How to Find Yourself — A Life-Changing Experience

 “Take the first step, and your mind will mobilize all its forces to your aid.” ~ Robert Collier, American author.

This post is part of the Self-Discovery Series. For a better of understanding of why self-awareness and and finding yourself is so important, start here.

Have you been doing something, such as a hobby or a skill, for so long that it’s almost difficult to picture yourself before you began doing it?

That’s pretty much how self-discovery is for me. It’s been nearly seven years since I started out on this journey, but I’ve learned so much and come so far since then — it’s hard to remember exactly who I once was.

I know I was very ambitious, eager to make something of myself, and to get a start on life. Yet I was also very uncertain — afraid of commitment, struggling with my beliefs, and with no real sense of what really matters in life.

It was in the state of confusion that I stumbled upon what I consider to be the most critical first step towards self-discovery.

Maybe it’s because it was my own first step, but I have reason to believe it’s a great place for anyone to begin.

A Life-Changing Experience

Some people may be naturally interested in learning more about themselves and growing as person; however, they may find it difficult to make the time or truly commit to it.

Most people don’t get serious about self-development until they experience a life-changing event — something that moves them, shakes them up, and changes their perspective.

Sometimes it may be the death of a friend or family member or a life-threatening illness, but that’s not the type of life-changing event I’m talking about.

I’m talking about a decision you can make.  A life-changing enterprise that you knowingly undertake.

You may not know in advance if a particular experience will be life-changing, but you trust that it will be something, which is why you ultimately decide to do it.

Which brings me back to my story.

I can trace my journey of self-discovery back to a single decision, one that led me to a life-changing event.

I had been going through a religious struggle for most of my life, wondering whether or not a higher power exists, how that fits in with science and evolution, and what it means  for me personally. (That’s quite the lengthy story in itself, so we’ll save it for another day.) 

Suffice it to say, at this point in my struggle, I was taking a few religion classes in college and was regularly attending Catholic mass on campus. One day, in a state of frustration, I approached the priest, Father Patrick, with my concerns.

“I would like you to come with us to RE Congress next week.” he urged. (RE Congress is an enormous Catholic convention held in Los Angeles once a year.) 

After much debate, I finally conceded and agreed to go — a decision that would initiate a small shift that would ultimately change the course of my life.

The First Time

It was the first day of RE Congress, and out of many possible sessions, I randomly found myself in this particular one. Surrounded by nearly 300 people, I shifted nervously in my metal folding chair as I waited for the speaker to take the stage.

It was Matthew Kelly — what was soon to become a household name and someone I would meet on many more occasions.

The things he discussed that day seem somewhat “old hat” now — things I’ve heard several times since then in various forms, but this was the first time I heard them, and the first time can be extremely powerful.

He discussed the general sense of discontentment that many people feel, the wave of depression that is sweeping the nation, and Henry David Thoreau’s words,

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” 

He spoke of the questions we all begin to ask ourselves at some point — the questions men and women have been asking consciously and subconsciously for thousands of years. Questions like:

Who am I?

Where did I come from?

What am I here for?

How do I do it?

Where am I going?

Questions that get at the purpose and meaning of life — things we as humans need some sense of in our lives.

In modern society, this typically boils down to “what you do” and “what you have.”

But Matthew’s message was different. He stood behind the belief that “Who you become is infinitely more important than what you do or what you have.”

So there I was, in the middle of my desperate search for purpose and meaning, and there was this man to hand-deliver it for me with his message:

“The meaning and purpose of life is for you to become the best-version-of-yourself.

These words may not seem profound or earth-shattering to you, but they were for me at the time. They were the beginning of my conscious journey to become my best self.

Not only that, but it was the beginning of a journey of questioning, digging deeper, and seeking wisdom.

Following that morning’s session, I went out and bought a copy of Matthew’s book,  The Rhythm of Life.

Let me pause for a moment and point out that there are now several parts of this book that I disagree with, but I still find a tremendous amount of value in it.

I don’t believe in books, articles, videos, or any other means of communication as a means of finding truth; rather, I see them as a means of communicating thoughts and ideas, a means of challenging perspectives and offering insights.

That said, this book played a powerful role in my life. A year and half later, it helped strengthen my long-distance relationship with my boyfriend (who is now my husband).

It became something for us to read and discuss together, a way to share our thoughts and ideas, and the beginning our our journey of growth together.

A couple of years later, it was the reason I picked up Matthew Kelly’s first business book, The Dream Manager – a book which ended up changing the entire course of my career.

What’s the whole point of this story?

We need these powerful life-changing experiences.

So much of my growth, so many of my experiences, and so much of my journey can be traced back to that initial experience — and the decision that led to it.

These experiences challenge us, push us out of our comfort zones, test our limits, and help us form deeper connections with other people.

You simply can’t get the same thing from reading a book or article. It’s something you must experience.

Again and again…

These aren’t experiences that only happen once. The first might be the most powerful, but it might not.

I’ve been to several different workshops, conferences, trainings, and retreats since that time, each with their own unique experience, insight, and perspectives to offer.

Upon returning from them, I have a renewed sense of dedication to my passions and purpose in life. (We’ll talk more about these later in the series.)

Because I know the value of these experiences, I purposely plan and create them.

It’s the reason I participated in Kripalu’s Inner Quest Intensive program last year at this time, and it’s why I’m heading to the Himalayas for a 35-day backpacking expedition in two weeks.

Yet, life-changing experiences don’t have to be big expensive undertakings.

Some of my most profound experiences have come while in the middle of a yoga class, running a half-marathon, or even a solo walk through the woods.

However, shared experiences can also be extremely powerful, and some of my best memories and greatest insights come from these.

Whether big and expensive, simple and free, solo or surrounded by others, it’s about making the experience a priority.

