“Self-study, self-exploration, self-empowerment. These are the virtues of a great education.” – Shimon Schocken

In my experience, most people come to therapy ready to address specific issues, such as relationship problems, lifestyle changes, family conflict, or past traumas. I’ve noticed firsthand that the opposite is also true – clients don’t have a stated therapeutic focus. Recently, I’ve been working with clients who say that they don’t necessarily have an issue, but they realize that something is off in their world…and it’s my duty to help them learn to right it by first learning about themselves. In other words, self-exploration.

Self-exploration. The sheer mention of the phrase can cause some people to run in the other direction. Although the results may be surprising, frustrating, or upsetting, taking the time to mentally discover oneself is both an empowering and enlightening process. I liken it to getting a degree in yourself, with your diploma ultimately answering the question “What makes me tick?”

So, what exactly makes you tick? Take a few moments now to deeply and authentically think about how well you know yourself. Reflect on how you work; what you’re about; how you were raised; your beliefs, ideas, values, insecurities, passions, goals, fears, and the lessons you’ve learned. How have these shaped you into the person you are today? Are there qualities about yourself that you find disagreeable? If so, which ones? Do you mentally talk to yourself in a positive or self-loathing manner?

Some of your answers to these questions may leave an undesirable tape playing over and over in your head, with no end in sight. The good news is that you can change the narrative. Our brains are powerful and highly adaptable. We can rewire our brains to help us do new and different things. We literally only have to try something once in order for our craniums to be exposed to it, thus rendering it as a novel opportunity. We can train our brains to react to a previously upsetting stimulus in a healthier, less reactive way in the future. In other words, we can rewrite the story.

TAKE-AWAY: Shifts and self-improvements such as these don’t happen overnight. They take time, dedication, and 100% honesty with yourself (and your therapist, if you’re working with one). Be patient with yourself when cashing in on self-discovery and keep in mind that a little self-exploration pays big dividends in the long run. After all, it’s the best gift you can give yourself.