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The Self-Discovery Digest

by Elizabeth and Katherine Hirsh
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November 2008 Archives

Many of the things that make us feel good come from others:

• Affection from a spouse/significant other
• Support from friends
• Praise from a boss or colleagues
• Recognition for special talents and qualities
• Compliments from those we admire

While these are wonderful things, relying on them to make ourselves feel worthwhile and happy can be a risky proposition. Relationships break up, friends move away, jobs end, special skills become obsolete. Even if we are fortunate enough to have these things remain constant in our lives, sometimes those around us can’t or don’t appreciate our worth, contributions, or unique beauty. If we wait for validation from others, it might not come.

But we can increase our sense of well-being by taking charge of our joy. This is one of the most empowering self-discoveries – happiness can be within our grasp if we choose to reach out for it. We can be thankful and experience gratitude for what is within our control and influence. With this in mind, here are a few simple things that make the two of us smile and remind us to be grateful:

• Appreciating the beauty of a sunrise or sunset
• Choosing to wear a favorite color
• Calling an old friend and catching up
• Dining by candlelight regardless of occasion
• Dancing and singing to cherished music
• Baking cookies
• Reading aloud to a child
• Saying “yes� to things we want and “no� to things we don’t

We found that just constructing and reflecting on this list made us feel more refreshed, more optimistic and more thankful. And we can assure you that doing these things is even more powerful and fun than thinking about them. Imagine how making time in your life for small joys could increase your happiness. Stop and make a point to take advantage of nature’s splendors – revel in a crisp winter snowfall, say a word of thanks out loud for a beautiful sunset. Proudly wear your favorite color.

Plan an evening with friends, make time for those relationships that might be neglected, do something nice for those who have been a constant presence in your life such as taking your spouse out on a date. Enjoy a candlelit dinner, even if the food is humble, and you are dining solo. Play that music you love. Bake some cookies or buy some and warm them up in the microwave to get that fresh baked feel. Visit with a neighbor child, see your niece, grandchildren, etc., or consciously spend more quality time with your own children.

Do things from a foundation of enthusiasm and joy rather than obligation – say “yes� to an outing with someone who inspires you and “no� to a demanding relative. Immerse yourself in small pleasures that are easily within your reach and we think you’ll find that life’s frustrations fade and their power to upset you is diminished. You’ll be grateful you made the choice to nurture your own happiness and foster the Thanksgiving spirit in your everyday life – why limit the appreciation celebration to just one day?!

Self-Discovery Tool Number Two
How might noticing what brings you happiness help clarify what you can do to create a more joyful life? Make a list of things that bring a grateful smile to your face and commit to doing one or two of those things in the next week. Share your list and your commitments with us, share them with others.

If someone were to ask you to describe yourself, how would you respond? If you are like us, you might start with facts about your roles and relationships.

Thus, we might begin by sharing that we are:

• writers
• sisters
• residents of St Paul, Minnesota.

If we wanted to refine this definition of who we are, we might mention that we:

• have advanced degrees
• have training in psychology and education
• help facilitate peoples’ personal and professional growth.

If we stopped there, you would have discovered a little something about who we are, but it would lack a certain depth. Further, rattling off these facts does not require self-reflection. Self-discovery, the topic for this blog, is about seeking to define ourselves in terms of our motivations, beliefs and values. And while factors such as place of residence, career background, and gender certainly play a role in shaping aspects of who we are, they are only some of the many influential factors.

The approach in our posts will be to examine ways of discovering what makes each of us tick as well as what might keep us going. Our aim is to share methods that can be used to explore what makes us unique, what brings us joy, and what makes us feel fulfilled – things that reach deeper than what might fill a resumé, loan application, or birth certificate.

We tend to think that self-discovery has to be the by-product of some momentous change or life-altering event, and sometimes this is the case. However thinking of it in those terms may preclude us from taking advantage of the opportunity to grow from day-to-day life. Instead of waiting for or needing the “big event," join us to explore how everyday moments can evoke realizations about what matters to us. With this spirit in mind, try out the self-discovery tool below.

Self-Discovery Tool Number One
How do you define yourself? When you think about the phrase, "It is important to me that I am…," what are the key words that come to mind? Generous, playful, and forthright? Responsible, kind, and efficient? Share your thoughts with us.

About This Blog/ger

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In The Self-Discovery Digest, HirshWorks partners Elizabeth and Katherine Hirsh will feed you a healthy portion of ideas, resources, and support as you explore what’s out there for you – the exciting possibilities for growth and development – and recognize what’s already there within you –your hopes and dreams, your knowledge and abilities, your aspirations and ideals.

HirshWorks consults with individuals, groups, teams, and organizations to improve performance and increase personal and professional satisfaction and development. Both partners are internationally respected experts on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI® tool), and have consulted with individuals and organizations locally, nationally, and internationally. Elizabeth Hirsh is a consultant and counselor who has been involved in consulting, career development and coaching, and MBTI® tool training during her career. Katherine Hirsh is a cognitive psychologist who has been involved in university teaching, faculty development and coaching, and MBTI® tool training during her career. She currently teaches life skills workshops in LearningLife.

(MBTI®, Myers-Briggs®, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® are trademarks or registered trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries.)