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Is Self-Observation Really Important?

Talking about self-observation, we’ve all heard of this term quite a few times in our lives. The concept and the idea behind understanding what you need and desire is certainly the secret to a successful life. We all tend to run behind aims set for us by others or considered a successful way to lead life. However, the only way to understand how leading a successful life is possible is by focusing on yourself. How can you do that? It’s simple! Understanding the things that excite you the most and observing your needs and desires in every situation is ideal for practicing self-observation.

The best way to see how self-observation helps you grow and become a better version of yourself is by exploring different successful people and their experiences with self-observation. Besides, knowing something and then understanding its importance with real-time examples are two different things. We can’t implement the best of our knowledge in our lives unless we have powerful people backing those ideas and statements with their own experiences. Let’s explore the common grounds some popular people from different professional industries share in terms of self-observation and its practice in their lives.

What Do the Professionals Have To Say?

When we talk about people that understand self-observation and self-reflection, it’s hard to find examples that have lived these concepts and achieved success in life with them. However, regarding self-observation and the importance/benefits this concept brings to us, some people from different professional grounds have a lot to share about their experiences with self-observation.

Here we’ll talk about how Jocko Willink, Lao Tzu, Kara Goucher, and Bertrand Russel; all understand and implement self-observation to lead the successful lives they are cherishing today. 

  • Self-Observation According to Jocko Willink:

Talking about someone who has written books, recorded podcasts, and commanded/trained navy seal teams as one of the major careers of his life, Jocko Willink is certainly one we would want to listen to for self-observation (or in his words; detachment) ethics and tips. Needless to say he is among my favourites characters. Enjoyed his book on leadership quite a lot.

According to Jocko on the Tim Ferris podcast, there was a time in his life when he realized the importance of detachment. He further added:

I call it detachment. That’s one of the things that early on in my leadership career; I remember when it happened. I was probably 22 or 23 years old. I was in my first SEAL platoon. We’re on an oil rig in California doing some training. We come upon this level of this oil rig, and we’ve never been on an oil rig before. They’re very complex. There’s gear and boxes and just stuff everywhere on these levels, and they’re see-through. You can see through the floors. It’s a complex environment. We come up, and we all get on this platform on this level, and everybody freezes. I’m kind of waiting, and I’m a new guy, so I don’t really feel like I should be doing anything. But then I said to myself, somebody’s got to do something. So I just did what’s called high porting my gun. I lifted my gun up towards the air like I’m not a shooter right now. I took one step back off the line and looked around, and I saw what the picture was. And I just said hold left, move right. And everybody heard it, and they did it. And I said to myself, hmm, that’s what you need to do.

Moreover, Jocko also says that this concept of detachment (self-observation) plays a role in everything he does now. Further, Jocko mentions how the same concept plays in the interview this podcast interview by saying:

“It sounds horrible but it’s almost like sometimes I’m not a participant in my own life. I’m an observer of that guy who’s doing it. So if I’m having a conversation with you and we’re trying to discuss a point, and I’m watching and saying wait, are you being too emotional right now? Wait a second, look at him. Because I’m not reading you correctly if I’m seeing you through my own emotion or ego. I can’t really see what you’re thinking. But if I step out of that, now I I can see the real you and if you are getting angry, if your ego is getting hurt, if you’re about to cave because you’re just fed up with me. Whereas if I’m raging in my own head, I might miss all of that. And so that detachment that takes place as a leader is critical.”

Jocko has been using this criterion to pick the best leaders and perform his job the best way, as he is known for today. With the help of this concept, it is easier to find leaders that can implement the detachment from a situation and analyzing the surrounding and the inner voice at the right time. It’s like being an outsider looking within you, observing you, and helping you detach. 

  • Self-Observation According to Lao Tzu:

Now, if we talk about the same concept of self-observation in the words of a Tibetan Monk, then this practice of detachment is linked to meditation, Vipassana meditation. This meditation is known to help you in “seeing things as they really are”. In simpler terms, the detachment concept of Jocko is linked to the Vipassana meditation, which helps a person observe and see through things, themselves, and their surroundings; while letting them be fully aware of everything around them. It’s like you are practicing to be more aware of everything, including you, and understanding how to take the right step in different life situations. 

In the beginning, this practice is quite difficult I haven’t tried this type of meditation personally to be honest, and you can easily be distracted from it too. But even then, as long as you are practicing, you can feel the effect of this meditation. Besides, when you are seeking benefits from meditation, it’s not only about practicing meditation but implying this practice in everyday events. From my own experience I can say that practicing meditation has become an essential tool which adds tremendous benefit to my wellbeing. I usually go for 10-20 minutes 3-4 times a week.

