“People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates.”
–Thomas Szasz

Socrates postulated that true wisdom and the process of knowing the self begins with humbly admitting to yourself that you know not who you are. If that is the case, it is logical to stretch that truth across time, reaching the conclusion that you know not who you could have been in the past, but even more importantly, you know not who you could be in the future. Herein lies a great hope for many.

The future is yet unshaped, it is we who shape it. Nobody has ever experienced or lived in the future, it is a wild, uncharted territory eagerly beckoning to those willing and able to tame it into submission. What proof, then, is there that a better grasp of the self helps in molding the future positively? The answer lies in a quote by Marcus Aurelius, “Examine men…even the wise.” From the gladiators and emperors of ancient civilizations to the global CEOs and athletic icons of the modern world, a quick perusal of history will reveal that the vast majority of the highest-performing characters in history are people who have worked on and continue to work on discovering and mastering themselves.

How then can self-discovery help us smoothen the uncertain path ahead? The first thing to note is that life is imbued with suffering. It is an existential crisis, and no one is exempt. A critical difference between those who succumbed to life’s vicissitudes and those who emerged victorious is that they were able to reach inside themselves and know themselves considerably—their wants, needs, limitations, and capabilities. Building on that foundation, they then proceeded a step further to recreate themselves in a fashion that was in accordance with the goals they had set for themselves.

Everything is constantly in flux. One size does not fit all. To paraphrase James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, progress requires unlearning and relearning. Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to ultimately upgrade and expand your self-identity. It is at this point that some people will default to debating the best strategy for knowing the self without ever actually taking an active step in the right direction. Marcus Aurelius says, “waste no more time arguing what a good man should be, be one.” A good man knows himself or is actively learning to, you should too. For those who feel they must have it all mapped out before they start, a quote from the meditations of the legendary Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, once again applies. “Begin – to begin is half the work, let half still remain; again begin this, and thou wilt have finished.”

Self-discovery is a continuous journey that certainly cannot be completed in one lifetime but if you make a conscious effort towards it constantly, you have no idea how much you could improve on your current self. Like James Clear stated clearly in his book Atomic Habits, “If you get one percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done”. Armed with this knowledge, I hope that you make a conscious effort to begin the process of self-discovery and that you subsequently begin to recreate yourself in a manner that aims for a judgemental ideal.

“I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.”

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