Get to Know Yourself: Take Your VITALS

Get to know yourself: Socrates is often quoted as simply stating: "know thyself." What the hell does that mean? Socrates was teaching his students how to be at peace with who they were as individuals. His words still hold true centuries later.

I, for one, am well-read when it comes to knowing myself. I struggle with anger, bipolar disorder, and OCD. I am shy and become anxious and overwhelmed rather easily. I also try to avoid social gatherings - anything more than 4 people!

I also hate airports because I see disgusting things there like people popping zits, clipping their fingernails, spitting into garbage receptacles, sneezing into their hands and wiping the spittle onto their forearms – yes, I really witnessed these things.    But that was the icky stuff. I like deli meat, overcoming challenges, writing, fly fishing, nature, dogs and other animals (more than people – not sorry!). I also love long walks on the beach with Melissa:) 

Bottom line: We must embrace our unique personality through self-awareness. This is a process which requires a bit of time and soul searching. This can be a huge challenge for some. You may have to admit things that make you uncomfortable, but it’s worth it. I will attempt to make this a bit easier. I’m happy to report that it’s not all bad. There is a great reward from knowing yourself – it’s the capacity to develop and improve as a human being. This helps us get closer to reaching our full potential. I’ve rounded up three tips to get to know yourself better. These tips will help jump-start your journey into self-reflection. By finding the answers you’ve been looking for, you can start to strive toward your true potential. Let’s get started!

Tip #1: Be Honest

Tell yourself the truth. How else can you move forward if you don’t? Be brave and really assess yourself. You can begin by asking self-discovery questions. Make sure you exercise empathy when you do this. Don’t beat yourself up. Envision yourself from a friend’s perspective, a friend helping you find peace. 

Tip #2: Be Still and turn off the %^&*#@$ electronics

I know, in the age of smart phones, tablets, and computers it’s hard to unplug and sit alone in a quiet room and contemplate. It can be uncomfortable and agitating. Keep in mind this is not a process which should be undertaken while surrounded by noise, chaos, and other distractions. It’s the best way to really listen to yourself. Think of it as a form of mindfulness meditation where you focus completely on the present moment.

Tip #3: Ask the Right Questions Here are some important self-discovery questions you can ask yourself today:

  • What are my core values?
  • What are my strengths and weaknesses? Interestingly enough, your strengths will almost always align with your core values.
  • What gets me excited and jumping out of bed in the morning?
  • What gives my life meaning?   
  • What do I hate and avoid? It’s okay to consider the negative things!
  • Who’s my biggest role model? Why?
  • What makes me feel safe? Or Who?
  • What are my short-term and long-term goals?
  • How do I want to see myself when I look back at my life the day I leave this planet?

Write down the answers on post-its and hang them up next to your bed or bathroom mirror. You can also jot the answers down in a journal. In fact, experts say journals are one of the most effective tools of self-awareness.  

You can even record and listen to your answers on your smart phone (okay, there is a time for technology).

In Conclusion

I hope you found these three tips to get to know yourself better helpful. Figuring out who you are as an individual has many advantages. The most significant is that it allows you to feel comfortable in your own skin. As a result, you’re able to focus more on your strengths and be more accepting of your weaknesses. Socrates also said, “Be as you wish to seem.” This is where you have to see yourself from the outside – how others may see you. This one kind of drives me nuts – especially when I’m feeling anxious and someone says: “You don’t look anxious, you seem calm.”

Oh, to be as I seem, it would be heavenly! I have my work cut out ….~ Ted

Get to Know Yourself: Take Your VITALS ~parts adapted via

The capital letters in “VITAL Signs” form an acronym for the six building blocks of the self, or VITALS, for short. The letters stand for Values, Interests, Temperament, Around-the-Clock, Life Mission and Goals, and Strengths/Skills.

V = Values

“Values"—such as “helping others,” “being creative,” “health,” “financial security,” and so on—are guides to decision-making and motivators for goals. Research shows that just thinking or writing about your values can make it more likely that you take healthy actions.

The motivation provided by worthwhile values can also keep you going even when you are tired, as shown in many psychology experiments. If you want to self-motivate, know your values!

