Develop Insight Into Your Own Life

Developing insight into your own life can make your life more meaningful. It can also help you better understand yourself as a person and others. By studying yourself as well as the world around you, you can discover new truths about your life and identity. Such an endeavor may take a great deal of time and energy, but it will be worth it.


Knowing Yourself

  1. Practice mindfulness. Studies demonstrate that most people have huge blind spots about themselves, their behaviors, and their desires. It is easy to paint yourself as the hero of your own story, but consider what it is that you might be ignoring about yourself. By Practice-Mindfulness-(Buddhism), you can take a look at yourself and your life more objectively.[1] Mindfulness involves two components:
    • Paying attention to yourself.[1] Think about who you are in this moment. What are you thinking about? What are you feeling? How would you describe your behaviors? Learning to pay attention to who you are and what you are thinking at each moment can make you more aware of your emotions and reactions.
    • Observing non-judgmentally.[1] When you have a strong emotional reaction, it can be useful to act as an objective observer of your own behaviors. Is your emotional reaction worth it? Rather than letting your feelings drive your life thoughtlessly, take a few moments to consider where these feelings are coming from and how you should be reacting to them.
  2. Consider how your actions live up to your values. People who are introspective are more likely to behave morally and empathetically. The key is to compare how your behaviors measure up to your core principles. Are you meeting the standards you believe everyone should hold for themselves? Make a list of the qualities that are most important to you in others; then ask yourself how you might be able to embody these qualities.
  3. Resist escapist activities. Many people who are uncomfortable with how they live their lives seek to escape from introspection and self-knowledge. They do this through alcohol, drugs, mindless entertainment, or other problematic behaviors. Don't give in to these temptations. Tell yourself that getting to know yourself is hard work that you must not try to shirk or escape.
  4. Consider who you compare yourself to. When people are trying to learn more about themselves, they instinctively begin to compare themselves with others. For example, someone who has recently changed jobs will likely compare herself both to her new colleagues and to her old colleagues in order to figure out how competent she is. Understand that these comparisons are a normal way for people to develop insight into who they are. However, rather than becoming blindly jealous of those who are superior to you or becoming smug about those who are inferior to you, be mindful about the instinctive comparisons you make. Tell yourself that these comparisons are a more useful barometer of what is important to you than about your actual skillsets.
    • For example, if you find yourself constantly comparing your smaller home to the larger homes of your friends, resist the urge to be jealous. Instead, understand that this instinctive comparison is giving you information about your priorities in life. Ask yourself why you care about the size of your home: do you wish to be more financially secure? Are you interested in growing your family? Or do you wish to be respected by your community? Use comparisons as a source of information about your priorities, not as fuel for jealousy.
  5. Watch a video of yourself. Studies show that the way we think about our internal selves does not always match up with our external selves.[2] As a tool to develop insight into your own life, record yourself speaking or interacting with someone else, such as through a vlog or video diary. Pay attention to your voice, your body language, your intonations, your facial expressions. Ask yourself whether what you see in the video matches your self-conception.
  6. Remember that your life is not static. There is no such thing as a single, unchanging self. Your life will involve experimentation, change, and dynamic interactions with others. Try to keep a healthy balance between staying true to your own values and desires and admitting when these values and desires must change. Try to view personal development not as an obstacle to your awareness of a single truth but rather as a journey to multiple truths and insights about who you are.[3]
  7. Take a personality test. Personality tests help test-takers determine their personality types, desires, and skillsets. There are many different kinds of personality test, though the Determine-Your-Myers-Briggs-Personality-Type is one of the most widely used.[4] The science of personality tests and inventories is shaky, and you should take the results with a grain of salt. However, it is also likely that the results of your personality test will allow you to consider whether your self-perception lines up with the test's evaluation. Did anything unexpected turn up? Have you learned something new about your personality or your self-perception? You can take a personality test for free at many websites.
  8. Meditate. Studies show that persons who train in meditation techniques are more likely to know themselves in a thorough, objective way.[5] Take a meditation course or learn meditation techniques in order to train yourself in self-awareness. If you are not comfortable with traditional meditation, you might also experience a similar benefit from engaging in focused, repetitive activities such as running, biking, or knitting.[6] When you meditate, it is helpful to:[7]
    • Maintain a routine. Meditate at the same time in the same place each day.
    • Keep good posture.
    • Breathe deeply.
    • Shut out distractions, worries, and nagging thoughts.
    • Use mantras in order to keep yourself focused.
  9. Make a list of your life goals. Set-Goals-for-Life are one of the keys to living a happy, satisfied life. People who work hard to achieve goals that are important to them report feeling more content with their lives and are more confident in who they are.[8] It helps to set goals that are positive (such as learning a new skill) instead of negative (such as not failing calculus).[8] In order to make sense of your life goals, do the following:
    • Make sure your goals are achievable and reasonable. Do not make your goal to "become a trillionaire": instead, have your goal be something you can attain in your lifetime, such as to "become more effective at my job."[9]
    • Set a goal that you can control. There are many things in life that are great but also totally outside of our control. For example, a life goal of winning the lottery is not something you can ever control.[9]
    • Think about where you want to be in 5 years. How about 10 years? 20? Feel free to daydream about where you want your life to be headed. Daydreaming is one of the most important tools to reaching a bright future in your life.[10]
    • Think about all aspects of your life. How do you want your career to look? Your family? Your social life? Your personal development? Your hobbies? Don't limit yourself to one particular area of life: think about all of your most important activities.
    • Break large goals down into smaller, achievable tasks. It can be difficult to work toward a vague, large goal such as "becoming my own boss." However, if you break a large goal down into its component parts, you might find that the goal is easily achievable. For example, the first step to becoming your own boss might be to expand your social network in order to develop a potential client base, which is something you can do right now.
    • Develop an action plan. Once you have a sense of the large goals you are working toward as well as the small tasks involved to get there, you can begin to work towards them one-by-one. Challenge yourself to achieve great things, and reward yourself whenever you achieve one of your goals.[9]

