Over the years, I have come to a much deeper connection with myself. The most important relationship I can have is with myself—the one true constant in my life. Everything that happens in my life for good or bad occurs based on my self-reflection and becoming my best self.
“Your relationship with yourself is the foundation of everything” – Susannah Conway.
Just as Conway points out, all that we do in life is a testimony to our inner self and our relationship with ourselves. The people you impact or don’t, the job you love or don’t, those in your life you love or don’t, the acts of service you do or don’t, are all created by the relationship we have with ourselves.
The fable of the eagle and the chicken
Long ago, there was a farmhouse in the countryside. Next to the farm was a giant tree where an eagle nested and laid her eggs. One evening, a heavy wind blew one of the eggs onto a pile of hay beneath the tree, but the mother eagle did not notice.
On a fateful afternoon, the farmhouse owner went to gather up the hay and found the eagle’s egg there. Without giving much thought, he picked it up and put it into the nest of his hen, who had just laid her own eggs.
Soon, the eagle hatched with the chicks and grew up with them. Although the eaglet appeared more prominent than the baby chicks, and its plumage was different, the mother hen still raised it nonetheless.
The eagle did every activity that the chickens did. It snuggled under the wings of a mother hen for protection, poked around in the dirt looking for worms and insects to eat, occasionally flew a few feet up in the air, and clucked around. Biologically it was an eagle, but mentally a chicken, which controlled how it lived.
As time passed, the eagle grew old, then one day, it saw something above in the sky. This thing glided gracefully and majestically through the clouds and was just a fantastic sight to behold.
“What’s that,” the eagle asked?
“Oh that, that’s an eagle,” one chicken responded. “The eagle is the ruler of all birds, the vanquisher of the skies. But we remain on the ground because we are merely chickens. Don’t worry about the eagle. You will never be like that,” she added.
On hearing this, the eagle simply returned to pecking with the chickens but still was curious about what it had witnessed.
Then one day, this eagle was drinking water from a puddle when it paused and took a long look at itself. The eagle realized that it had similar physical features to that of the majestic creature it saw flying. Then the eagle looked around at the environment in which it lived, and for the first time, it dawned on the eagle that the chickens were different, and this is not where it belonged.
Upon this realization, the eagle decided to leave the chickens to join its convocation. It flapped its own wings by way of an experiment, but the poor bird only rose as high as the chickens would. This continued for weeks with no success until finally, the eagle decided to get help from the farmer.
One day the eagle approached the farmer and repeatedly flapped its wings until the farmer got the message. “Now you’re ready to fly,” the farmer said.
The farmer took the eagle and went to a mountainside where some eagles flew majestically in the skies, steady like a parachute, diving like jets, soaring higher than other birds. He threw the eagle from there with the expectation that its natural instincts would kick in.
At first, the eagle simply landed back on its belly. But then, it tried harder and harder until it could fly away from the farmer’s hand and land on a tree, a short distance from the farmer. It flapped its wing some more and was gradually airborne. It did this repeatedly and was now conquering the sky.
Soon it joined the eagles in the sky and flew away.
In like manner to this story about the eagle, there are so many people in the world today who are living less than they could be. They merely exist in the surroundings they were brought up in, engulfed in circumstances they find themselves in and unaware of who they indeed are. As the eagle realized and intentionally made efforts to become its most fabulous self, so can you.
As Arthur Schopenhauer said, “Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.”
What can we learn from this incredible parable?
Discovering your best self
Before you can discover and strengthen your relationship with your greatest self, you first need to ask yourself the following questions:
Where am I now?
Before the eagle discovered its authentic self, it first became aware of the reality of where it was in life. This awareness that it was living as a Chicken allowed the eagle to self-reflect and conclude that its current reality was not its desired destiny. It naturally stirred a desire for the eagle to aim to be its greatest self.
People often ask me the first step in changing the course of their life. I tell them it starts with the choice to examine the actual reality of the life they are living. Everything begins with a choice. That is the hardest decision to make. Examining your life will not be easy. But, that is the inherent starting point to making any meaningful change.
How did I get to where I am today?
After understanding where it was, the eagle reflected on how its foundation living as a chicken-shaped who it had become. This awareness enabled the eagle to grasp the understanding that its environment living as a chicken-shaped who it had become.
I often believe that we cannot change the circumstances of our birth, zip code, or which side of the poverty line we grew up in. That said, we all can change our future and the culture surrounding us. Your past is just that. We all have the inner power to change our future by intentionally taking steps to do so and being our greatest selves.
Where do I want to be in the future?
The definition of being our best self means different things to different people. Some pursue starting their own company, some hope to shake up an industry, and others want to become doctors, lawyers, educators, or artists. Before creating your ideal future, you have to envision what that looks like.
Clarity demands specificity: you can’t develop a path for the future if you don’t know your final destination. And be sure you’re chasing your dream, not someone else’s image about your destiny.
Similar to the eagle’s realization of its hidden potential, we, too, can be the most excellent version of ourselves. Once the eagle realized its destiny, the path to achieving that goal became clear: it longed to be among its own family soaring high in the skies.
How am I going to get there?
After deciding to become his best self, the eagle found out what it would take to reach the point where it could retake its natural spot soaring with the eagles. By doing this, the eagle realized the possibilities of its endeavor and the steps necessary to make it a reality.
