Whether you’re simply striving to be a better person or seeking to clear up confusion regarding your path and purpose, you might still be wondering how to do that. To know yourself requires you to be able to see yourself without judgement, to explore who you are now, and who you want to become. This is where self-analysis becomes a vital tool. When performed correctly it is done without self-judgement and leads you to increased self-awareness and the ability to transform yourself from where you are to where you want to be.
It keeps you focused, disciplined, and watchful. The key here is watchful. That’s what you need to be on the spiritual path because the ego and pride are very cunning and sneaky. They are experts in remaining hidden. Like a snake, if you’re not watchful, it will strike and bite.
What is Self-Analysis & How to Get To Know Yourself
Self-analysis is a structured daily practice designed to help you understand yourself better and become an active participant in your own growth and development. It takes only five minutes. With daily practice, you’ll improve your capacity for introspection, get to know yourself better, know what you want to change and how, and even develop a safeguard from your pride and ego. Of course, grace and your discipline comes into the equation too but so does the quality of your self-analysis. Here’s how to do proper self-analysis.
There are four steps to self-analysis. Each one is outlined in detail below for you.
Have a Goal
The first thing to consider is that your self-analysis is only relevant and useful to you if you set a goal. You need to have a goal and preferably a small, tangible, incremental goal.
An example of a terrible goal is ‘I want to be self-realised.’ Why? Because it is a goal to which you do not know the path. You cannot analyse your day and say, ‘I am moving closer or further away from it’ because you have no idea. You don’t know how it’s going to come and you don’t know the road that leads to it. Essentially, it’s a great goal for life but not a great goal for self-analysis.
So what is a good goal for self-analysis? It’s something tangible, smaller in nature, and something you can accomplish in a shorter amount of time. For example, maybe you want to expand your ability to serve and engage in devotional service and your goal is to do that by becoming a better harmonium player and learning to sing for the Lord. That is the example we're going to use in this case study.
Become the Observer
Number two, following goal setting, is becoming the observer. When you are self-analysing, you must put yourself in the role of the observer because that is the only way you can be objective. Otherwise, you're going to look at yourself and you're going to forgive yourself, excuse yourself, judge yourself or be dishonest towards yourself in your analysis. No one wants to be tough on themselves and really say things as they are. But when it comes to somebody else, well, that's easy. If you were doing self-analysis on each other that'd be easy.
It's amazing, but it's true. Take a partner, you analyse their data and they analyse yours. It'd be easy to point out all the mistakes, where they went wrong, where they should improve, etc. But if you try that level of honesty with yourself, it only works consistently in one way. And that is when you become the great observer.
When you go into the role of the observer, you remove yourself and say, today, I'm going to analyse the day of person X or person Y. You don't associate yourself with the one living the day, the performer of the actions. That will allow you to analyse your day properly, in an unbiased, honest and sincere way. Look at it as if you're watching a movie. How did that character do today in the movie in relation to achieving their goal?
Step one is to create a goal. For our purposes today, the goal is to become a great harmonium player. So now step two is to remove yourself from the position that you find yourself in and become the observer.
The Proper Filter for Measuring Your Progress
What is step three? Measuring your progress. You cannot use the measure of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ for the purpose of your self-analysis because good and bad are completely relative. The best and only method you should use to filter your day-to-day activities when you're conducting your analysis is this: Does it help me to achieve my goal or not? Nothing else matters and nothing else counts.
That is the only way that your self-analysis will be devoid of judgment and self-criticism. Something that is ordinarily perceived as being very good, can be very unhelpful to attaining your goal. The goal we’ve been using so far has been to become a good harmonium player. Maybe today you decide to meditate for two hours, study the scriptures for another few hours, do some seva, and then do your Babaji Surya Namaskar. These are all things that ordinarily you would say are good. But are they helping you to achieve your goal to become a good harmonium player? No, they're not. As a result, they are deemed unhelpful in attaining your goal.
So helpful and unhelpful is the only filter that you will ever need to use and should use. It will always be objective to the situation and adaptable to circumstance. And then the ‘good and bad’ measurement doesn't come into it.
