I was giving a presentation recently on success, and we were talking about the importance of basing our goal setting in self knowledge. I explained that one philosopher had parsed self knowledge in an interesting way. He said, "Know your strengths. Know your weaknesses. Know your opportunities." And that's interesting, isn't it? Strengths and weaknesses are inner things. Opportunities are outer things. So how can knowing them, as external circumstances, be a part of self knowledge?
A situation that creates a great opportunity for one person will not provide the exact same thing for a different individual. Knowing what external situations are opportunities for you is a matter of self knowledge. But, how so?
Maybe we need to dig a little deeper. Maybe the imperative "Know Yourself" has a few more elements:
Know your strengths. Know your weaknesses. Know your limits.
Know your passions. Know your ideals.
Weaknesses are certainly limits, at least for now. But not all limits are weaknesses. Some limits are a result of our prior choices and commitments, and some are actually among our strengths. A robust and proper structure of commitments is a great thing to have. It empowers and it limits. And such limits will be very relevant to the goals we decide to set or adopt.
Knowing your passions is equally important. Some are strengths. Others are weaknesses. Some may be neither, in themselves, but developed can go either way. Passion is a source of drive and motivation. Setting goals outside of any concern for our passions is never a recipe for greatness.
And perhaps most important of all is knowing our ideals. We all have fantasies, desires, or passions that would not be right to pursue in a certain way or at a certain time. Our ideals are those values that should guide us in choosing. And they will help to determine what external situations do indeed provide opportunities for new goals and new successes.
All goal setting should be an ongoing exercise in self knowledge. And all these factors matter.