Learning About Yourself

Looking in the mirror is the best place to start to learn about yourself.



In this clip from Stargate he says, to plot a course you need 7 points; 6 points for the destination, and 1 point for the origination.  This is a true statement.


In order to plot a course we need to know where we are.  And the more precise you know your exact location, the more precise will be your path to your destination.

In physical terms, because of GPS, we can know very precisely where we are.   But, in personal, emotional, interpersonal, and family terms it is much more difficult to know where you are; precisely.  What makes it even harder to know where you are, is that it is very hard to stay exactly still.  As Alice discovered in Wonderland, we often change more than once every day.

While finding your precise location is something we should do all the time throughout our entire life it is very hard to do.  Even so, it is a necessary goal if you want to be successful.

Learning about yourself is a constant and lifelong effort!





What’s Actionable in this Section:

  • Provide Skills to help you learn more about yourself.




Who Are you?


The question the Who ask is “Who are you?”

Do you know?  Do you really know?

Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland spent some time talking about how difficult it sometimes is to know who you really are because we change so much in our lives.

I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”  Lewis CarrollAlice in Wonderland

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.

 ‘Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation.

Alice replied, rather shyly, ‘I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’

‘What do you mean by that?’ said the Caterpillar sternly. ‘Explain yourself!’

‘I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, sir’ said Alice, ‘because I’m not myself, you see.’

‘I don’t see,’ said the Caterpillar.

‘I’m afraid I can’t put it more clearly,’ Alice replied very politely, ‘for I can’t understand it myself to begin with; and being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing.’

‘It isn’t,’ said the Caterpillar.

‘Well, perhaps you haven’t found it so yet,’ said Alice; ‘but when you have to turn into a chrysalis — you will some day, you know — and then after that into a butterfly, I should think you’ll feel it a little queer, won’t you?’

‘Not a bit,’ said the Caterpillar.

‘Well, perhaps your feelings may be different,’ said Alice; ‘all I know is, it would feel very queer to me.’

‘You!’ said the Caterpillar contemptuously. ‘Who are you?’

Which brought them back again to the beginning of the conversation. Alice felt a little irritated at the Caterpillar’s making such very short remarks,

and she drew herself up and said, very gravely, ‘I think, you out to tell me who you are, first.’


Classic Jefferson Airplane


Be Honest with Yourself – The First Step in Figuring out Who you Are

Figuring out who are are is easier for some then others.  I don’t know why this is.  Is it “nature” or “nurture?”  Are some born with the capability to be honest with ourselves?  Or are we taught how to be or not be honest with ourselves?  Or is it a combination of nature and nurture?

There are many that believe they know exactly who they are. There are many that have no clue who they are.  But, I would think, for most of us, it is a combination of the two.

I would think on average, most of us have a pretty good idea of who we are.  That is why, on average, we go through the day with an average amount of problems.


Frieda Kahlo as an Example of an Honest Self View

Take a look at the photo and the self portrait of Frieda Kahlo below.

Check out the little mustache and the eye brows.  Both are things most women would want to hide.  But not Frieda.  This is honesty.

To see yourself as the world sees you is an important element to success in the world.  This is not to say that how the world sees is is actually correct.  This is only to say that you need to be honest to see yourself as the world sees you.  And if you know that the way the world sees you is wrong, then you can work to change their perception.

If the world sees you as short tempered, either the world is right and you are short tempered, or the world is wrong and you are not.  This is where honesty comes in.  You need to understand why the world see you that way.

If you are a politician or a celebrity, you can blame the media for the world not having an honest view of you.  But, for all the rest of us regular folks, the media is not to blame.   We are responsible for the way the world sees us.

I wonder if that is true.  If you are Black of African Descent are you responsible for how others see you?  If you are short are you responsible for how others see you?  If you are fat, bald, bi-polar or any other trait are you responsible for how the world sees you.  Not necessarily!  But, you still have to be honest with your bi-polar behavior, or that your are bald.



