Ways to learn more about yourself:
Knowing yourself deep down is not a luxury or exclusively for the touchy feely folks. If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, you need to make the effort to do this. If you do it your way, you can have fun at it. Here are some options:
- First…let’s start with the obvious: This is what Supercharged Retirement was written to do. Get the book–either from Amazon or the library (or a bookstore, but they will order it from Amazon). Or at least go onto Amazon and use the “Look Inside the Book” option to get a sense of what’s in it. If it’s not for you, move on to a different technique.
- Just ask. Make a list of open-ended questions and answer one in writing every day. (An open-ended question can’t be answered as “yes” or “no.”) When you finish the list, go back and answer them a second, and maybe third, time. Do this without looking at previous answers. When you have a full set with multiple answers for each, look at what you wrote. Are your answers the same each time? If not, what made them different? What were the surprises? Do you have new questions you want to explore with yourself? Do you like what you learned? If not, why not? Is there something you want to do about that?
- Find a different book. This works better with a paper book. Choose the general topic you’re interested in exploring…nonfinancial retirement planning, self-awareness, creativity, personal goals, heart’s desires, whatever. That puts you in the right place in the bookstore or library. (A secondhand bookstore works fine, too.) Or if you had a specific title in mind, look for that book. But also pay attention to what’s near that book on the shelves. Be aware of what catches your eye. Select the book that draws you to it.
- Then read it. Notice what you like about that book. Notice what you don’t like. If there are exercises, do them. If you want to do them differently than directed, fine, but do them. Pay attention to other books mentioned in that book. Find those if they appeal to you. Each one of the books you read offers ideas. At the same time, it’s giving you practice sorting–choosing what you like and don’t like. “Do I like these ideas? Does this perspective work for me? Do I even agree with what’s being said? What might work better?”
- Go for a walk. Alone. Preferrably in good weather, so you can concentrate on your thinking rather than getting out of the wind/rain/snow/heat. Before you set out, come up with at least one question to ask yourself as you walk. It can be ask specific as “What part of my life up until now did I like best–and how can I recreate that?” Or “Of all the things I’d like to do, which one makes me happiest thinking about it?” It can even be “Where do I start with this?!” Walking seems to loosen what’s stuck mentally. Be creative with what you decide to use as that “walk,” too. It can be a one-mile loop in your neighborhood (or one block if that’s all you can handle physically). Or it can be hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail. Your call.
- Read and then cut up the newspaper--or a magazine. Use something paper–because the cut-and-store process can be more mindless. It doesn’t have to be current, but it does have to interest you at least casually. Snip things you find interesting and stash them in a folder, shoebox, whatever. Cut out specifically what catches your attention–ads, sidebars, a small piece of an article (or all of it if you can’t bear to lose any of what’s in it). Try to include just the part that interested you if you can. After a month of doing this, pull out your undisturbed stash of clippings and see what you’ve collected. What areas of interest and patterns do you see? What of all that you collected makes you excited? Hungry for more of that topic? If you don’t learn anything new, try it again–but with a magazine you would never dream of opening as ordinary reading.
- Find a professional. This does NOT have to be a mental health practitioner, though that’s one option. Your best insights might come from working with a good life coach. If you know people who have used the kind of resource you’re considering, ask them how it worked for them. Ask them for referrals if they thought it was worthwhile.Shop for this person. The chemistry has to be right to have it do any good.
- Find a seminar or weekend retreat. Sometimes, you need to go whole hog and all-at-once. If this is tends to work for you, see what an online search comes up with or start asking friends who’d do it that way. DO NOT spend huge sums of money on this unless you have strong proof that it’s worth it. Online hype is treacherously grandiose about mediocre stuff. Also, avoid the seminars put on by financial firms. Yes, you need a goof financial plan for retirement. But this is entirely different and focusing on it from a financial perspective will keep you way short of what you need to know about yourself.
- Go out in left field. Do something you would not ordinarily consider if what you’ve learned isn’t enough. Ask a friend to give you questions to answer. Talk to a friend about what you want to know that you’re having trouble accessing. Keep your radar on for stuff that shows up on buses or in other ads. Look for a different kind of professional. Go for a drive and see where the car goes when you aren’t deciding rationally. Give yourself room to get beyond your ordinary thinking.
- Above all, KEEP GOING!