To Thine own self be true

Sports Psychology, June 30, 2018

Spend some time with your self to help align your daily actions with your personal vision of who you want to be. Not knowing yourself will leave you feeling a little lost.


Getting to know yourself and then acting accordingly is one of the most important aspects to a successful life. If you don't have some understanding of your talents, unique potential, and the mind - body connection then you can forget about reaching your true purpose. Socrates expanded the ancient Greek aphorism "know thyself", and taught "the unexamined life is not worth living." Aristotle said, "Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom." Ghandi taught that to change the world you must first change yourself, and even our very own Sir Edmond Hillary extolled this ancient line of thinking in 1952 after becoming the first human on the summit of Everest with the famous quote "It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves." Plato over 2000 years earlier underpinned this - "For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories."


From basic psychology teachings it's well recognised that we are not our thoughts and feelings. Our true self should be independent of the many thoughts that pop into our head during our day and night. During every waking moment we receive millions of bits of information from the surrounding world. Our perception (the process of organising selected information) is enhanced when we understand ourselves, and the meaning of our life. This self-awareness or actualisation helps order the selected information into useful patterns or systems. Without self-understanding you will get mired down in meaningless signals leading to increased feelings of being over whelmed, and becoming direction-less; a ship without a rudder. Abraham Maslow claimed as part of his Hierarchy of needs * that self-actualisation is an "instinctual need in humans to make the most of their abilities, to strive to be the best they can" or "the desire to become more and more of what one is, to become everything one is capable of becoming."


*These needs are arranged in a hierarchy from the most basic to the more complex. The first four levels are called deficiency needs (involve need for something that is lacking) and the top three are growth needs (desire and grow and develop). The growth needs are never satisfied, and can't be worked on until the first four needs are taken care of in most cases.


Our mind can be crudely divided into three parts


1) ID (chimp brain) - this primitive part of our personality strongly nudges us away from discomfort and seeks pleasure whenever possible.  It operates solely according to the pleasure principle motivating our basic pleasure-seeking drives such as hunger, thirst, and sexual desire. If we solely listened and obeyed this part of the mind without the higher centres we would be very selfish, hedonistic, and not open to growth. 


2) Ego (our conscious self) - this is our daily self or the practical part of our personality. It keeps the reckless chimp brain in check, so we can get on with our lives by acting appropriately depending on the situation or environment. The Ego mediates between the demands of the basic chimp brain, the reality we are in, and the demands of the Super Ego.


3) Super Ego (our controller or conscience) - this is our "higher" or spiritual self or if you have a religious framework to hang your spirituality on then this is where God will exert guidance to help move you towards meaning and your true purpose. The development of the super ego occurs through an "internalisation" of the values held by parents, other role models as we grow up, and groups that we engage in (organised or social).


Following is a few steps to get to know how you tick a little better


1) Personality Test. 


There are several tests out there to help you understand your individual wiring. My favourite is Gretchen Rubins (author of several books including The Happiness Project) Four tendency quiz. It will determine your tendency to fall into one of four categories - a Upholder, a Questioner, an Obliger, or a Rebel. It takes 10min to complete. This test emerged from the question "How do you respond to expectations, both internal and external." People tend to fit into one of four tendencies and this helps shape every aspect of your behaviour. When we have a greater understadning of this framework it allows us to engage more effectively with ourselves and others. Take the test at 


"The thing that is really hard, and really amazing is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself." Anna Quindlen 


2) Meditation


I have written extensively about the benefits of a meditation practice.  I like to try on habits for 100 days before evaluating if they are beneficial. I completed 425 days in a row with meditation using Andy Puddicombe's HEADSPACE app. Andy Puddicombe is considered "the international poster boy for the modern mindfulness movement."   Andy Puddicombe is an ordained Tibetan Buddist monk who has created an easy practical meditation app that brings mindfulness to the masses. Science shows that being still and focusing on the breath is a great way to move towards a healthier state, and also to get to know yourself without the constant worldly static that tends to drown us out. Being still is powerful - it stops the incessant flow of thoughts and cultivates a conscious state that is open and receptive to the real you. Check out Headspace at and my Meditation article at


"The thing about meditation is you become more and more you." David Lynch 


3) Deny your CHIMP brain.  