Keep a Score Card as a Way to Learn about Yourself

These are just a few examples of how we keep score in Sports.  Sports is obsessed with keeping score.  We do it for obvious reasons. We want to measure performance.  We want to learn about the players so we can make decisions.

We also track business performance.

Your employer keeps a score card on you.  Your customers keep a score card on you.  Your friends and family keep a score card on you.  So you should to.

Keeping a Score Card on all our decisions and actions is a great way to learn about yourself.

The advantage sports has is that most of the tracking is objective.  An out is an out.  A hit is a hit.  A completion is a completion.  In our personal lives keeping score is much more difficult because it scores are much more subjective.

Never-the-less, it is critical you keep score.



How to Keep Score on Yourself

The first thing to do is be honest.

In order to help you be honest I recommend you keep two sets of records; one set based on your perceptions, and the second set based on others perceptions.  If the two sets of records differ significantly you have a huge problem.  If your perceptions differ from everyone else’s then chances are your perceptions are wrong.

The next thing to do is keep track of your successes and your failures.  For example, I am trying to lose weight.  I have failed.  I have not only not lost weight, I’ve actually gained weight.  This goes on my score card as a failure.  Of course, I am have not tried that hard to lose weight.  So, how much of a fail?re is it.



Using the Learning Process to Learn about Yourself

In the section on Learning, I laid out a 5 step learning process.

This process can and should be your guide to help you learn about yourself.


 Step 1 – Have a Clear Idea of what you Want to Accomplish.

This step is actually pretty hard to do.

What is your goal?


If you are reading this I hope your goal is to learn everything you can about yourself, warts and all.

One of the things they say about Freida Kahlo is her honesty in her paintings.


Executive Function


A key aspect to making good decisions is a thing called “Executive Function.”  The Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders describes “Executive Function” as:


“a set of cognitive abilities that control and regulate other abilities and behaviors. Executive functions are necessary for goal-directed behavior. They include the ability to initiate and stop actions, to monitor and change behavior as needed, and to plan future behavior when faced with novel tasks and situations. Executive functions allow us to anticipate outcomes and adapt to changing situations. The ability to form concepts and think abstractly are often considered components of executive function.”[1]


The reason this is important here is that it helps describe the skills needed to make good decisions.


What is Executive Function?


“Executive Function” is a term used to describe a set of mental processes that helps us connect past experience with present action. We use executive function when we perform such activities as planning, organizing, strategizing and paying attention to and remembering details.
People with executive function problems have difficulty with planning, organizing and managing time and space. They also show weakness with “working memory” (or “seeing in your mind’s eye”), which is an important tool in guiding one’s actions.
As with other manifestations of LD, disorders in executive function can run in families. Problems can be seen at any age but tend to be increasingly apparent as children move through the early elementary grades; the demands of completing schoolwork independently can often trigger signs that there are difficulties in this area.


How Does Executive Function Affect Learning?
In school, at home or in the workplace, we’re called on all day, every day, to self-regulate behavior. Normally, features of executive function are seen in our ability to:


make plans

keep track of time

keep track of more than one thing at once

meaningfully include past knowledge in discussions

engage in group dynamics

evaluate ideas

reflect on our work

change our minds and make mid-course and corrections while thinking, reading and writing

finish work on time

ask for help

wait to speak until we’re called on

seek more information when we need it.
These skills allow us to finish our work on time, ask for help when needed, wait to speak until we’re called on and seek more information.


Problems with executive function may be manifested when a person:


has difficulty planning a project

has trouble comprehending how much time a project will take to complete

struggles to tell a story (verbally or in writing); has trouble communicating details in an organized, sequential manner

has difficulty with the mental strategies involved in memorization and retrieving information from memory

has trouble initiating activities or tasks, or generating ideas independently

has difficulty retaining information while doing something with it; e.g., remembering a phone number while dialing.


