Discovering yourself - Ellen Vrana

  • Content & PR team - MBAtious

    Ellen Vrana is a former management consultant with McKinsey & Company. She left in 2010 to hike the 2,300 mile Appalachian Trail, across the United States. Ellen did her AB History from Harvard and MBA from Stanford. She now lives in London as writer. She publishes weekly on her blog The Runcible Goose and is working on a book.

    Here are a few thoughts from a fellow self-discoverer.

    Don't assume if you know yourself you will spring out of bed every day with a plan.  They are not the same thing; one is self-intimacy, the second is self-inspiration.  They are correlated, but not synonymous.  I don't want to burst your bubble but knowing yourself does not mean you'll find self-inspiration.  Not automatically, that is.  That also takes work.

    Self-discovery is a never-ending journeyYou can begin, you can go forward, but you'll never arrive.  Nor should you, who you are at 25 is not who you will be at 55.  But if you start this journey you will always be further along than if you never did.  The key is to find tricks, questions and methods that keep you trying to understand yourself, throughout your life, no matter how you change.

    The only way to really know yourself is to spend time with yourself. A lot of time.  Alone time.  Get out there in nature or somewhere quiet.  Sit, meditate, look in a mirror.  Face yourself, do not let yourself hide or be distracted.  Do this for as long as it takes.
    Ask yourself tough questions fundamental to who you are:

    • Do I need someone else to make me truly happy?
    • Do I want to make money, how much, when?
    • If I didn't have to make money, what would I spend time doing?
    • When do I most respect myself, when do I least?
    • Do I care what others think? 
    • What do I want others to think about me?
    • What does failure mean, what does it look like?
    • What kind of behavior, if I saw it in others, would repel me?
    • What kind of behavior would attract me?

    And so on, I bet you can think of many more.
    I cannot say this enough: Do not lie to yourself.  People often cannot move forward because they are stuck between who they are and who they want to be.   Do not answer what you want to be, but who you are.
    Accepting who you are does NOT mean you cannot change, it means you know where you start.
    If you cannot answer a question, that's ok.  Maybe you just haven't had the right experiences.

    Be ready to make a change.  If you are not finding yourself in what you're doing now, do something completely different.  Yes, quit the job, move cities, travel for a few months.  Do something bold.  What is it worth to you to not do this?  Security? Money?  Time?  Are those really more important than self-discovery?  Only you can answer this.
    Finally, rest assured, most people do not know themselves to the degree you think they do. They just grip whatever they are doing and ignore anything else.  Or they project what they do know to others, but never mention what they struggle with.  People are very good at putting on fronts.  I imagine people around you think you're doing the same thing.
    Good luck.  Can't wait to hear what you discover, I'm sure it will be amazing.

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