Your chimp brain is always nudging you to seek comfort, and pleasure. The best way to gain control over this basic part of the mind is to schedule in a little uncomfortableness daily. I have really enjoyed my daily practice of a cold shower (cold morning shower since November 2015) and my weekly fast (every Tuesday, my restoration day -  since September 2017). The cold shower is beneficial on many levels including feeling amazing afterwards, enhancing the immune system, and building brown fat stores. Denying food for around 20 hours also has massive benefits in terms of "Autophagy" which is where the cells in your body are rebuilding themselves, digesting and removing old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside the cell.  This happens more efficiently when the body is in a fasted state. The body literally rebuilds and strengthens your cells. Think of it as maintenance work. Fasting also gives you more empathy for those of us on earth that don't have enough food.  Engaging in these practices builds discipline, resilience, and more strength to say NO to the chimp brain. Our society is far too used to getting instant gratification, we are all conditioned to seek the silver bullet, get a pill for every ill. We need to invest in our OWN journey, and then the self-directed learnings have far more benefit. Listen to everyone but follow no one. 


“Self-denial in the pursuit of purpose generates true pleasure while self-indulgence in the pursuit of pleasure generates true misery.” Orrin Woodward


4) The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose.


A purpose driven life is paramount to wellbeing. Having a overarching purpose gives meaning to all your daily actions as they gradually move you towards where you are destined to be. A sense of purpose gives more drive to the daily mundane actions, and is a slow burn rather than the fast spark of passion which has a limited drive period. It allows you to tap into your higher being (your super EGO) moving your daily actions away from primarily seeking pleasure and avoiding discomfort, to become more meaningful. I really like this diagram that has done the rounds on social media to bring it all together. The sweet spot is PURPOSE. Everyone will have a different journey to come to finding purpose. It may morph a little over time as you grow. Once again listen to everyone, use what resonates with you and discard what doesn't. 


“Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.” Bruce Lee




Getting to know yourself and moving towards purpose is a cornerstone of well-being. It's not only important for your own health it is important for the greater good. Understanding yourself allows you to find your place in the world, and be of better service to others. As Pablo Picasso said "The meaning of life, is finding your gift and then giving it away". Finding out who you are, aligning mind, body, soul, and spirit will give you a more stable and therefore effective base to assist others. Without your own self-knowledge, and awakening then you are less effective in the service of others. Think of it as putting your own oxygen mask on before helping others with theirs. So many people are rushing around busily helping others while slowly running out of oxygen, moving towards a breakdown.  Purpose puts pleasure in your tasks. Aristotle said that pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work. I would say celebrating your individual gifting’s allows you to blossom, be authentic, and be comfortable in your own skin. The vibe you put out is dependent on how you feel about yourself. My counselling and psychology training has taught me that gaining trust with people is imperative to allowing people to talk openly and honestly, seeking their own solutions. Any health provider in any facet of health-care must be authentic with their message (walk the talk), and be comfortable in their own skin. This allows the message to resonate, the patient to be comfortable, empowering them to find solutions within themselves. Self-generated solutions to ANY problem with expert guidance is more likely to stick for the long haul, then establish enhancing habits. Discipline is only difficult until it becomes a habit. KNOW yourself, UNDERSTAND your purpose, ESTABLISH your habits, then MAKE the world better. 



"Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are." Anonymous



Brad Dixon is a sports physiotherapist, coach, and wellness advocate based at EVERFIT Physio & Coaching. His passion is helping people strive for their potential with promotion of enhancing daily habits. The power is in your hands! Walking the talk helps deliver the message more authentically. If you want to connect with Brad he is at, and on Facebook, Strava, and Instagram (everfitcoaching).