Monthly Archives: March 2012

Instead of Inside-Out, Try Outside-In!

Instead of Inside-Out, Try Outside-In!

While we often think of self-discovery as an internal process, one that is focused on getting to know your core self through introspection, there is important information to be found in your external environment. Look around. What do the structures you have created and/or inhabit tell you about yourself and your values? Surveying the different contexts in which you live, work, and play point to the hopes, dreams, and concerns of your internal world as well as point to what brings you meaning and satisfaction. The usual advice encourages an “inside-out” approach, but why not try going from the “outside-in” instead?!

What might this look like? Ask yourself: who, what, where, when? And as you ask, consider what is working for you now, what could work for you in the future, as well as what has worked for you in the past (perhaps including what brought you joy as a child). Answers to these questions offer clues to the external manifestations of your inner compass.


Who is and has been supporting you and encouraging you to be yourself and live your values? Who would you like to know better or see more often because they seem to bring out your best?  Who challenges you to think deeply and act courageously? What do these people have in common? What are they telling you about who you are and who you hope to become?


What objects are in your home and the other spaces you frequently inhabit (like your place of employment or favorite restaurant) and do you see any patterns in the objects that are present? Do the objects tell you a story about who you are and what you find pleasing? In these places, consider the number of objects, their arrangement, their color, their feel, their scent, etc. and what this says about what makes you feel energized, safe, happy, or otherwise.


Where do you feel most alive? Where do you feel most comfortable? Are there locations – near or far, actually visited or merely longed for – that are especially wonderful to you? What is the vibe or energy of those places? What does this say about what might be missing in your life? Where, perhaps, should you be spending more time?


When do you feel your best: morning, noon, or night; weekdays or weekends; winter or summer; moving slow or moving fast? Think about the times when you are relaxed and happy, when you are free of self-consciousness, when your focus is on the moment and the goodness it brings. When does this usually occur? How might you structure your life, work, and/or play to take advantage of your natural flow and energy cycles?

Your external environment is a window to your internal environment. Studying who and what’s around you and where and when you feel your best, determining what makes these contexts appealing, and then making an effort to see what they have in common can help you seek and attract more situations that engage the best of who you are.

Self-Discovery Tool 48

With whom, what, where, and when do you feel most yourself? What features in these contexts contribute to your sense of authenticity and meaningfulness? How can you make conscious use of these special characteristics to celebrate and sustain your core values from the outside in?