I = Interests

“Interests” include your passions, hobbies, and anything that draws your attention over a sustained period of time. To figure out your interests, ask yourself these questions: What do you pay attention to? What are you curious about? What concerns you? The focused mental state of being interested in something makes life vivid and may give you clues to your deepest passions.

Many people have built a career around a deep interest in something. For example, a friend of mine broke his leg when he was 11 years old and was so fascinated by the emergency room that he decided to become an emergency physician.

T = Temperament

“Temperament” describes your inborn preferences. Do you restore your energy from being alone (introvert) or from being with people (extrovert)? Are you a planner or go-with-the-flow type of person? Do you make decisions more on the basis of feelings or thoughts and facts? Do you prefer details or big Ideas? Knowing the answers to temperament questions like these could help you gravitate toward situations in which you could flourish and avoid situations in which you could wilt.

In the '60s, spontaneity was valued over planning. I tried hard to go with the flow, but it seemed to me that I wasted a lot of time that way. Going against the grain of my own personality turned out to be a daunting task that wasn’t really worth it.

A = Around-the-Clock Activities

The “around-the-clock” category refers to when you like to do things—your biorhythms. Are you a morning person or a night person, for example? At what time of day does your energy peak? If you schedule activities when you are at your best, you are respecting your innate biology. As I look back on my life, I realize I’ve been a morning person since birth. Those fun sleepovers with girlfriends? I loved being included, but I didn’t like staying up late.

One joy of my adult life has been finding a partner with biorhythms like mine. We wake up early and go to bed early; we both get snappy unless we eat three square meals a day. We hate brunch. While the idea of biorhythm preferences may sound trivial compared to lofty qualities of the self like “values,” your daily life is more pleasant when you are in sync with your biology. In every area, it’s easier to enjoy life when you don’t waste energy pretending to be someone you aren’t.

L = Life Mission and Meaningful Goals

“What have been the most meaningful events of your life?” This was a question I liked to ask when students would see me for career counseling at the community college where I worked. One woman of about 40 years old got teary-eyed as she tried to answer. “Recently,” she told me, “I found it incredibly meaningful to care for my aging father as he declined and went into hospice. I was able to be there and hold his hand when he died.” As we talked about the difficulties and rewards of her father’s last days, she had an “aha” moment and realized she wanted to become a hospice nurse. (She accomplished her goal and was one of the leaders of her class.)

Ask yourself the same question: “What have been the most meaningful events of your life?” You may discover clues to your hidden identity, to your career, and to life satisfaction.

S = Strengths

"Strengths" can include not only abilities, skills, and talents, but also character strengths such as loyalty, respect for others, love of learning, emotional intelligence, fairness, and more. Knowing your strengths is one of the foundations of self-confidence; not being able to acknowledge your own superpowers could put you on the path to low self-esteem. Become a person who “takes in the good,” listening for compliments and noticing skills that could be clues to your strengths. Here's an example: An acquaintance tells you that she loves the soothing sound of your voice. What could you do with that knowledge? Likewise, knowing your weaknesses can help you be honest with yourself and others about what you are not good at. You might decide either to work on those weaknesses or try to make them a smaller part of your personal or professional life.

Being True to You

Even if you know your "VITAL Signs," it’s hard to remain true to yourself because you are constantly changing and because society’s values often conflict with your own. I love this quote from fellow habits author Gretchen Rubin:

"My first commandment is to “Be Gretchen”—yet it’s very hard to know myself. I get so distracted by the way I wish I were, or the way I assume I am, that I lose sight of what’s actually true."

For all of us, being yourself sounds easier than it actually is. But there are a few signposts. When you’ve made a discovery about one of your "VITAL Signs," you’ll feel a sense of excitement. Acting on self-knowledge will give you energy and save you energy. You’ll feel freer and stronger because you no longer conform to how you “should” feel, think, or act. For example, I can remember my relief when I realized I was an introvert. How comforting it was to give myself the gift of time alone without wondering if I were a freak of nature!

Next Steps

This week, pay attention to these six aspects of your personality. What do you notice?

Get to Know Yourself and More Self-Esteem Goodness Get to Know Yourself Get to Know Yourself Get to Know Yourself Get to Know Yourself Get to Know Yourself Get to Know Yourself Get to Know Yourself Get to Know Yourself