The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are...
Who are you?
A rather simple question...but would you be able to truly answer it?
When asked this question, most people state their name or describe their profession. This is not who they are, of course. A name is just that: a name, a label, something we are identified with. And a job is just something we currently do; it doesn't really define who we are.
So yeah, when I ask who are you? I’m not referring to what you are called, where you were born, or what your profession is; I’m referring to that UNIQUE, authentic individual inside of you, behind all the labels and superficial majesty.
And yes, you ARE unique. This is not something merely philosophical or spiritual. It is a scientific fact that your exact genetic makeup has never occurred before, nor will it ever be repeated.
In other words, you are a one-time, singular phenomenon in this universe. There is no other person on earth like you, nor will there ever be...
Uncovering Your Authentic Core
I would not be exaggerating if I said that all of us, at some point in our lives, felt like we weren't the authentic individual we were intended to be--like someone behind a mask borrowed from others, just waiting to be revealed…
In fact, the older I grow, the more I realize that life is not just about seeking oneness, but it’s also about uncovering and growing fully into our UNIQUE, authentic selves.
From my perspective, this is the main gateway to both contentment and fullness of life. Only as we begin to know ourselves at our core--and to live from that place on daily basis--can we begin the long, but fulfilling path to self-actualization.
The big question, of course, is HOW?
How do you reveal your UNIQUE, authentic CORE hiding behind years of encrusted social conditioning and unconscious thought patterns?
Over the past few years, I've been obsessed with this question, actively exploring it from different angles and methods. My curiosity carried me to uncharted territories and opened my mind in unexpected ways. It led me to explore a variety of disciplines, such as Ayurveda, Astrology, Psychology, and other alternative forms of looking at the world.
In this post, I'd like to offer a few possible ways to discover your authentic core, each illustrated with examples from my own discovery processes.
Now, before I get into it, I'll say this: reading through this list, you may dismiss some of the disciplines as superstitions or mental aberrations. This is natural. The important part is to take what resonates deep within and simply leave the rest.
With this in mind, let's get right into it.
Knowing your authentic self from an internal perspective
I've always been an introspective and self-examining guy, but I've never found the balance between the mental introspection and the more meditative, mind-independent observations.
It wasn't until last year that I found that balance, delved more deeply into myself, and found more clues and answers to the “who are you” question.
In a nutshell: Often, some of the best answers can come when we silence our logical mind and become more still in the moment. It allows us to cut through the mental noise and listen honestly to the words that come up.
The secret lies in knowing how to listen, how to stay present and concentrate deeply enough to hear our inner voice speaking. With commitment and patience, we can find a place within ourselves to explore and discover the answers to our deepest questions.
And once that happens, then the logical mind can be engaged again--this time at a heightened level --and be used to contemplate all the answers that come up.
The process: Take a few minutes for self-introspection. Find a quiet time and place, close your eyes, and just focus on your breath as it flows in and out of your body.
When you are in a calm state of mind, think about your question and start listening to the silence within. Pay close attention to whatever emerges in your awareness: feelings, emotions, past experiences and memories, repetitive thoughts, just anything that comes to mind.
After a few minutes, open your eyes and, without spending too much time pondering, write down a list of possible answers to the question, who are you?
Go deeper and beyond the surface of roles, jobs, things you do, the ethnic group you belong to, your age, your gender, and so forth. Rather, focus on the qualities of being you clearly possess.
Keep on writing until you feel intuitively that you have run out of possible answers. Then, look at your list closely and circle qualities that CANNOT be taken away from you and those that keep emerging throughout your life. For example, you may be a lawyer or a coach or a teacher, but that job can always be removed completely from your life in a moment, with a single decision.
If you do this process enough times, you will eventually notice repetitive answers and patterns that may provide clues to the answer.
The learning: When I first went through the process, identity answers--such as “I am Israeli” or “I’m Jewish”--appeared on my list, but I very quickly realized that any identity is partial and transient. I always have the option, for instance, to renounce my citizenship and convert to another religion.
On the other hand, I've always been of an inquisitive and explorative nature, something which has led me into personal development quite naturally. Ever since I was young, I’ve had an eye out for Inspirational, Leadership and Success books. That growth-seeking being that I am can never be taken away or stripped from me… At my core, I AM Growth.
Of course, we are all Growth, to some extent. But some people are more so than others. Personal growth is in their essence, in their blood, in the way they carry themselves and gaze out at the world.
