While Eat, Pray, Love is definitely an admirable and appealing tale (and I really do love Elizabeth Gilbert!), it just isn’t feasible for all of us (read: most of us). I can pretty much guarantee that the majority of you reading this piece can’t just up and leave your current job and book a one-way ticket to a country thousands of miles away in order to “find” yourself. I know I sure as hell can’t.
So, what do we do instead?
Self-discovery, in my humble 26-year-old opinion, is a lifelong pursuit. You can’t find yourself in a three-month excursion, you can’t decide your purpose on a rainy day abroad, and you sure can’t figure out what you want out of life in a year. Personal growth is gradual and slow. It’s as exhilarating as it is painful. And it doesn’t have to be expensive or reckless. We can be found in our everyday lives. After all, you’re always with you. Those parts you’re trying to uncover will always be there; it’s simply about finding ways to bring them out. Here are 44 ways to do just that.
1. Get lost in the library. Gravitate towards the stories that resonate with you, that can teach you something, or that can transport you to somewhere else without having to leave town.
2. Take a weekend trip somewhere. Yes, getting out of your surroundings can inspire new perspectives! It would be silly to say it doesn’t. However, you don’t have to book a trip around the world in order to do that, especially if you can’t afford it.
3. Make that weekend trip a solo one to really spend time with yourself.
4. Journal. As often as you can, as much as you can. Take the time to revisit old entries to see how you’ve grown, what you still need to work on, and to ultimately have a cool documentation of your growth and of your life.
5. Get in the best shape of your life. No, not just to “look good,” but to test your body’s limits and prove to yourself how much it is truly capable of.
6. Say “no” when you want to, without over-explaining or apologizing.
7. Say “yes” every now and then when you don’t want to (and when it would be healthy for you to do so). Sometimes, getting out of your comfort zone is what helps you grow.
8. Do a dry month. Hey, in your twenties, it’s hard to say “no” to happy hours or nights out! Alcohol is involved in a lot of our socializing. Finding other ways to let loose and hang out with friends that don’t involve booze will be hard and sometimes uncomfortable, but it will really make you self-reflect and learn to be a little more creative and present.
9. Go to therapy.
10. Take up an artistic hobby that you might not be totally awesome at, but like to do anyway. Being good isn’t always the point. Sometimes, simply doing something for the hell of it is what will be the most fulfilling.
11. Speaking of hobbies, find activities that transport you to a state of flow.
12. Take classes to spur career growth. SkillShare is an awesome option with a huge library of classes in everything from graphic design to writing to marketing. Or, sign up for classes at your local community college.
13. If you don’t like what you’re doing career-wise, come up with an actual plan to do something else. Take classes, fix up your resume, find a mentor, etc. Research what it is you think you would like doing the most and start taking the steps to get there.
14. Make a bucket list of things you’ve always wanted to do but never had the guts to try.
15. Challenge yourself to live really frugally for a month. Figure out what you’re spending on unnecessarily, and, most importantly, figure out why you feel the need to blow your money on whatever your vices are.
16. Explore your faith/spiritual beliefs, if that’s something that’s important to you.
17. Take one day a week for hardcore self-reflection. Journal, put your phone on airplane mode, and just sit there with yourself.
18. Go to dinner with friends and make everyone put their phone in the middle of the table. Force yourselves to connect in a way that is difficult to achieve these days, thanks to technology.
19. Figure out what you’re trying to achieve by traveling/quitting your job. Is it fulfillment? A sense of freedom? Find other ways to get those rushes.
20. Date only to get your heart broken. Learn the to pick yourself back up and deal with rejection in a mature and healthy way.
21. Ask yourself what your ideal life would look like if no one else had a say. If you couldn’t post about it on social media. If you truly didn’t care what it looked like on the outside.
23. Do a social media detox. Delete the apps off your phone and live your life as if you’re not about to share it all on Instagram. This will help you learn what you value, and not just what you think your friends/followers value.
24. Learn to stop taking everything so damn personally.
25. Find a mentor.
26. Become a mentor.
27. Learn a new language.
28. Write out what you think your life purpose is. Review it every year. See what changes and what stays the same.
29. Write your eulogy. Morbid, yes, but it’s an effective way to figure out who you ultimately want to be. Write out what you think you want to be remembered for (and not just a list of accomplishments). What kind of person do you want to be remembered as? Kind? Generous? Loyal? Figure out who that is, and then embody this person from that day forward.
30. Become very well-versed in your country’s political structure so you actually know what the hell is going on, and take action.
31. Hang out with your parents. They’re only getting older.
32. Read a shit ton. Fiction, non-fiction, romance, the news, Harry Potter; whatever you like, just fucking read!
33. Go off-the-grid for a day. Warn your family and friends first, of course, but turn that damn phone off, hide your laptop, and go venture into the world with nothing but your eyes in front of you.
34. Write out your weaknesses. Make a plan for how to work on them.
35. Write out your strengths. Figure out how to use them more.
36. Meditate. Sorry, cliché advice, but it’s effective and stress-relieving.
37. Forgive yourself.
38. Forgive those who have hurt you, even if they didn’t apologize.
39. Learn to live within your damn means.
40. Practice sticking up for yourself when someone hurts you without being a self-righteous dick. Most people aren’t maliciously trying to hurt you. Sometimes, we all just need a direction in getting it right.
41. Become someone who does what they say they will do, even when it ends up becoming inconvenient. There is something to be said for someone who follows through. Be that kind of person.
42. Save up for really fucking good seats to see your favorite musician. There is nothing like an amazing concert. Good seats make a difference, don’t @ me, it’s true.
43. Learn when it’s time to listen more than you speak. Everyone needs to be heard now and then.
44. Understand that it’s a beautiful thing to care a little too much. To be passionate. Being aloof and numb isn’t a desirable way to live. But to feel it all, to experience it all, to really fucking be alive; now that is the best way to find out who you are. We’re all here for a short while, some of us shorter than others. Don’t waste your precious years on things you don’t care about. Explore your mind and your heart with reckless abandon. It’ll be the best thing you do.
Molly is an assistant digital strategist by day and a writer by night. She drinks way too much coffee and can be found on Twitter here.
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