You Must Know the Start of the Path

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Developing yourself is similar to a journey; you develop from one state to the next, just as on a journey you move from one place to the next. And like a journey, you cannot start in the middle; you must start at the beginning of the path.

When it comes to self-development, the beginning of the path is who you are right now. You begin by understanding the person you are right now, both the good and the bad. You need to accept yourself in your entirety; nobody is perfect, which means you are like everyone else. This acceptance does not imply that you are satisfied with your current self. On the contrary, the whole point of self-development is that you are not satisfied with your current qualities, that you desire to make some changes. But you must accept yourself so that you can look ahead to the changes rather than behind at the mistakes.

Wise men have said it for ages: “Know Thyself.” Learn who you are, what you are. Look at both the good and the not-so-good qualities you have right now. Then you can see what really needs to be changed, and you can create a plan of improvement.

When a construction engineer decides to build something new, like a house or a bridge, the first thing they do is to survey the land involved. They work to understand the current condition of the location where they are going to build, and then create a plan to make that location suitable for their project. You are constructing yourself, so you need to start the same way, by surveying the current condition of you as a person. Then and only then can you make changes that will last.

Look at all areas of your life: physical, financial, professional, recreational, spiritual, relational, mental, and environmental (a tool like a Wheel of Life can be helpful here). In each area ask yourself what you like about that area of your life. What do you enjoy? Where are you confident? Then look for the dark spots. What needs changing? Where do you need to add strength? Again, think of an engineer; he looks at the land to decide what can stay, what needs to be removed, and what areas need to be built up. You are engineering yourself, so you need to make the same assessment.

There are many tools available to help you in this assessment. There are people who can help you, including professionals. Sometimes asking an outsider will help you clarify what you are looking at. But in the final analysis, this is a personal endeavor. Sit down, list the areas of your life, and write down what you see. Write down what others have told you; you do not have to agree with them, but write their statements down anyway. Then look at your writings to see what needs to be done.

This assessment needs to be done before you set goals or make resolutions. How can you make a resolution with any chance of success if it is not based on your current reality?

Understanding comes first, then improvement. This is how buildings and roads are built. This is how people successfully improve themselves.