I AM one of those people..
2. Outward Introspection
Knowing your authentic self from an external perspective
In a nutshell: Often, others can see qualities and possibilities in us that we ourselves do not see. By asking others for feedback, we can connect to parts of ourselves that might be blocked from our conscious awareness and knowing.
When I shared this with a few friends, one of them raised an eyebrow. “Do you really want to allow others to define who you are?” he asked.
Well, he had a point; however, it’s not quite like that. The idea here is to listen to others and to yourself at the same time.
The two sides of the equation are equally important. You want to be open to hear what others see in you and, at the same time, observe the inner responses that come up and hint when something feels right.
The process: Send a short message with the following two simple questions to people you know and whose opinions you value:
1. What qualities/attributes show up for them when you are in their presence?
2. What contribution do they see you making in a group, community, or society as a whole?
Here's the email I sent out (feel free to use it):
“Hi, I'm writing to you because I value your opinion. I'd love to have your feedback and insight on something of importance to me.
In the last few days, I've been doing some self-exploration to better identify and focus on the work I am meant to do. As part of this self-exploration, I’ve decided to reach out to those I am close to, who know me and have worked with me, those who can give me honest and open feedback. Some of you have known me for 20+ years, and some I have become friends with over the last few years. This is a great combination, as it covers many phases of my evolution to authenticity.
I only have 2 questions for you:
1. I'd like to ask you to think about what qualities/attributes show up for you when I'm in your presence. What do I bring to our relationship?
2. What contribution do you see me making in a group, community, or society as a whole?
You can provide just one sentence – or you can provide more lengthy commentary.
With much gratitude,”
Once you get the replies, copy-paste all the answers into a spreadsheet and start looking for patterns. You can do this by capturing repetitive themes and then sorting them by descending frequency.
The learning: Some of the responses I got were rather predictable, but others were quite surprising. For example, around one-third(!) of the respondents mentioned calmness and peacefulness as a quality that showed up for them when I'm in their presence. Somehow I felt that I mostly bring spark, fire, and passion to people's lives. It was interesting to know most people sense the other side of the coin...
Here's what else I learned (my key findings):
1. Empowerment: The words “Motivation,” “Inspiration,” and their derivatives showed up for close to half of the respondents. “You inspire motivation to show up…YOU + Motivation seem to be flying high”; “You bring a spirit of certitude and conviction that magnetizes people to you and inspires them to do more with their life”; “Meeting you has always brought me a sense of inspiration”; “You are brilliant at motivating other people and drawing your friends along with you in your motivation.”
2. Unconventionalism: Close to a quarter of the respondents mentioned the quality of unconventionalism and thinking outside the box. It wasn't anything I didn't already know about myself, but it helped me to appreciate my uniqueness. “You bring a strong sense of original thinking & freedom from the perceived norms” ; “I enjoy your unconventional approach to life” ; “You appreciate novel ways of thinking and different perspectives.”
3. Listening: This was another unexpected surprise for me. I love to share (and passionately express myself), but I would not have guessed that so many would emphasize the polar opposite of it: “You are a listener and a sharer, and you want to connect”; “...your being not just a listener but, even better, someone who asks meaningful questions and then listens”; “I miss that you actually listen. Most people just wait for their turn to talk...”; “When in your presence, I felt accepted, listened to, and ‘seen’...“
Here is the top list of qualities sorted by frequency. (Each of them has been expressed by at least two people.)
Confidence & Charisma
Insightful & Seeing through
Unconventional & Originality
Reliable & Trustworthy
Purposeful & Values-based
Courage & Daring
Intellectual & Wise
Acceptance & Loving
Positive & Optimistic
Adventurous & Explorer
Fun & Excitement
Leader & Leadership
Social & People's Person
Authentic & Genuine
Depth, Going beyond the surface
Friendly, Forging relationships quickly
Fullness, Living fully
Looking quickly at the above, you can get a broad sense of what I’m about.
The second question took it further and defined a potential role that other people see me playing. Here’s what came up the most:
1. Coach, Mentor, Advisor, Consultant: This came up the most and it kind of makes sense because I’ve been mentoring and coaching others for more than a decade: “People are trusting you and longing for your opinion. That makes you a good coach”; “Actually, I see you as a mentor figure”; “Help people feel understood… showing them there is another possible and better way of living”; “A coach, consultant, leader, a rock for a foundation, a wise man, a person that people can look to for advice during challenging times”; “Think Life Coach or something along those lines”; “...informal mentor who is driven with very good leadership qualities.”
