As humans we have the unique ability of introspection, of thinking about our ideas, values, and actions. Throughout our lives we use this ability to maximize our happiness and fulfillment. But what is really interesting and important to realize is that how we perform introspection and what questions we ask are very important to achieving those sought after results.
We use many words to describe this act of reflection and one of them is soul searching – which makes it sound like a search for our static and current identity. We are given much advice about what to think of when we introspect and a common one, coming from friends and even ‘self-help’ professionals, is that we should “be true to ourselves”. The primary question in these types of searches is “Who am I?” and the quest is to then stay true to who you are.
This type of introspection and reflection is somewhat difficult but also can be very comforting because it can be used as a tool for simply accepting yourself as you are. It allows you to stay as you are without changing anything. It allows you to accept our flaws as virtues or as the natural state of things. However, what this view is not is progressive. It does not motivate you to improve your flaws to become something better and to attain a state that in the end provides satisfaction, provides joy, and provides a sense of accomplishment.
Therefore, it seems there should be a better way of introspecting. And I think it has to do with the question that we ask. What I believe is that the true question is not ‘who am I?’ but is ‘who do I want to be?’ The ‘who am I’ question is only a tool to find our baseline; it helps us describe our position currently so that we may then compare it with who we want to be. It is the second question of ‘who we want to be’ that is the true point of introspection; it is our true goal and therefore when judging our actions, ideas, and beliefs, we should not judge them with who we are but with who we want to be. This second way of introspection is much more difficult. It is harsher on our ego and it is more abrasive with our comfort. Yet, it is the deed that must be done. For only with this way of introspection will we find the motivation to better ourselves. It is only with this way of introspection that we will work towards obtaining a state of the being that will provide us eternal and long lasting happiness.
So the question is not “who am i”; the true question is “who do I want to be”.