The last couple of years for me have been a journey to better understand my thoughts, motivations, desires, beliefs, and assumptions. I began working on self-awareness after I realized that I did not fully understand the world and what was happening around me. Podcasts helped open my eyes and helped me see that there were many things that I was ignorant of and viewed from only one perspective. From that realization I began to see the importance of self-awareness. I have continued to make self-awareness a major focus in my life, and Marcus Aurelius echoes and guides my thoughts and feelings of reflection in his collection of writings Meditations.
“Those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy,” Marcus Aurelius wrote in regards to self-awareness. By not focusing on ourselves and by not looking inwards, we are allowing ourselves to move through life without guidance and direction. The way we think about the world and our position in the world is something we can change and control, but it is also something that can move and fluctuate on its own if we are not careful. Aurelius is encouraging us to master our thoughts and explore those parts of us which make us who we are.
A powerful metaphor that I came across to better explain the importance of self-awareness and reflection came from a young author named Paul Jun. In his book Connect the Dots, Jun described the following metaphor. Think of self-awareness and focus like a flashlight in a dark room. Your flashlight can illuminate a certain space, and the more narrow the focus of your flashlight the clearer the item you shine it at becomes. But while you are focused in one area, everything else is obscured. When you begin to take a step back and shine that flashlight at a greater area you will see things that were hidden before.
For me, this idea of self-awareness and shining a flashlight of focus on areas that had been dark to my conscious helped me better understand many of the expectations and pressures that I lived with. I thought deeply about what my ideas were regarding success, and where those ideas came from. I thought about what I expected myself to do as part of the identity I had developed for myself, and I thought about why I had those expectations. Through a journey of self-awareness I was better able to understand my own morals, values, and principles which gave me the ability to see what things fit in with who I wanted to be and allowed me to act accordingly.