2. Leader: Almost half of the respondents who answered the 2nd question mentioned the words “leader” or “leadership.” To be honest, this took me by surprise. Somehow, I did not see this so clearly. Just goes to show you how blind one can be. “I think you would be great at any kind of leadership role. Running workshops, facilitating groups...that kind of thing”; “You are a natural born leader”; “You would make a great team leader. You give inspiration to people”; “On a macro-level, you can really lead by example...On a micro-level you can really help people shift their perspective”; “You should be the one who shows the way”; ”Your intelligence and confidence make you an excellent leader, and I think you could do big things, become someone famous.”
3. Teacher, Group Facilitator, Mediator: This is closely related to the leadership role but more specific: “You would make an excellent contribution to a school environment”; ”I see you as a leader and a teacher…working with people and groups to transform themselves”; “...getting groups to keep their eye on the long term health”; “...bring people together with your attitude, your approach to life, your easy intensity, and your open spirit”; “You're smart and have a high level of understanding on how to handle group dynamics and make a positive impact.”
4. Motivator, inspirator, messenger: “Your words carry fluidity, influence, inspiration”; ”...sharing your experiences with the world...showing people that life does have to follow a set formula”; “You bring a healthy sense of vision and inspiration.”
5. An entrepreneur: “I see you sparking and inspiring entrepreneurship, big goals, reprioritization, waking up buried dreams, and high standards in others.”
Perhaps the best answer I received, however, was: “I believe that your most important gift to the world is simply being YOU…”
3. Sixteen Personalities
Knowing your authentic self from a psychological perspective
Since psychology first emerged as a science, psychologists have spent decades researching in pursuit of a reliable and well-defined model of individual differences in core personality. Among all models, one stands out the most: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
My first encounter with the Myers-Briggs personality test came almost a decade ago while applying for an MBA in Australia. It was part of the university’s early admission process.The psychological profile I received was so remarkably accurate that it eventually led me to abandon my studies in order to pursue an entrepreneurial path.
In many ways, it has helped me to become the person I am today.
In a nutshell: The Myers-Briggs model, which originates from the theories of psychologist Carl Jung, is based on four possible pairs of personality traits:
Introversion (I) or Extraversion (E)
Intuition (N) or Sensing (S)
Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
Extraversion (E), for example, means that the dominant function is focused on the outside world. Introverts (I), on the other hand, tend to get their energy from within. Intuition (N) and Sensing (S) are two ways of gathering information or perceiving the world. And so forth...you get the point.
Now, when you use all possible combinations of these four possible pairs, you get 16 different types of personality (e.g. ENFJ, ISFP, etc.).
This is the story in a nutshell. More will become clear when you take the actual personality test.
The process: Take the free personality test on 16Personalities.com (~10 minutes) and find out what psychological type you are according to the Myers & Briggs model.
The results may surprise you with their accuracy...
The learning: The Myers-Briggs personality type that I fit into is ENFJ (stands for Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging).
The profile I received from 16personalities is so accurate that it feels as if they’d known me forever… This was the exact case with the personality report I got during my MBA studies.
Here are my main learnings and takeaways:
1. Leading the charge through inspiration and courage: Similarly to the Outward Introspection process I mentioned above, the words “Leadership,” “Inspiration,” and “Courage” kept coming up. I can now clearly see a path... “ENFJs are natural-born leaders, full of passion and charisma...they are oftentimes our politicians, our coaches and our teachers, reaching out and inspiring others to achieve and to do good in the world”; “With a natural confidence that begets influence, ENFJs take a great deal of pride and joy in guiding others to work together to improve themselves and their community”; “It is no wonder that many famous ENFJs are US Presidents – this personality type wants to lead the way to a brighter future, whether it's by leading a nation or...”; “ENFJs easily see people's motivations and are able to bring ideas together and communicate them as a common goal”; “ENFJs are genuine, caring people who talk the talk and walk the walk, and nothing makes them happier than leading the charge, uniting and motivating their team with infectious enthusiasm”; “More than seeking authority themselves, ENFJs often end up in leadership roles at the request of others, cheered on by the many admirers of their strong personality and positive vision.”
