“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”
I remember the day I realised I was on the wrong career path. I was in my mid-20’s and had been working in the corporate sector for a few years after studying marketing and public relations.
Until then, I thought my ideal career was being a corporate PR person for a global resources company. I went for lots of job interviews and ended up working for a national energy company.
As I look back now, I smile at my twenty-something self. Not because I didn’t have the opportunities to pursue that ambition, but because it just wasn’t me. I was still working out who I was and what I really cared about.
My ‘aha moment’ happened at the end of a two-day career development workshop that my company organised. It was an intensive two days of self-awareness exercises – identifying our key strengths, core values, interests, personality type, skills, and beliefs.
To be honest I didn’t love the process. It required lots of introspection and it wasn’t quite the break from work I had in mind! But I showed up and what I discovered about myself was gold.
I discovered I cared more about the welfare of people than the goals of a big business. I discovered I feel most fulfilled when I align my business ‘bent’ with my empathy for people. I always knew I was a compassionate person but I hadn’t realized how deeply motivated I was by this value.
It was a defining moment for me. I came away knowing what mattered most to me and the direction I needed to go in. I knew I needed to find a cause.
An opportunity came more quickly than I was expecting. The next step meant taking a risk and stepping away from my corporate job. It wasn’t easy, but with my new understanding about myself, I had more of the courage I needed.
I truly believe that knowing yourself is the starting point to finding purpose.
I sometimes wonder how long that discovery would have taken me without that company workshop!
I think we often avoid self-reflection because it’s not a comfortable process. It requires slowing down and connecting with our inner world. It means consciously setting time aside to do the work.
It means reflecting on who you are, but also accepting who you’re not and that can leave us feeling vulnerable. But opportunity awaits. And opportunities are easier to recognise when you know what makes you tick.
Becoming self-aware is an ongoing process. Whatever season of life you are in I encourage you to take time to self-reflect. It may be attending workshops and retreats, reading, praying, doing self-assessment tests, journaling, getting counselling or asking a mentor for advice.
Self-awareness is an individual journey, but not a solitary one. We need others to speak into our lives and help reveal the parts of ourselves we don’t see. We need others to challenge us, encourage us and to remind us of who we are when we lose our way.
For me, it’s now 16 years on and that revelation about myself hasn’t changed. Give me a humanitarian cause and I come alive. But there’s been times when it’s been a bit foggy. I’ve been overwhelmed, discouraged and doubted myself.
I’ve needed to dig deep and remember who I am and what my strengths are. I’ve needed the perspective of people who cheer me on and ultimately, I’ve needed the perspective of my Creator who knows me and gives me purpose.