One of the most important things I have learned so far in life deals with self-discovery. I’ve learned that understanding what you don’t want is just as important, if not more important, than knowing what you do want.
This is true because time is the most important thing we have in this world. If you know what you don’t want, you no longer have to spend time on it. You can put it behind you and move forward with less clutter.
This gives you better focus when figuring out what is a fit for you and also gives you a comparable base when determining whether to spend time on something. This ideal works for careers, people, partners, you name it.
For example, if a job offer is too much like the last one that you hated, then don’t waste your time entertaining the offer. If your last partner was satin’s spawn and you see the same warning signs in this new partner, steer clear and do some self-reflection.
But Why Is This Important?
Self-discovery is a lot of trial and error.
Understanding what you don’t want puts you that much closer to uncovering your perfect fit.
It is a simple process of elimination, but under the assumption that those things eliminated serve as reference points.
For example, take me during my junior and senior years in high school. Like most people during that age, I was in a cycle of confusion. I was lucky enough that while in high school, I realized the importance of understanding why I disliked certain things. I had started to keep track of what I liked and disliked about certain experiences. This methodology quite literally changed the trajectory of my life over a summer.
Here is how.
A Story On Self-Discovery
I originally wanted to go into law, so I spent a summer volunteering at my local government center with their victim-witness advocacy department. But after I completed the internship I realized studying law was not for me. I did some digging and found out that I wanted to work in a career that was more proactive and versatile.
I wanted to create and innovate and what I was seeing every day in the office and courtroom was not where I envisioned my time being spent.
This led me to seek out opportunities that prompted me to lean more into my proactive and dynamic nature. I was embarking on self-discovery.
Amazingly, I ended up latching on to my macroeconomics course during my senior year of high school and started researching more about the world of business.
I found it proactive since a good business should be looking to handle problems and serve needs before they surface. And I found it versatile because business can be found in every aspect of life. So, I decided to make it my intended major for undergrad and I later discovered that I indeed had a passion for it while in college.
A Change Towards Self-Discovery Was Made
Throughout college, I kept practicing the methods of focusing on what you don’t want and why. It helped me realize that marketing was not for me. It helped me take the risk of studying abroad in Japan and Spain. Most of all, it helped me uncover the career that checks all the boxes for my values and career wants. All of this has happened because when I realized I didn’t like something, I took the steps to understand why.
Therefore, I could only remain in confusion if I am not taking the time to understand what I don’t like. If I move away from the negative experience without understanding, I don’t have a comparable base to determine if the new experiences will be any better. And because of that lack of understanding, I might have added a year, even 2 years, to my expected college graduation date.
Don’t let the lack of understanding keep you in a perpetual state of stagnation. You can only improve your selection if you understand why others are not fit.
How do you make sure to understand the “why” in not liking something?
The answer is Self-reflection. Self-discovery comes with self-reflection.
What I mean by self-reflection is taking the intended action to understand why something works for you or why it does not.
For me, self-reflection takes the form of journaling. I have a journal where after each new experience, whether it be traveling, a new class, video game, book, whatever, I write what I liked and disliked. I check back with my past writings and see if there is overlap. The truth is, there will eventually be overlap.
We as humans are creatures of habit, and we innately like the same things. So, if I love comedy and sci-fi, I will most likely like most things that are comedy and sci-fi. The same goes for our experiences, goals, and aspirations. If I enjoy business and what it has to offer, there must be characteristics about myself that fit with that culture. These are the types of questions that you need to be asking yourself.
You Decide On Your Journey
Now it is up to you to decide what form your self-reflection should take, but keep these two questions in mind:
So, even if you don’t know what you want to do in life, keep experimenting. When you find that you don’t like something, that is alright. Focus on answering the two reflection questions above and you will start to build that comparable base. If you don’t find what you want to do the first few times, you at least know what you don’t want. By default, you are now closer to finding what is right for you.
What are your thoughts? How are you managing your self-discovery journey?
Best of luck adulting!
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