2. Firm believer in the people, almost to a fault: My key learning here is to pull back when needed and use my intuitive trait and natural self-reflection, rather than be fully enmeshed with people. “The interest ENFJs have in others is genuine, almost to a fault – when they believe in someone, they can become too involved in the other person's problems, place too much trust in them”; “ENFJs' altruism and authenticity inspire those they care about to become better themselves. But if they aren't careful, they can overextend their optimism, sometimes pushing others further than they're ready or willing to go”; “...if they get too caught up in another person's plight, they can develop a sort of emotional hypochondria, seeing other people's problems in themselves, trying to fix something in themselves that isn't wrong”; “ENFJs can bury themselves in their hopeful promises, feeling others' problems as their own and striving hard to meet their word. If they aren't careful, they can spread themselves too thin, and be left unable to help anyone.”
3. Self improvement nature: My growth-oriented nature was known to me well before I visited the 16personalities site, but reading the ENFJ profile strengthened my relationship with the character traits that define my nature. “There's really no greater joy for ENFJs than to help along the goals of someone they care about...”; “...making others' goals come to fruition is often the chiefest concern of ENFJs, and they will spare no effort in helping their partner to live the dream”; “..self-improvement and goal-setting that ENFJs hold so dear…”; “...help others learn, grow, and become more independent...”; ”...always up for a good challenge – and nothing thrills them quite like helping others...”; “The joy ENFJs take in moving things forward means that there is always a sense of purpose behind their friendships”; “ENFJs are a driven, versatile group, knowing that each second of effort contributes to something bigger than themselves”; “ENFJs' imagination is invaluable in many areas, including their own personal growth.”
These are just a few descriptions. There’s so much more to learn here, especially when taking the more professional Myers-Briggs test. It’s great as a first step or brief glimpse into the world of one’s essence.
4. Twelve Signs
Knowing your authentic self from an astrological perspective
Astrology has never been something I've paid much attention to, other than knowing that I am a Virgo. It was always kind of fun reading what my sign has in store.
Until one day, while living in Bali, I met this incredible astrologer who narrated an exact representation of my life. As I was listening to him speak, I was astounded at how well he could represent me. It was so accurate that it piqued my curiosity and gave me a better appreciation of what astrology is all about.
Over the following weeks, I coincidentally ran into some other astrologers--men and women--who shared their views and insights on this ancient practice. All of them popped out of the woodwork...one by one. My curiosity was peaked and I was eager to learn more, so I did.
In a nutshell: Contrary to popular belief, astrology isn’t primarily about predicting the future, although that is often a byproduct of some of the work. Rather, it is about the exploration and understanding of self.
I won't get into the whole backstory of astrology, planetary movements, and if it is “real” or not. It’s up to each one of us to decide. I will say, however, that it is easy to criticize without doing research and spending considerable time on the topic.
The process: The correct way to discover your authentic core from an astrological perspective is to interpret an astrological chart in its entirety.
You see, it's not enough to know your sun sign (the sign that popular media horoscope columns are based on) because it only represents a small part of your makeup. There are a lot of things to consider, like your ascendant, North Node, moon sign, and the influence of Venus and Mars in your life. Even then, you really only scratch the surface, as there are hundreds of moving pieces.
If the astrological perspective is of interest to you, you’ll probably want to have a personal analysis by an experienced astrologer and not by computer software... In that’s the case, I suggest listening to your intuition when selecting someone.
The learning: Out of all the key learnings I have had in the last year, I find the one related to the South/North Node polarity the most rewarding.
In a nutshell, the North Node represents the path of greatest growth and development (should I choose to accept it), whereas the South Node represents my overdeveloped character traits that are easy for me to fall back on.
In my example, my North Node and South Node are in Scorpio/Taurus which means that instead of clinging to my possessions and being too fixed, self-indulgent, and overly focused on security, I’m here to go beyond comfort and welcome change as a way of life.
In a way, this is the story of my life.
My most important learning is to actually integrate the best of both Taurus (Stability) and Scorpio (Metamorphosis). If I swing too far towards Taurus, I become miserably secure and fixed. On the other hand, if I swing too far towards Scorpio, I get overly obsessed with change and transformation.
Of course, there are many more lessons, but I won't bore you with all of them. Again, it’s easy to be dismissive of astrology as misguided pseudoscience, but after putting hundreds and hundreds of hours into it, I could see repeating patterns and, for me, that’s enough to hold my attention.
