Know Thyself


“Know thyself.”

– Scribes of Delphi, via Plato

Steven Covey suggests that we “Begin with the end in mind”. I think he is wrong. I think that we must begin by learning about ourselves. How can we even determine the end that we wish to have in mind until we understand ourselves and our purpose? Of course, I know that he means that before we begin trying to busy ourselves going somewhere, we should determine where we would like to end up. This is solid advice and I do recommend that you read his book on the subject and the 6 other habits:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

However, we must first look inward to determine the purpose of our lives and what our journey is about. You must know who you are. What are your passions? What are your values? What are your abilities? What are your weaknesses? When doing business planing, we determine Values, Mission or Purpose statements. We should each do this individually for ourselves as a first step.

Let’s start with values. How does one determine his or her values? Values are inside you and the goal is to tease them out. It is a process of uncovering them via self reflection. I suggest that you get a piece of paper and start asking yourself the following questions and write down the words that come to mind. I liked to write my values as phrases. Such as ‘Be Fair and Honest’ instead of ‘Honesty’. That is just my preference.

  • What are those attributes which if you saw them in your children would make you proud?
  • What are the things which you wouldn’t compromise even if people were offering you money to do so?
  • Look at people that you look up to and ask yourself what about them do you admire?

You should have a list of no less than three and no more than seven. Set them aside and come back to them a week later to reassess if you still think they hold true to your feelings. Edit as needed.



  • Life is precious; do not waste it
  • Everything in moderation
  • Enjoy the JOURNEY of life
  • Work Hard
  • Be fair and honest
  • Give all things freely
  • Take time to marvel at God’s creation

Now lets talk about determining your purpose. This is another way of asking, “What is the meaning of life?” This seems rather daunting but is less so if you focus it on yourself. What is the meaning of YOUR life? There is no perfect answer here and I guarantee that it will change as you live your life. That is alright. Life is a journey and over time you will always be adjusting your sails.

So, how does one go about determining your purpose? There are many ways. One exercise that I thought was very helpful is to think about and write out what you would ideally like to have as an obituary for yourself. This requires you to think long term and big picture. What do you want to be remembered for? What body of work do you want to leave? Do you want to have helped people? Do you want to have created something? It should include something about how you lived your life. Integrating your values. (Maybe Steven Covey was right after all. Beginning with the very end in mind!)


My Purpose in this life is to use my individual talents:

  • To be the best Christian man I can be
  • To use my resources for God’s purposes in the most productive way
  • Enjoy life

I hope this is helpful to help you reflect on yourself and what you want from your life. Please let me know if you have comments or other tools to recommend.

“When you values are clear you decisions are easy.”

– Walt Disney