If ‘good’ and ‘bad’ don’t come into it, neither does judgement. Instead, judgement becomes discernment. You don't have to be afraid of judging yourself, because it is not really yourself. It is the character. It is person X.
After having figured out your goal, you become the observer and you analyse your state in a very analytical, cold, almost scientific way. You break down the day, the decisions that were made throughout and the allocation of hours and activities. You know what was compulsory and what was not compulsory that day, meaning the non-compulsory things are the ones you had a choice on. After that, you apply the filter. Did the choices you made help you achieve your goal or not?
Let's take the example of becoming a better harmonium player. You’re clear on your goal and you’re becoming the observer and analysing your day. One of the choices you made was to do some Babaji Surya Namaskar, do some extra long prayers or meditation and study the scriptures. Those decisions did not help you to attain your goal however beneficial they may be. So you make a mental note that tomorrow, instead of doing those things at the same allocated time when you have that choice, choose to go and play the harmonium instead.
Lose Your Expectations
The last and final point is to free yourself of any expectation that you actually succeed in these goals. Success is not a human faculty. Success does not depend on human beings. It depends on the Lord Himself. Only He can grant you success and He only grants success to those that have earned it through effort and humility.
Do you want to achieve your goals? Easy, make your effort and remain humble. There is no other way that God grants you the success of your goals.
Finding Yourself and Understanding Yourself
If you keep these goals and don't have multiple goals at the same time, you will see how much you can achieve in a short amount of time. It is the best way of spiritual task management. Because as spiritual practitioners, what you will often find is that we have too many things we're trying to be good at, at the same time.
Paramahamsa Vishwananda once said, ‘You're all trying too hard to be saints.’ And this is the thing. When you read the Bhagavad Gita it explicitly lays out the path for one who wishes to become a surrendered devotee of the Lord. It includes, first of all becoming a good human being and how to elevate yourself from being sick to being sattvic or possessing the qualities of gentility, good conduct, enlightened understanding, purity and detachment.
How do you become a better human being? The Bhagavad Gita is very detailed in its descriptions of the characteristics and traits of somebody who is a good human being, in the prime position to surrender. Take those qualities, one-by-one, and try to apply them to your life. Let’s take truthfulness for example. Maybe one of your goals is to be truthful.
At the end of the day, you perform your self-analysis. Did you tell any lies today? You analyse the lies and ask yourself what you can do to change this.
Correct self-analysis is one of the most important aspects of any spiritual practitioner’s day to day life. Five minutes is all it really takes. You can do more, but five minutes is all you really need.
Step 1: Identify your goal
Make the goal tangible, small and incremental so it can be advanced. It can be a short-term goal, no problem. It can be something tangible like learning to play an instrument, sing a bhajan or learning how to do puja better. It can also be something more abstract like being more honest or more punctual, watching the kind of food you eat or music you listen to, stop gossiping and more. These are all viable goals that will help you advance towards becoming a sattvic person and prepare yourself to become truly surrendered.
All the goals you may have can seem like an insurmountable mountain. It can seem overwhelming. Break them down and do them one by one instead of trying to tackle them all at once.
Step 2: Become the Observer
Remove yourself from the situation. You become the observer. You will be able to be truly sincere in your assessment of the day if you become the observer. If you do not, you will mask things, hide things and sugarcoat things. Do not make that mistake.
Step 3: Use the filter of ‘helpful’ or ‘not helpful’
Step three is to use only the filter of ‘helpful’ or ‘not helpful’. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ have judgment built into them and are an irrelevant way of analysing yourself. ‘Helpful’ and ‘not helpful’ is your filter and only relates to your goal. It removes the element of judgment from your self-analysis. And it is very useful in determining the exact decisions that you need to observe and you need to adjust.
Step 4: Let go of expectations
Don't allow yourself to become frustrated. Don't allow yourself to expect results or success. You believe in that goal. Seek that goal. Make your effort, analyse yourself and make the correct life choices to succeed in that or to put yourself in the position to be graced by success. And then the Lord will give it if it is meant for you.
Remember that it is not up to you to guarantee your own success.
Five minutes at the end of your day is all you need. If you can do that, your pride and arrogance will never be allowed to take root inside of you because you are being watchful.