How Are Problems with Executive Function Identified?
There is no single test or even battery of tests that identifies all of the different features of executive function. Educators, psychologists, speech-language pathologists and others have used measures including the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (Berg, 1948), the Category Test (Reitan, 1979), the Trail Making Test (Reitan, 1979), and the Progressive Figures and Color Form Tests (Reitan & Wolfson, 1985) to name a few.  Careful observation and trial-teaching are invaluable in identifying, and better understanding, weaknesses in this area.


What Are Some Strategies to Help?
There are many effective strategies one can use in when faced with the challenge of problems with executive function. Here are some methods to try:


General Strategies


Take step-by-step approaches to work; rely on visual organizational aids.

Use tools like time organizers, computers or watches with alarms.

Prepare visual schedules and review them several times a day.

Ask for written directions with oral instructions whenever possible.

Plan and structure transition times and shifts in activities.


Managing Time


Create checklists and “to do” lists, estimating how long tasks will take.

Break long assignments into chunks and assign time frames for completing each chunk.

Use visual calendars at to keep track of long term assignments, due dates, chores, and activities.

Use management software such as the Franklin Day Planner, Palm Pilot, or Lotus Organizer.

Be sure to write the due date on top of each assignment.


Managing Space and Materials


Organize work space.

Minimize clutter.

Consider having separate work areas with complete sets of supplies for different activities.

Schedule a weekly time to clean and organize the work space.


Managing Work


Make a checklist for getting through assignments. For example, a student’s checklist could include such items as: get out pencil and paper; put name on paper; put due date on paper; read directions; etc.

Meet with a teacher or supervisor on a regular basis to review work; troubleshoot problems.


The Bottom Line
The brain continues to mature and develop connections well into adulthood, and a person’s executive function abilities are shaped by both physical changes in the brain and by life experiences, in the classroom and in the world at large. Early attention to developing efficient skills in this area can be very helpful, and as a rule, direct instruction, frequent reassurance and explicit feedback are strongly recommended.[2]


Communication Quotient


As important as Executive function is, communication abilities are more important.


The work on Collective Intelligence[3] is on the right track.


Type talk at work.


Skills to learn about yourself


Skill #1 – Be Honest with Yourself

I have said this throughout this book, you need to be honest.


Skill #2 – Don’t judge yourself relative to good or bad/right or wrong.

It’s not about bad/good or right/wrong. When we get in to judging ourselves, it stresses us out. When we begin to realize this concept, we begin to be okay with ourselves.

Ex: I am messy, I procrastinate, and I am loud sometimes. I am also a loyal friend, nice to people, and funny, and that is all okay.


Skill #3 – Look at what you do when no one is watching.

This is a very good way to learn about yourself.  What do you do when no one is watching you or asking you to do something.



Skill #4 – Look for Congruence between your thinking, feeling, and behavior

Work on finding your identity. Identity is a tricky thing. people who are impulsive with their behavior do not necessarily honor who they really are. They are frugal on Monday, shopping up a storm on Wednesday, guilt ridden on Thursday, frugal for the next three weeks, and then on and on. The key here is to have congruence between your thinking, feeling and behavior… so that they match. Pay attention to the three interlocking parts of you.


Skill #5 – Ask those around you

Ask 2 or 3 people that you TRUST to say what they see as your strengths and weaknesses. Remember that this is THEIR perception, not the truth. Sometimes it is helpful to see what we project onto others. It may not be who we really are, but it might be spot on, though.

Ask a couple people that hate your guts the same question! You will be going into it knowing you might get blasted, so you will be prepared, in a sense. What you learn will be more useful, even if you are able to reject 100% of what they told you, which you ultimately won’t.

People who don’t care for you will give you the “unvarnished” truth; recognize that they most likely have only seen your less attractive facets, and what they tell you is not all you are. Your simple “thank you” in response to their answer will…ha; have a profound effect, most likely.




[1] http://www.minddisorders.com/Del-Fi/Executive-function.html

[2] http://www.ldonline.org/article/24880, http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics/ld-aamp-executive-functioning/basic-ef-facts/executive-function-fact-sheet


[3] http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~cfc/Woolley2010a.pdf