I was talking to a United States Army general the other night, very late. Two stars. He was an impressive individual. And the fact that our conversation was taking place within the environment of a dream didn't detract in the least from its impact. I've met several generals in waking life, and they've always been interesting people. This gentleman was no different.
I remember vividly that he said to me, "I don't go in for a lot of self-examination. There's no time."
That gave me a chance to present my own view that in the opinion of most philosophers I know, or have studied, self examination is not some leisurely activity carried out over long stretches of time within the echo chamber of your mind, as you sit silently and ask yourself about yourself, analyzing the answers and probing deeper. It's mostly about awareness as you decide and act.
No one gets to know himself or herself well just by sitting alone in a room and pondering. That's not a snapshot that typically captures well who you are. It's life in the field that's the proper classroom for self examination and self knowledge. What mattered so much to Socrates is that we not let ourselves get by with prejudices, sloppy thinking, or vague assumptions as we dash through life. If you find yourself thinking you have no time to question yourself, then contemplate how much time you have to make big mistakes - sometimes huge ones - due to any unexamined tendencies, beliefs, or feelings that you might think you prefer not to know about.
You don't need to take a retreat from the fray in order to engage in the philosophical procedure of self examination. You just have to experience moments, or bursts, of self reflective awareness punctuating your active life. There's even a level of such awareness that can accompany most activities, at least much of the time. And such an alertness to our own conduct can yield great results. We can take note of our tendencies, remembering our strengths and weaknesses, as well as any limitation we discover that may or may not be a weakness. Self examination when done properly positions us to be better team members, and much better leaders.
A leader without self knowledge sits in command of a rudderless boat.
Everyone has the time for self examination and self knowledge. That's my general observation for the day. At ease.