“Know thyself” –Socrates
Socrates was a smart man… and no doubt a fan of inward reflection.
The Third Step to Bliss is having the ability to look inwardly.
While it is great to live in the moment, it is equally important to have an understanding of how your life has come to this point. Some people like to gloss over the past and pretend pieces of it didn’t happen, and others like to dwell in the past and relish in having “reasons” for why things aren’t working out in their favor. But, both of these practices are unhelpful for creating a blissful life because neither help you to gain the wisdom that comes from understanding how events in your life came about. Inward reflection isn’t about creating excuses, but rather taking the time to understand your life and self on a greater level through self-examination. Then once you understand why something is the way that is it and what actions lead to it occurring, you have the power to create more or less of it in your life.
Let's make this real.
Take out a piece of paper and a pencil. We are going to write down who we are, so that we can better understand where we are coming from. Inward reflection can be difficult, but the knowledge you gain through understanding the "what" and “why” of your life is invaluable. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross - the world famous Swiss American psychiatrist - put it beautifully, "People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within." It's time to discover your light. I've always loved asking why. I was one of those kids who asked a million-and-one questions about “why this?” or “why that?” I most likely drove my mom crazy in the process, though she always provided me with the best answer she had because she knew that my curiosity for the world around me would provide me with an understanding that was necessary for my growth. Likewise, having a healthy curiosity for 'self', that which makes you you, is important in order to gain the realization necessary for your personal growth.
As with any step to a blissful life, come from love...
When you take the time to reflect on yourself, come from a place of love and acceptance; though also come from a place of honesty and truth. As much as we like to pretend that our feelings and thoughts are a mystery to even us, we each hold the truth to most questions concerning the two. If you allow yourself the opportunity to ask yourself uncomfortable questions and are honest with your responses, you'll have all you need to gain a deeper understanding of what you really want out of life and what really matters to you. You are the only one who will be seeing this list (unless you choose otherwise), so what do you have to lose with expressing your truth? Don’t let fear stop you from expressing what needs to be expressed. So, grab a piece of paper and answer these few questions for yourself:
Who am I? What makes me unique or special?
Who in my life do I care about the most? and why?
How am I perceived by others? Is this perception true to who I want to be?
How do I want to be perceived and what can I do to be more like the person I believe myself to be?
How to I react to disappointment or failure?
How do I react to things that I don't understand?
How do I show myself love?
How do I show love to others?
What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
What would I do with my time if money wasn't a constraint?
What are my biggest regrets?
What brings me bliss and happiness?
What am I motivated by?
What do I want out of life?
When do I feel the most bliss and peace of mind? When do I feel the least?
When was the last time I felt happy and content?
When was my last random act of kindness?
Finish this sentence: In my dreams, my life looks like...
What can I do to work towards that dream?
Once you have answered these question for yourself, look for the overriding themes.
What do you see? Who do you see? Do you see someone who is courageous, that doesn’t hold anything back? Or do you see someone who has let fear stop themselves from doing or saying something that needed to be done or said? Do you see someone who avoids the tough questions, glosses over the ones that are a little less comfortable to answer? Or do you see someone who can’t find anything to better about themself? What do you want to see? What influences your behavior? Is it your spouse, family or friends; your religion; your fears; your past; your pursuit of happiness, love, beauty, acceptance?
If you’re like most people you are a combination of a lot of things. Sometimes you can be brave and outgoing, almost fearless… and other times and in other situations you feel powerless and a lack of control. Sometimes you may do something solely because it is what you want and you know that it’ll make you happy or maybe even a better person. And other times you may do something for the benefit of someone else for whatever reason. Though know that this is everybody, it’s normal to be both brave and scared. However, what I’ve learned and what you need to remember is that it’s not about how brave or scared you felt in the moment… it’s about what you did with that feeling. Did you accept the fear and take the figurative leap anyway? Or did you let it stop you from going for it?
After you have taken the time to think about who you are and what influences you, the second part of your inward reflection is to think about what you are grateful for. Think about the people, situations, and things in your life that you are thankful for and create a Gratitude List. In this list try to be specific; why are you grateful for that particular person, place, thing, or situation? Throughout the year feel free to update this list and continually practice the act of gratitude. It’s easy to take for granted the things in our lives that we’d usually miss the most if they were taken away from us. It goes without saying that this is because reliable things tend to not let us down, and therefore, just become another part of the norm. Like the sun rising, or the moon going through its phases. We don’t think or worry about these things happening because it is in our past experience that the sun always comes back at the beginning of a new day and the moon continues to go through its cycles regardless of our actions.
When we take the time to acknowledge the things in our lives that have become as reliable as the sun and moon, so to speak, we gain a deeper appreciation for them having been there and a realization that we are much luckier than we tend to realize.