Mental Model

The most important relationship we have is with ourselves. In the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to lose our identity over time and become disconnected from what is most important. We become a mystery to ourselves unless we make time to reflect on the reality of our life. The continuous strengthening of self-awareness evolves our character into who we want to become. Our decisions are congruent with our long-term career and life goals. The risk from low self-awareness is that you may find yourself thousands of miles offshore wondering how you got there. You may never get back. Connect with yourself each day to navigate and stay on course to the next destination of your career journey.


It’s easy to race through the day and start the next without understanding where you are, how you are feeling, or the direction you are heading.

You may be disconnected in various ways without actually realizing it.

You lack the awareness to be your best at work and beyond.

The daily forces are controlling you instead of traveling the path you desire.

It’s important to ground yourself where you are right now.

The desired outcome of the “Connect with Yourself” mental model is to gain a deeper self-awareness of the realities of your life. With that base of understanding, you are in a position to identify actions and changes to transition to a higher state of performance and well-being. Practice these actions each day to give yourself an essential and powerful gift of self-awareness.

Connecting with yourself is an effective way of proactively understanding your feelings. It’s also important to ground yourself where you are right now as you may be disconnected in various ways without actually realizing it. I have found that a daily journal is a useful way to collect your thoughts and reflect on where you are. Writing down notes to remember events of the day is important as there may not be meaning or understanding at that moment. Our minds can often not remember the facts from a few days ago so daily journaling is essential.

When we are challenged in life or not feeling our best, it can often be the case that life conflicts with our core values. This is why in the Know Yourself strategy we discussed the need to explore and deeply understand our core values. Conflict with our core values may be due to conscious behaviors or the result of being exposed to an environment that slowly alters our behavior over time until it is a tipping point that radiates the conflict. Re-connecting with our values and looking in the mirror can identify the values that are in conflict right now. Ultimately, it is our behaviors and actions that dictate how we live each day. What actions would you take tomorrow to change how you spend your time or carry yourself to re-align your life with your values? What would you give up? Who would you reach out to for help? It may also be the case that we are in conflict because our values have changed but our mental model has not yet adjusted to this new norm. 

Your life may also feel unbalanced and out of your control. Inspect the challenges and what you are feeling to determine if there are boundaries that you are not enforcing, boundaries that are missing, or boundaries you failed to communicate to others.

The Directives

1. Observe yourself from afar.

Look at yourself from a distance in a 3rd-person view.

Reflecting on the day or week, write down how you see yourself.

Examine the value of where you spent your precious time.

Explore how emotion and discipline have governed your actions.

2. Go on a walk.

Get outside to experience and observe the environment.

Stay off your smartphone.

Let your mind wander to explore ideas.

Uncover solutions to breakthrough work problems that spur innovation.

3. Meditate in private.

Find a quiet spot.

Empty the mind to make space for deeper insight.

Focus on what is floating in your unconscious.

Return to your work with clarity.

4. Listen to podcasts.

Use your travel time to work or school to listen and reflect on ideas.

Digest content that drives self-reflection.

Digest content that builds solid character and habits.

Take notes on how you plan to change something about yourself.

5. Journal daily.

Empty your thoughts in handwritten form.

Use multiple journals that focus on a specific theme (e.g., work, health, hobby).

Place journals in view to build a daily habit.

Go back in time and quickly scan to identify trends, insight, and progress.

Synthesize the signal from the noise – derive the next actions that move you closer to your planned journey.

You are your best coach.

Experiment With This

  • Find a topic you want to learn more about and listen to a podcast while performing an activity such as cleaning your house. This can be a relaxing way to absorb content and stay productive.
  • If you find it hard to write in a journal, capture ideas, and feelings that pop into your mind for further analysis by using a voice recorder on your smartphone.
  • If you have experienced trauma or are going through a hard time, try journaling to understand the experience and make sense of your emotions. The act of writing can slow life down. I used journaling as a form of self-therapy to talk to myself during and after my divorce. Occasionally, I would be back and see how far I have come in my transition to a happier state.
  • During the workday, take a short break to get outside and walk for 10-15 minutes to relax your mind. What have I recently learned about myself as a result of journaling or walking?
  • I find that reading books are a helpful way to improve self-awareness. Experiment with this by selecting a book you are curious about and will act as a catalyst for self-reflection. I highly recommend The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene as the definitive reference to understanding ourselves and other people.
  • Deeper self-awareness is helpful in understanding how we are feeling and what may need to change. Looking back over the last few months, what themes or observations have I uncovered? What was I blind to?
  • Decide your boundaries to take ownership of your life – read this passage to explore how boundaries may be influencing your life.

Resources and DailyStoic podcast

Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday (Chapter: Start Journaling)

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself – by Michael A. Singer

The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene

Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality – by Anthony De Mello

Principles: Life and Work – by Ray Dalio (1.7 Pain + Reflection = Progress)