As Lao Tzu says, self-observation through such mediation involves the understanding of the thoughts that define you, i.e., 

If you are depressed, you are living in the past.

If you are anxious, you are living in the future.

If you are at peace, you are living in the present.

  • Self-Observation According to Kara Goucher:

Lastly, let’s talk about another example of the understanding and implementation of self-observation in an Olympic Athlete’s life. Kara Goucher is known to be an American long-distance runner. His successful journey includes the completion of three Olympics. Moreover, Kara has also won third place in the Boston Marathon.

While Kara’s profession is about staying fit and being mentally and physically present in a race, his concept of mental presence and observation has played a huge role in his successful journey. 

According to Kara Goucher, “There are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is.” 

From afar, this professional life of running seems more like a habit or practice for professionals who lead this life. However, if we talk about a famous and successful Olympic Athlete’s perspective, this is more like meditation. It’s like repeating the same thing over and over again and focusing on every push your feet give to the ground while plopping on and off the ground. Additionally, in this habit that athletes live multiple times in their lives, every second is noted and lived to its fullest. In fact, from noticing the way one’s ankles bend to keeping an eye on the location of the foot and every breath is taken – everything matters and makes a place in the athlete’s mind while he/she is running. 

But does it only have to be athletes like Kara Goucher who can live and feel these body movements and every change it brings in one’s mind and body? Certainly not! As another form of practicing self-observation, this is more like an aerobic exercise in combination with meditation. This practice offers a reduction in depression and lets us evaluate the moves we take instead of being occupied by the thoughts we have in mind. Long story short go outside and powerwalk, run, play sports or any other physical activity.

So how do you let your internal dialogues peak at you, according to the concept of Kara Goucher? It’s simple! Al you have to do is notice the pressure of the ground on your feet, every time you walk and with every step, you take while walking. Then, allow yourself to feel and notice this pressure with your mind and body instead of being distracted by the music, phone, or other thoughts. 

But is it All the Game of Mind? The Balance of Mind and a Healthy Body:

While self-observation and mental presence/evaluation of your inner needs and aims are compulsory to lead a healthy and positive life, it’s not enough. You can’t simply train your mind and expect it to work the same as you want without getting weak or easily distracted in any way. Along with a healthy and focused mind, a healthy and disciplined body is also needed. 

Some possible things to focus on and balance to achieve a balanced and healthy mental and physical health for a successful life include:

  • Balanced Diet: With the right diet that fulfills your body’s energy demands as per the daily psychical activities you perform, it can be easier to cope with the daily tasks and achieve the needed energy you need. Besides, foods with high protein and vitamins provide more energy to the body for daily physical activities. However, it’s crucial to understand your body’s nutrient needs according to your physical activities and then consume the right nutrients and food quantity accordingly. I have been dieting for 8 years now and constantly finding out new things about how my body reacts to certain types of food & nutrition. For the past year or so I have even dialed down beef, eating it only once a month. Lamb haven’t tried for more than 5 years. Very minimum (close to zero) consumption of sugar, flour and alcohol. This might seem radical to you, especially with our local cuisine, however everyone should have their unique approach to nutrition, whatever floats your boat and keeps you healthy.

  • Consistent Exercise: Exercise is another important aspect that offers energy to our body. It not only helps promote flexibility but also energizes our bodies for daily activities. First, however, it’s important to understand the right form of exercise that doesn’t push our body’s limits. Not just that, but exercise also helps keep our body fit, ensuring that our body achieves, stores, and uses the energy it needs in the right way. I am working out 6 times a week sometimes 7, I keep them short and effective. Benefits of consistent exercise – are almost endless.

  • Sexual Activity: Lastly, another important aspect that helps increase or limit our body’s energy and strength is our sexual activity. Understanding the balance and maintaining it in terms of sexual activity helps you stay fit and promotes your physical and mental satisfaction. This is pretty much all I can say about this topic, do your own research.

In the end, once you have a balanced and healthy “living”, there’s no doubt that you can easily enjoy a healthy mind and body. Besides, with the three leading factors of any individual’s body, mind, and soul, what’s left? Hence, keeping a balance makes you a healthy person physically, but it also helps improve your mental health and allows you to practice mental exercises and achieve better focus and emotional balance.

Final Thought: 

Concluding what all the popular and notable people think and practice in terms of self-observation in their lives is certainly worth noting. Besides, understanding yourself and observing your inner thoughts in every circumstance makes it easier to mold your life decisions, activities, and professional path in the correct way. And what is correct for one is only what seems just and appropriate to our inner self. 

The observer, when he seems to himself to be observing a stone, is really, if physics is to be believed, observing the effects of the stone upon himself. – Bertrand Russel

PS The cover photo is from a village called Tsinandali which is located in Kakheti Georgia, the region is famous for its wine and nature


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