If you desire an outcome you’ve never experienced, you have to place yourself in purposeful discomfort to accomplish what you’ve never done.
One of the biggest traps I see people get into is thinking that the path from A to B will be quick and linear. All change is difficult at first, chaotic in the middle, and glorious at the end.
The path of being the best version of ourselves is similar to learning to ride a bike. At first, it will be awkward as you learn the skills required to peddle without training wheels. Once the training wheels are removed, you are sure to fall, but you will continue to try until you finally find the equilibrium and conquer your fear.
The same is true with the path to creating any new behavior, mindset, or habit. It takes constant dedication to the task at hand with the resolve to stop breaking the commitments you make to yourself.
As Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines! Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
What additional skills or resources will I require to achieve my goals?
When the eagle recognized that it would need help learning how to fly and soar, it sought it from the farmer. Thinking about planning to become your best self is not enough. One must possess the ability to get the work done. Understand the things you need to reach your goal, find them, and put them to practical use.
The path less traveled is cultivated by constant learning. If you want to change your life, you’ll need to change your thinking. This starts by educating yourself about the skills you will need to be your greatest self. I highly encourage you to become a voracious reader of anything you can get your hands on aligned with your long-term aspirations.
The path to becoming your best self also involves enlisting the support of coaches, mentors, and peers who can offer encouragement, propose recommendations, and serve as a sounding board on your journey to success. It’s beneficial to solicit assistance from mentors who live the life you aspire to achieve and learn the lessons it took them to reach it.
The journey to becoming your best self
The following are practical ways to improve and strengthen your relationship with yourself to bring out your very best self.
Love and value yourself
It usually starts with accepting yourself just as you are and not wishing you were someone else. This starts with you realizing that you are the most incredible person you will ever know. Now, this doesn’t mean settling for just anything. You can make conscious efforts to look better, dress better, and the like, but ultimately you will always desire to be more until you sincerely love yourself just as you are.
Loving and accepting takes a lot of work. It’s a process that involves a great deal of self-reflection. But this work is essential if you want to thrive in other areas of your life and become your greatest self. Remember that self-love is vital in appreciating a happy, healthful, and respectful relationship with yourself. When you are secure, confident, and feeling great about yourself, that positive energy will start to permeate everything you do and the people that you touch.
Know your inner you
To know your inner self is to understand who you really are. That starts with identifying your purpose, values, goals, motivations, vision, and beliefs. It has everything to do with what you have discovered about yourself, not what society has told you to conform to be.
The path to understanding your greatest self requires a high level of reflection and self-awareness. If you have clearness of at least half of what is listed above, you probably have an earnest amount of self-awareness. At the same time, the process of being your best self never ends — it’s a life-long journey.
Invest in your mind
Intentionally spend time doing things that will help you become a better version of yourself. Build up your mind by reading books, listening to podcasts, watching educational videos, and so on. By doing so, you will be equipping yourself to be able to both tackle challenges and also maximize opportunities when they come.
Pay attention to your needs
Sleep, rest, exercise, personal time, and quality food. These, among many others, are vital things you need in your life to be your best self. You simply cannot effectively function at your total capacity unless you deliberately give your mind and body the very things that they require. Ensure you do not deprive yourself of them.
Engage in your most fulfilling activities
Whether it’s baking, swimming, writing, painting, singing, and so on, spend quality time doing the very things that you enjoy most. These activities will help you connect with your core, show you your potential, and ultimately help you become the best version of yourself.
Meditate and look inwards
By being aware of your internal thought processes, you will connect and remain aligned with your true self. Spend time understanding who you are and why you act the way you do. This will be the core of your nature and will go a long one in helping you be your best self.
Forgive yourself for your failings
As humans, we are bound to make mistakes. But we are also enabled and empowered to move on from those mistakes and keep making progress in life. Make sure you forgive yourself after making those mistakes. Pick the lessons and move on.
Do something special for yourself
You deserve all the best care and treatment in the world. From time to time, do something special for yourself. Whether it’s a gift, a long nature walk, a note to self, new clothing, self-care, a trip, or what have you. This will increase your appreciation for yourself and spur you to keep doing better.
Seek others who align with your goals
The truth is, you can’t grow to your greatest self in isolation. You need friends and companions who are also working to become better versions of themselves. By joining a group of like-minded growth-seeking people, you will be better equipped and encouraged to keep pushing to be your very best.
Living your best life
Most people live in mediocrity instead of doing the work to create the life they’ve always wanted. We are not made to merely exist and go through everyday motions as humans. We are meant to soar like an eagle and reach the greatest of heights.
After you’ve built a relationship with your greatest self, you will find that life will be much better. You will encounter hardships and obstacles but keep in mind that these challenges can either bring out the worst in you or inspire the best. Recognize that you can always choose the attitude you show up with every day. So, go ahead and choose growth, choose self-love, choose thriving, and be the very best you can be!
As Abraham Maslow rightly pointed out, “If you plan on being anything less than you’re capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”
Are you suffering from the hustle culture grind and is it causing you to feel miserable? Read my article on how to break free.
Check out John’s past episode on stop being a visionary arsonist. Catch up with Episode 9.
Are you having trouble prioritizing your time? John discusses the I Don’t Have Time Syndrome in Episode 2.