Do You Know Who You Really Are?

“Most of the things you think you know may not be so.” ~The author.

From the beginning days of Philosophy and Psychology to the billions of sources of information we have today trying to answer this question, it may be time to pause and reflect upon the answer we think we know for sure. My nagging question is this: Have we really made any remarkable progress in finding an answer to this question? Or put in other terms, how much success is enjoyed by the majority of people, in carrying out the main purpose in life—learning, growing and improving in reducing the gap between their real and ideal selves?

After studying, reading and applying all I have learned to try and make progress at this gap reduction process with myself and others, I am somewhat sad to admit the progress has only been mediocre. And I think I am dead in the middle under the big part of the Bell-curve with many others on this one. My only consolation is that I might at least know why this is so and that may just be a very good starting point in helping myself and others close the ever-widening gap between just surviving in the desperation no-where zone and thriving in the dreamland of good and plenty.

In the beginning of psychology, clinicians, researchers and practitioners over-focused their time and energy in studying the dark side of people and their pathologies. The goal was to explain why and how unconscious processes created such bizarre behavior, so that the people plagued with such problems could be cured and the world would become a better place with such hope. But sooner or later people become bored with studying pathological problems, diseases and failures and they want a change.

After those efforts, came the positive psychology movement, which began to look at the positive side of life and the common denominators behind success and happiness. Unfortunately it was the elite success shadow-makers who were the subjects of all this study, and that left the middle part of the Bell-curve, or the vast majority of the rest of us, shooting for lofty goals way beyond our reach. This was especially true with the tease of super techniques even when based on sound wisdom of the ages and good intentions, like The Secret and The Law of Attraction.

What I suspect is about to happen is a major paradigm shift from the current success addiction to one somewhere in the middle of failure and success. That would stand to reason because it is just following the great creative process that drives the whole universe. What is most likely to become the focus is finding out and understanding what keeps us from closing the gap between our real and ideal selves which will take us from the end of just surviving to the beginning of thriving, maybe just before the point of no return comes and goes for some.

In trying to buy into the value of this new focus point, stop and think about something that describes most of us—we are more driven to avoid loss with fear of failure in over-protecting what we have rather than risking losing it for the hope of achieving a really good success. Equally skilled golfers will always be much more successful putting for par than putting for a birdie, even from the same distance. The applied principle is that if we focus more on managing what we can better, in order to avoid probable failures, rather than going for the gold, we might just get closer to it. Of course some people go for it and get it just enough times to know it is possible. But the same lure tempts us at gambling casinos and playing Powerball with super big jackpots.

So how can the majority of people wanting to know and be who they really are—not letting their ability get in the way of their capability—be more successful? Here are seven good suggestions to help you close the gap between your real and ideal selves:

1. Consider the likelihood that genuine success and happiness, learning who you really are, and closing the gap between your real and ideal selves is much more of a lifelong journey than an overnight destination. Yard by yard life is hard, but inch by inch, it’s a synch.

2. Just like AA, you have to admit who you currently are by saying it out loud to others—I am so and so and I am an “alcoholic.” Look yourself in the mirror and accept yourself as an over-driven hero wannabe wanting to get everlasting recognition for achieving the perfect success with your chosen target. At the same time accept the possibility that all that you think you know may not necessarily be so, to empty some new space in your brain to fill it with more useful knowledge about how people and life really work.

3. Develop a genuine desire to learn what you don’t know, especially how you may be sabotaging your own successes by being overconfident in your under-prepared abilities. Start reading some difficult and intelligent books that don’t have simple and easy solutions to difficult and complex problems to find out how to really fix things the right and lasting way.

4. Shift your focus intentionally from success to failure and then see what likely failures you can manger better with a different approach to prevent them from happening. The natural result is that you get more successes from the better management. You are changing your perspective and that alone will change your results for the better. Just noticing what you have failed to notice before is a very big gain to feel good about.

5. Control the controllables and let go of all the rest. Too much valuable time and effort is wasted in trying to control things that are out of your control. This change strengthens your focus and ability to see and get rid of a likely failure that is under your control, like approaching something new by being under-confident and over-prepared.

6. Pause frequently to make sure you have the right perspective on trying to do what you are trying to do, remember your main purpose, and feel good about inch-by-inch progress, which may be far better than what you feel free to admit from years of past efforts at this challenging journey.

7. Always hang out with people who support and encourage you and avoid the people who tend to drain you of your hope and positive attitude or who don’t recognize or support your progress.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President for Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security, Inc. in Bellevue, WA, along with his hobbies in being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the peaceful but invigorating mountains and rivers of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too” (Executive Excellence), “The Bow-Wow Secrets” (Wisdom Tree), “Do What Matters Most” and “P” Point Management” (Atlantic Book Publishers), “Reality Repair” (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Authorsden), and “If Pictures Could Talk,” coming soon. Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or