Recently, I read a book about discovering your “true self” from spiritual guides Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and Mother Theresa. The title “Becoming Who You Are” caught my attention. I’m totally a sucker for catchy book titles.
Do you know who you are?
I mean, really know? Most of us don’t. Being an overachiever I often define who I am by what I do.
My default is to see myself more as a human doing rather than a human being.
The Trappist monk Thomas Merton calls this your “false self.” Too many of us hide behind the false selves of achievement and status because we are afraid for the world to truly see us for who we are. People might not like us if they really knew who we were.
For most of this year, I’ve been practicing the ancient spiritual disciplines of silence, solitude and contemplative prayer. In my quest for my “true self”, I’ve begun to appreciate and accept my personality (both strengths & weaknesses) and move closer to God’s picture of who I truly am.
My belief is that once you know you who you are, you will know what to do. Even when selfishness, pride, fear, and circumstances make it difficult to do so.
Doing flows out of being, I like to say.
Maybe you can relate.
Right now, there’s probably a gap between your true self and your false self, between your being and your doing, however, there is something you can do to narrow the gap.
All of us, I hope, is becoming truer versions of ourselves, those selves that step into the light and do not hide from who we really are.
At this time of year, I set aside time to look back on the year and see how it compares to what I aspired to. I reflect on the past before I put it aside to look to the future.
My pattern is pretty simple.
- Solitude- I get away by myself. Usually at a park or retreat center.
- Silence- I spend the time it takes to quiet the noise in my mind. Usually through contemplative prayer and journaling.
- Walk- I go for several walks to appreciate nature and burn off any anxious feelings.
- Write- I look back over the year and write down the highs and the lows. I observe my thoughts, feelings, and experiences of the past year. I evaluate and summarize any wisdom I’ve gained.
- Examine- I reflect on my priorities, my calling, and goals. I write down my thoughts on how what I’ve done compares to what I set out to do. There’s often a gap between who I want to be and who I am in real time.
- Plan- After all this, I’m ready to look forward and design a life map for the next year. I review my strengths, priorities, and write goals for the next year and quarter.
But to do this well, you need insight. You need a way to recognize your blind spots. Because we as human beings are really terrible at self-awareness, and so we need the voices of others to point out what we’re missing.
There’s always a gap between who I wanted to be and who I really was. I always fall short of what I wanted to do and what I actually got done.
It’s my purpose every year to envision a plan to bridge the two. We must be whole, integrated people in order to best serve our clients.
And finding our “who” — that true self we were meant to be — begins with understanding who we are right now, good or bad, warts and all.
So, I encourage you to take this one small step in narrowing your gap.
Take a quick assessment that forces you to see how you’re doing.
It’s a simple way to get a quick overview of your life and where you may need to grow.
This free assessment will tell you.
If you’re interested, here are a couple of books that have guided my quest to discover my true self: Spiritual Directions, Falling Upward and Open Mind, Open Heart.
If you take the assessment and learn something, please let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear what you learned.
Paul Potter is a physical therapist and mentor who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, who is also a therapist. They have four daughters. For more than 35 years he successfully managed his private practice. He now shares his knowledge and experience through teaching and mentoring therapists who want to launch their own business.
He has authored On Fire: Ignite Your Passion with a Cash Therapy Practice and the Cash Practice From Scratch Course. His website PaulPotterpt.com is dedicated to helping therapists achieve professional and financial freedom. Connect with Paul on his website or LinkedIn paulpotterpt. You can also get more free resources at CashPracticeFromScratch.com.