Expressing Yourself

  1. Keep a journal. Write-a-Diary can allow you to consider your deepest desires, darkest secrets, and outlook on life. Get to know yourself better by writing your thoughts down every day. Set a timer for 15 minutes, and make sure that you write throughout the entire period. Your journal will be a valuable tool to allow you to develop insight into your current self as well as how you develop over the course of many years.[11] If you find that you have writer's block, consider using a journaling prompt such as:
    • What is the most interesting thing that happened to me today?
    • What did I daydream about?
    • What topics make me uncomfortable to write about?
    • Who are the 10 people I care about the most?
  2. Tell your life story. Our memories often take the shape of a narrative or story, in much the same way that memoirs and autobiographies do. Articulating this life story can allow you to process these memories and make sense out of a great deal of chaotic information.[12] Take a few minutes to think about how you might tell the story of your own life. What memories are the most significant? What life events have shaped the person you are today? What arc has your life taken? Simply thinking about your life story or talking about it with friends is beneficial. However, you might also consider more formal ways to communicate your life story, such as through:
    • Write-a-Memoir or autobiography
    • A photo album
    • A short film
    • A graphic novel
  3. Experiment with your appearance. Your appearance is one of the first ways that you communicate yourself to others. At the same time, your appearance also allows you to gain a better handle on yourself. Indeed, many introspective, reflective people take some time to consider how their self-presentation is related to their values, likes, and tastes.[13] Consider experimenting with how you look in order to understand your own tastes and, by extension, your own life. You can:
    • Wear a color you've never worn before
    • Experiment with a Choose-a-Hairstyle
    • Consider getting a tattoo or piercing
    • Try to find a fashion or accessory designer you admire
    • Remember to take standards of professionalism into account when you experiment. Some workplaces forbid visible tattoos and facial piercings for example.[14]
  4. Learn an art form. Many people are able to learn about themselves by engaging in some kind of Find-a-Hobby. By making beautiful works of art, you come to know your own preferences. At the same time, you are honing a skill that might allow you to tell your own story more effectively.[15] Consider taking a class at a local arts studio if you are a novice. If you already practice a craft, be sure to take time to work on it every day. Some arts and crafts you might consider are:
    • Sculpting
    • Painting
    • Creative writing (poetry, fiction, or non-fiction)
    • Blogging
    • Photography
    • Dance
    • Woodworking
    • Pottery-throwing
    • Gardening

