Roger Von Oech, a creativity consultant, says that much of what we consider intelligence is our ability to recognize a universal order in the form of patterns. Patterns help us in identify recurring themes and similar events throughout our lives. It pays to remember things—being able to accurately predict events help in planning for the future. Most people pick up on these patterns as they go through the ups and downs of life (e.g. reading the news, remembering the past, and learning from others). Every advance/invention which comes about is really a combination of similar and previously discovered ideas. This blog exists because of a combination of the internet and newspaper, the latter of which came as a result of the printing press, which itself was invented by inserting movable typesetting into a wine press.
Along this line of thinking, if you look hard enough, you can find patterns and similarities between any two things. You can find patterns between the cylindrical shape of a soft drink and a nuclear silo. You can find patterns between your friend at work who is constantly complaining and your next door neighbor who is also complaining about the same thing. You can find similarities between your stress with a current goal and how you navigated a life transition a year ago. Similarities can exist in terms of your mindset, where you were living, or even the people you were around. If you are willing to invest the time required, you can figure out the unique patterns and similarities that recur throughout your life.
Taking inventory of yourself is essential in order to identify your unique traits. For example, how do you like to relax—reading books, traveling around the world, eating a vegan diet? Do you prefer working with your hands/body, with people, or with information/data? Are you a sociable person, or would rather spend time by yourself? You have your own quirks and behaviors that no one else has. Learn and embrace them! In the long run, accepting them helps you in figuring out the future you truly want, not the one you might think you want. For example, not everyone wants to be the “life of the party”, to live in a large city, or go to college. Not all of us want to date the same person, or want the same things in our partners. When you adhere to conventional norms without questioning them, it becomes a slippery slope where you are willing to neglect your own wants for the sake of conforming to others’ ideas.
So you might ask, “Ok, so what is the best way to take inventory of my own personal traits and figure out what it is that I truly want out of life?”
Unfortunately, the truth is that there is no “best way” for everyone. Many people spend years trying to figure out the answers to these personal questions. Some people might temporarily withdraw from social relationships; others might become more proactive in connecting with others. Still others drop everything and book flights to new countries, change careers, or check out new sections in the book aisle. But it is not about replacing introspection with action; usually there is a lot of thinking and writing and soul searching involved.
Once you are armed with greater insight into yourself, use it as a tool to put yourself in environments that are congruent with your unique needs. Also, keep in mind that the same conditions that help you thrive and succeed are not necessarily going to be the same for another person. For example, if you want to be an online worker, but hate working at home, you might have to look for co-working office space. If you are another type of person, you might have to begin prepping your application for the Peace Corps a few months in advance. Hunter S. Thompson once advised a friend in a letter, “What is truth to one may be disaster to another.” It is good to make the conscious decision to make positive lifestyle changes, but do not feel that you always have to make drastic ones. Giving up essential things in your life will only lead to dissatisfaction and hinder you in the long run. We all need to make sacrifices from time to time, but productive sacrifice is more about giving up something of a lower nature in order to receive something of a higher nature. When you are designing your future, it is essential to be able to determine what you are and are not willing to give up.