musings. Plotkin’s musings provide me a reminder that my life has ecological and earthy rather than egocentric and mechanical roots. I also read Richard Rohr OFM‘s Daily Meditations. Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation provide resources espousing an alternative Christian theology that is rich in Franciscan heritage. I like their focus on connecting my contemplative life with ethical actions with myself, beloved people, and the world. And, I check in with my personality by engaging my Enneagram preferences each day. I tend to be a 6; yet, I have strong 2 and 8 aspects too. I receive an Enneagram Institute Enneathought email message every morning. All of these ruminations are thrown into the hopper of the time I spend studying scripture, mediating, and praying, working with a Comprehensive Resource Model therapist, and sharing my deepest desires fears, hopes, and confidences with a couple of Anam Karas who I love and who love me.
Another fun thing I do every now and then is a pull a card out of the School of Life’s
“Know Yourself” box. Each of the cards prompts the reader to answer a question. What happened in my childhood that shapes who I am today? If I wasn’t afraid of failing, what would I endeavor to accomplish? Identify a few key moments of failure in my life. What did I learn from those experiences that I have or should be applying now?
Earlier this week, I pulled out this card. What are four adjectives I would use to describe myself. I’ve jotted those adjectives down. Then, as the card suggests, I asked three of my best buds to choose four adjectives they would use to describe me. I invited them, along with myself, to choose one adjective that is a “growth edge.” I’m imperfect and I have much to know about myself that I don’t appreciate. My ego can hack it. I also need reminders about the skills and joy I offer people and myself.
This exercise is a spin off of the popular Johari Window. It’s fun! Simply reveal something about yourself you believe to be true. Then, invite others to share their perspectives. You can ask friends, families, co-workers, dates, strangers, anyone depending how trustworthy you deem them to be and how much vulnerability you’re willing to accept.
Just because you think something is true about you doesn’t mean it is necessarily so valid. Just because someone characterizes you in a particular way isn’t absolute either. On the other hand, coming out from behind yourself into a conversation opens you and another person(s). into being more authentic and willing to grow. That’s very helpful when there is so much fake news, unannounced sharing of personal information, and genuinely misguided egoistic and sinful behavior going on these days.
If you’d like, you can offer me three or four adjectives that you would use to characterize me based upon my blogging. Just comment below…. . I trust your intentions will be pure of heart. (FYI – I’m not receiving any compensation for these recommendations :-))