Use the Skill of Watching on Your Journey of Personal Growth

skillful watching

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It is often said that the journey matters more than the destination. The most important thing you can get from going for your goal is not the achievement of it itself but the greater understanding and awareness of yourself that comes through the process of achieving it.

Watching yourself with absolute honesty is the best way to gain understanding about yourself. Watching means developing your ability to see underneath the surface of your own actions and emotions to discover your underlying needs and motivations. This may sound simple enough on the surface, but it is really a skill that must be perfected through constant practice.

Watching yourself honestly can be difficult because there is often a profound difference between who we think we are on the outside and who we truly are on the inside. Most of us have some image of who we think we are, but this may be highly affected by external influences, such as social status and cultural preconceptions. Identity labels such as “professional,” “mom,” or “athlete” help us make our way in the world and live the lives we want to live. The problem is that most of us behave as though these are the things that actually give us the ultimate the value. It is almost as if we truly believe that these labels are who we are.

In terms of your self-development, you might say, “I want to improve my relationships” or “I want to lose weight.” But an important question you should ask yourself is, “Why do I want this thing?” If the answer is strictly external, such as “I’m sick of arguing” or “I want to look better,” you will have a hard time developing the will needed to make changes. To gain genuine will, you need to go deeper than that.

Get down below the outer layers of yourself to your inner core, through the skill of watching. Pay attention to dimensions of yourself that are seldom observed or known—that is, your own deepest, inner levels. Anything you do, do it with full attention. Watch your thoughts and feelings with calm awareness and clear intention. When we are able to see things as they are, without the filter of thoughts or preconceived ideas, it is called “detached watching.” By doing this, you will be able to anchor your will to something far more solid than surface desires, and you will find greater inspiration toward your growth.

As you go through your day, watch what is going on inside yourself. You may notice certain emotions and thoughts attached to various actions that you take. Note any inner dialogue and notice what events trigger certain thoughts that may undermine your growth. Some thoughts or feelings are pleasant, some unpleasant or painful, often dwelling on the past or looking hopefully, or anxiously, to the future. When these things happen, it is easy to push them away or suppress them. However, avoid making any judgments about the rightness or wrongness of these things—just watch them. At the end of each day make a list of your awakenings about yourself in your journal. This will help you have greater awareness about them as a whole and see your progression over time.

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