During the process of becoming more self-aware, we progress from realizing our values toward using this knowledge to decide not only who we are but what we want to do with our lives. In establishing our goals or purpose in life, it’s crucial to be our authentic selves, remembering that we’re unique and free to reach our own conclusions, despite any undue influence from our families and friends. Although they may have our best interests in mind, they’re not walking our journey or seeing things through our eyes. They’re not as qualified as we are to know what’s best for us. Further, we would be wise to ignore the negative comments from unsupportive peers who are likely unenlightened, stuck in a static place, cynical, or envious of our efforts to find meaning and happiness.

 We are all enough just as we are, though a purposeful life inherently requires change and growth. While we can have change without growth, it’s impossible to have growth without change. A healthy curiosity and a desire to learn are life-affirming traits. It’s our most natural state of being to grow into the person we want to be. It begins with the first step. Tony Robbins, one of the most inspiring leaders of our time, who wrote the book Unlimited Power, said, “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”

 While you may already be content with your life when you set out to establish your goals, you’ll benefit most if your mind is open to new ideas and perspectives. A wise person once said, “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you are not going to stay where you are.” This can allude to your acceptance of the inevitability of change. Or it can suggest dissatisfaction with your current situation or position in life.  

 If you’re discontent with your life as it is now, becoming self-aware allows you to examine why you feel unhappy, unsatisfied, and restless for change.  People often feel this way when they’ve outgrown their current circumstances. When a lobster outgrows its shell, it breaks free and grows a new better fitting one. So with human beings, we need to evolve, and this means casting off restraints that are no longer useful to us.

 Our feelings may entail some degree of anger toward whatever or whoever seems to be holding us back. Anger can actually be a motivating factor in deciding our values. For example, as women we might feel anger at a culture that allows discrimination. In particular, we might be angry with a boss who harasses us. This anger can consume us if we remain subservient to anyone who bullies us or makes us feel inadequate—even if we pretend things are OK.  It’s only when we take positive action and set achievable goals that we begin to free ourselves from the toxic hold of others’ attempts to control us to their advantage, as well as our own reluctance to change, which stems from our fear of the unknown.

George Bernard Shaw wrote, “You see things and say ‘Why?’” But I dream things that never were and I say ‘Why not?’” To reach your core values in creating your goals, you need to change your negative thoughts into positive ideas.  In others words, become part of the solution, rather than a victim or a passive part of the problem. Instead of accepting things as hopeless, ask yourself, for example, “Instead of enduring discrimination, why not 1) find a better job? 2) become an entrepreneur? and/or 3) help further equality for all men and women? Self-awareness is an amazing process of realizing that you can make your dreams reality, but only if  you’re willing to do what it takes to make them come true. This can’t be accomplished overnight.  Start to do what you can each moment toward achieving viable goals and moving toward your dreams.

Philosopher Eckhart Tolle who wrote The Power of Now said, “Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.”

 Gloria Steinem, known for her wit as well as her leadership in the women’s rights initiative, gave Tolle’s statement a twist in saying, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”  Ultimately, we need to empower ourselves.

Mary Kathryn “M.K.” Jones