The Path to Self-Discovery
Article by Keith J. Carlson
There are certain key questions you need to ask yourself, should you truly decide to follow the path to self discovery. Some of them are easy questions. Many of them are more difficult. Once you understand and accept the difficult ones, the easy questions become much easier. In retrospect, they seem like questions that were answered before they were asked.
1. Are you willing to abandon your comfort zone?
Regardless of whether you are happy, complacent or depressed, you have a comfort zone. You have certain people and things that you have come to rely on and often take for granted. Even a person who makes you miserable, who destroys your confidence and self-image, becomes a comfort zone because of the human addiction to familiarity. In order to truly travel the road to self-discovery, you must be willing to lose or abandon all the elements of your comfort zone. To follow the path, you will come to realize what it is that you need and what it is that you merely want. Situations and elements of your life will change in their definitions. Some will hold you back. Some will lose their meaning. To travel you must be strong, and strength comes from the ability to walk a tightrope without a collection of safety nets. Many things in our lives are just that, safety nets. We become nervous without them below us, but we do not need them.
2. Are you willing to redefine yourself?
Beyond the comfort zone is the definition we have given ourselves. To go on a road of self discovery, you must be willing to redefine and allow yourself to change and evolve. Any of the standards and judgments you have placed on yourself must now become negotiable. Who you are, what you planned to do with your life, your standards of success, your beliefs, even your sexuality and relationships with people will come into question. You cannot truly follow the path of self discovery if you are going to anchor yourself to learned beliefs and self-image. You must be willing to accept change. The anchor helps to keep us moored, but we do not need it.
3. Are you willing to go where you never have gone, or where you feared going before?
When you first begin to follow the path of self discovery, you will find yourself facing things that you would rather shy away from. They may seem foolish, ridiculous or dangerous. If your inner self calls to you to follow these paths, you need to follow them, in order to understand and translate them. If you limit what you are willing to do and experience on the road to self discovery, you will not get very far. You must abandon fear, or at the very least learn to control it. Bite down and go for it. Fear acts to protect us from harm, but we do not need it.
4. Are you willing to lose everything?
Are you strong enough may be the real question. My own journey of self discovery began with suicide and became necessity rather than a choice. Even when you think you have nothing, you eventually realize there are things you came to rely on. A good friend, a person you love so deeply it hurt to be away from them, a favorite meal, a car, an apple tree... it doesn't matter, there is always something you don't want to lose. You will lose it. You have to go into your journey realizing and accepting of the loss. To go on this path you must be willing to destroy yourself and life as you knew it in order to go beyond. You must be strong because everything will start changing and you will not be able to keep up with the changes until you learn how to slow down.
5. When you lose yourself, will you be able to find yourself again?
You will lose yourself on the path. You will lose yourself many times. You will forget who you are and who you were. Memories will become like strange lessons and at times you will feel oddly detached from things that once meant a great deal to you. This is the re-interpretation. In order to survive on the path, you will need to re-interpret everything you have learned and come to believe in. You must be willing and able to re-interpret. This will hurt. It will hurt a lot. Then, one day, you will come to appreciate the pain. You will crave it and you will know that it is the teacher. Loss, defeat and suffering will become your friends. Once this happens and you are able to interpret all the new information, you will have become stronger than you ever imagined possible. Once you have truly discovered yourself, no one can ever take it away from you again.
The further you go, the more difficult it becomes, but also more rewarding.
This was a very deep and interesting article. Helpful in soul searching and times of forced change and healing.