5. Three Doshas
Knowing your authentic core from an Ayurvedic perspective
When I first encountered the ancient principles of ayurveda almost a decade ago, it appeared to be something rather archaic, but as I continued to explore deeper, I quickly began to realize its profound depth and usefulness.
In a nutshell: Ayurveda looks at individuals in terms of their psychophysical constitution through the three doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Let’s have a quick look at what each one means.
Vata - If you are predominantly Vata, you tend to be thin, active, and quick in your actions and thoughts. You have a lot of energy, but your challenge is to aim it properly. The constant need to be engaged in work or activity can lead to restlessness, insomnia, or irregular digestion.
Pitta - If you are a Pitta type, you tend to be passionate, focused, and achievement- or goal-oriented. Your innate fire, intensity, and competitive nature make you very good at pushing yourself forward but can also lead to overheating and burnouts.
Kapha - If you're predominantly Kapha, you're slower moving, more solid, and have a bigger body type. Your “laid back,” calm, stable, and grounded nature make you a reliable and steady sort. Procrastination and weight gain are some of your biggest potential problems.
The process: Although it’s best to be evaluated by an Ayurvedic practitioner, there are quite a few “dosha quizzes” that you can take online. These quizzes will give you a breakdown of your proportion of each of the three doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—within your unique mind-body constitution. Here is the most popular one of them all.
The learning: Using the principles of Ayurveda, I could identify my mind-body physiology and use this understanding to make better choices in my life.
My dominant dosha is Pitta and I have a minor constituent of Kapha. Since Pitta is predominantly associated with fire and heat, the first thing I learned is to cool down the body and avoid heating it up. Although this is a good advice in general, it's especially important for Pitta types.
Here are a few small examples of how this lesson is working in my life:
- I nowadays avoid exercising during the hot part of the day and getting too competitive.
- I (try to) avoid extremely spicy foods, preservatives, excessive caffeine, and other
- I make sure I drink plenty of water during the hot months and avoid too much baking in the sun. I also take cool showers to keep refreshed and lower my body heat when needed.
Beside my sensitivity to heat and hot weather, I learned more about the common characteristics of Pitta body types. These include:
- Orderly, focused, assertive, self-confident, and entrepreneurial at their best
- Competitive, enjoy challenges, and often like to be in command
- When out of balance, can be aggressive, demanding, stubborn, pushy, and opinionated
- When under stress, become irritated, impatience and angry
- Good management and leadership ability, but can become authoritarian
- Passionate and romantic; sexually, have more vigor and endurance
- Strong digestion, strong appetite; get irritated if missed or waited for a meal
- Like to spend money and be surrounded with beautiful objects.
- Good public speakers; also capable of sharp, sarcastic, cutting speech
I can easily identify myself with the above characteristics…
Knowing them not only helps me to understand my inherent essence, but also to develop a healthier state of being by creating balance with the right food, lifestyle, and activity.
If you ever feel off-balance, over-stressed, scattered, or just out of touch and disconnected from yourself, I highly recommend to learn more about Ayurveda. Contrary to the typical Western approach to health and healing, Ayurveda’s holistic approach seeks the cause of an illness and restores balance by eliminating imbalance at the most fundamental level of life.
Putting it All Together
Each man's life represents a road toward himself...
We are all born unique. We all have been blessed with special gifts, distinctive to us, and yet, we spend our lives trying to blend in with the world.
Our schools, religious institutions, and our society as a whole largely encourage us to be the same. We start doing what others are doing and slowly lose ourselves--our authentic unique selves--in the process.
>It is only when we truly embrace our uniqueness that we can truly shine as lights in the world. Until then, we’re simply replicas, copycat versions who are following the crowd, afraid to differ from one another so that no one can criticize us.
I was one of these copycats throughout my youth. I blended in with everyone and everything, clinging to some “one-size-fits-all” plan. It has taken me more than a decade of self-discovery and experimentation to truly know myself at my core: a growth agent who is here to empower, inspire, uplift…
No one revealed to me a complete road map, because there isn’t one. The above list of all the methods and processes and disciplines out there...they just offer CLUES. Ultimately, WE are the ones who put the pieces of our life together.
As Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic, puts it: "The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them…”
So go, discover your individual, magnificent spark, and celebrate it without apology.
Tal Gur is a location independent entrepreneur, author, and impact investor. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living - 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World, has set the stage for his new mission: elevating society to its abundance potential.