Reaching Out to Others

  1. Cultivate strong relationships. You do not exist in isolation: who you are as a person depends in large part on how you Have-a-Healthy-Relationship, especially those who are closest to you.[12] In order to get to know yourself better, get to know your loved ones better. Not only will you discover surprising things about yourself, but your loved ones might be able to assist you during confusing or troubling times in your life. In order to cultivate strong relationships with others, you must:
    • Be empathetic
    • Practice forgiveness
    • Demonstrate active listening skills
    • Be willing to initiate conversations and activities
  2. Find an objective listener. In order to develop insight into your life, you have to admit that sometimes you might be deceiving yourself. Perhaps you are blind to your own prejudices, or perhaps you sometimes think that you are a more generous person than your actions demonstrate. In order to be able to work through your blind spots and pernicious patterns, you will need to find a smart, objective person who can help reveal the darkest corners of your life to you.[16]
    • Many people find that Find-a-Good-Psychologist can serve this key function.
  3. Pay attention to the behavior of others. One key tool of self-knowledge is the information we get from observing the behaviors of those we interact with.[2] Think about the cues you are being sent when you talk to old friends and to new acquaintances. Consider whether you can interpret them in order to develop insight into your life, behaviors, and values.
    • Be aware that not everybody can (or should) get along with everybody else. Pay particular attention to the reactions of those whom you respect, care for, and admire.

Exploring the World

  1. Be aware of the world around you. People can be affected by their surroundings in many subtle, subconscious, yet significant ways. Do not tell yourself that you are immune to the world around you: your life has been irrevocably shaped by the world you live in. While you cannot (and should not) escape the world, what you can do is learn more about the world in which you find yourself. You might be able to understand more clearly how the world has shaped your life.
  2. Recognize that culture affects the self. Studies show that some cultures value speech as a tool of self-knowledge, while others value silence.[17] Consider whether your own native culture has shaped how you view yourself and what you prioritize in life. Read about your own culture as well as other cultures in order to begin to understand how culture has impacted you.
  3. Broaden your horizons. Routines can be important and healthy in everyday life. But sometimes they can leave us stuck in a rut, unwilling to discover new places and ideas. Shake up your routine by actively seeking new and different opportunities. Some great ways to broaden your horizons include:
    • Taking a class in a new topic
    • Reading about a brand-new idea
    • Visiting a place you've never seen before
    • Have conversations with strangers
  4. Volunteer. Think of the causes you care about the most, and devote several hours each week to helping that cause. You will learn about your own potential as well as about the world around you. You will meet people who share your ideals and vision as well as people who might come from a completely different background. You might even discover a new career pathway by helping others.[18]
  5. Inform yourself on the "goings-ons" of the world. Read-a-Newspaper daily. Be sure that you turn to reputable journalists and news agencies so that you are getting the most accurate, up-to-date information about local, national, and international events. Take a few minutes each day to react to these events. What are your thoughts on how the world is moving? What can you do to help or change things? What is most important to you right now?


  • Find a balance between looking inward for insight into your own life (such as through meditation) and looking outward (such as through reading about the world). Your life is a combination of internal and external factors, and you must know about both in order to know yourself.
  • Talk to your friends and family members about your goal of developing insight into your own life. They might be able to provide you with guidance or necessary objectivity.
  • Don't be single-minded. Insight into your life can emerge through social interactions, hobbies, creativity, and volunteering: it does not happen from you forcing it. Live a normal, healthy life, and be patient. The insights will develop naturally.


  • Do not resort to mind-altering substances in order to develop insight into your life. These substances are escapist: they will not provide you with the answers you need, and many mind-altering substances have negative consequences on your health.
  • Many people are afraid or unwilling to confront some of the less likeable or less moral parts of themselves. Remember that everybody has flaws, including you. Be honest about your own faults so that you can work to fix them: do not run away from yourself.

Related Articles

Sources and Citations

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2
  2. 2.0 2.1
  8. 8.0 8.1
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2
  12. 12.0 12.1

You may like