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Don't fool yourself, know yourself

I find it rather easy to fool myself about some pretty basic things. For example, I espouse the values of physical fitness and a healthy diet. I even enjoy an occasional walk around the block and a salad (low fat dressing, please). But you won’t find me at the gym. I am fooling myself when I say physical fitness is important and then don’t model what it means to be physically fit.

The opposite of fooling yourself is knowing yourself. Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, is credited with challenging his contemporaries using the words “Know Yourself”. This challenge has rippled across the centuries since 400BC and is still a popular maxim in 21st century thinking. He was right; absolutely right. The better I know myself the better I am at living a meaningful life. The more self-aware I become the more difficult it is for me to fool myself.

In Western Society there is a tendency to underestimate the importance of self-awareness. Why? Because it is difficult to attain and requires persistent struggle on almost a daily basis. Is this an exaggeration? Not really. Warren Bennis, the leadership expert, says “it is still the most difficult task any of us faces. But until you know yourself, strengths and weaknesses, you cannot succeed in any but the most superficial sense of the word.” This is a powerful statement and I believe Bennis was serious when he said it.

There is Biblical support for the life long quest towards really knowing yourself. Proverbs 20:27 (NIV) instructs that “the human spirit is the lamp of the Lord that sheds light on one’s inmost being”. The New Testament echoes the same theme asking the question in I Corinthians 2:11 (NIV) for “who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them?” These words reveal the reality of what it means to be fully human and are of particular interest to the person on the journey towards self-awareness.

So, I challenged myself to come up with 3 primary ways I intentionally pursue the challenge of Socrates to truly know myself. I’d like to share them with you.

1. Worldview

A worldview is simply a person’s view of the world. My worldview is my bedrock understanding about reality. It is the fundamental commitment or orientation of my heart that serves as the foundation for how I live my life. I understand that I hold a Christian theistic worldview and I can explain it to others. What is your worldview?

2. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking has been described as ‘thinking-about-thinking’ in the sense of a critique. It is an intentional, exploratory mental practice that endeavors to improve the thinking process. I practice critical thinking to search for hidden assumptions that shape my beliefs, values, and actions. When I think critically I often discover alternative answers to problems that are challenging me and holding me back from achieving success. Are you a critical thinker?

3. Values

My values are instrumental in helping me make decisions. Knowing myself and my values defines what is really important to me. My core values are like a compass giving me ultimate direction. They do not change depending on circumstance. My value system simplifies the choices that I make on a daily basis. Knowing myself and what I actually spend time doing defines my real, lived out core values. Do you know your core values?

In conclusion, the journey toward knowing yourself is a life-long exploration. Let’s make 2016 an intentional journey down the road that leads toward an ever increasing self-awareness.


Originally posted at

Paul Greasley, Ph.D.

#consulting #discipleship #leadership #ministry

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