Sure, you may stumble upon a life-changing experience someday, but there are no guarantees.

Why wait to find out? You have the ability to take charge of your own life and your own self-discovery.

Choose an experience. Make it a priority. Go.

Then come back to the books, blogs, and videos to deepen and strengthen the foundation you’ve built.

Now over to you.

Have you already experienced one or more life-changing experiences? If so, I would love to hear your story!

If not, is there an experience you are considering? What might be holding you back?

 

Image credit:  New Brunswick Tourism

48 Responses to “How to Find Yourself — A Life-Changing Experience”

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  1. Evita says:

    Hi Adrienne

    I always love hearing more about you, as you are a living example of not settling in life, but truly living, and living to the fullest potential. Complacency is not part of your vocabulary, rather exploration, adventure, and evolution are key words that come to mind when I think of you. And naturally, I love this about you, as it resonates so strongly with me, how I envision life and live it, and so there is a strong resonance there.

    I can only imagine the life changing event this 35 day trek will be! Oh the growth, the experiences and the adventures! It will be a pleasure to hear about it all :)
    The latest wisdom shared by Evita: Unity’s Path Reading For September 2011My Profile

    • Adrienne says:

      Hi Evita,

      Thanks so much — those are all words that definitely deeply resonate with me, so that’s awesome to hear! That’s probably what draw me to you and all of the great insights you share on your site as well. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your journey soon! ;)

      I’m getting ridiculously excited for this trip!!

  2. Vishnu says:

    Adrienne, Your point is well taken – don’t wait for the bull to show up and lick your face. Take the bull by the horn and start your inner journey to self discovery.

    The best case scenario is we learn about ourselves and become enlightened. I guess the worst case is giving all your money to a spiritual guru who might be a conman, unknowingly joining a cult or getting lost and frost-bitten in the mountains:) (completely joking)

    And looking forward to hearing more about your Himalayan adventure!

    p.s. I hope this comment doesn’t get me banned from your blog!?! (and you promised me it wouldn’t:)

    • Adrienne says:

      Hi Vishnu,

      I appreciate your comment (every funeral needs a comedian!) ;)

      Even though you’re joking, there’s definitely some truth to what you’ve shared. For every honest person out there who is looking to provide a genuine, powerful shared experience for people, there is some quack who is just interested in their own personal gain.

      My advice to anyone looking for any sort of experience, retreat, adventure, etc. — do your homework first! Look up reviews to ensure you are working with a credible person/organization.

      P.s. Let me know when you launch your site — I love the sound of it!!

      I agree, not everyone needs to run off to the Himalayas to find themselves. I’m headed there not only as a self-discovery/spiritual journey, but also because I am fascinated by Indian culture and tradition, I love yoga, I love the outdoors and backpacking, I am looking forward to the skills and training NOLS provides, and well, it’s the Himalayas!! ;)

    • Vishnu says:

      Adrienne – you’re going to have a blast in the Himalayas. I’d love to do the same thing minus the backpacking and frigid conditions. And 30 hour plane ride. lol Just kidding – you’re going to have the experience of a lifetime.

  3. This is absolutely an incredible post Adrienne!! Powerful on so many levels. For me I always had this feeling that I was here to do something more but never really got to the point where I knew what it was. A couple years ago through some coincidences (see babacita.com and the “Happiness” post) that really pushed me to think about the now and to live in the present. That was a couple years ago.

    Earlier this year on a flight, it hit me, and the words still ring true about my corporate job:

    “I am taking back my power. A company who treats their employees in this fashion is not an organization I wish to be a part of.

    I am no longer going to waste my time. I am more valuable than this. I have more to offer this world. I am not going to be a slave to their management by intimidation, lack of professionalism, destructive criticism and toxicity. No more. Instant relief, stress in shoulders, neck and pit of my stomach removed.

    No more. I’m free.”

    Tied back to your content, that’s exactly what I did. Took control and made things happen for myself. Over the past 9 months I have been on a personal branding mission to discover my true self and true purpose. I am nearly there and have never been more energized, full of life and happy!
    The latest wisdom shared by John Kowalski: Connecting the DotsMy Profile

    • Adrienne says:

      Hi John,

      Your excitement and enthusiasm is so contagious!! Thanks for coming around and sharing it with me so much. :)

      I’m so happy for you that you seem to have really found your own path of self-discovery, and have already put some good distance behind you!

      What’s the next step for you?

    • Next step is to complete my website (by weeks end), then to start getting the word out. My extremely conservative timeline is year end, but I truly think it’ll happen much sooner. Fingers crossed!! :)
      The latest wisdom shared by John Kowalski: Connecting the DotsMy Profile

    • Adrienne says:

      Is it a revamp of your current site (babacita.com), or are you launching a whole new cite? Either way, very exciting!! Let me know what I can do to help. :) (I’ll be leaving for India in a couple weeks — but happy to do what I can before leaving and after I get back.)

    • Same site, http://babacita.com. Thanks for the offer!!! I’ll let you know. Have an awesome time in India!!! I can’t wait to hear all about it!! Be safe and enjoy!! :)
      The latest wisdom shared by John Kowalski: Connecting the DotsMy Profile

  4. Lance says:

    Hi Adrienne!!
    I love this story of the CHOICES you have made, and how you have also been open to the possibilities they hold. I think that’s a real key – being open to the possibility. When we are, we can truly open ourselves up for transformations to a new higher self. You are doing this!! And – reading your story – so, so refreshing…

    May this next journey you are on be one that continues to lead you even more fully into the evolution of YOU!!

    xoxo
    The latest wisdom shared by Lance: Endings… and New BeginningsMy Profile

    • Adrienne says:

      Hi Lance,

      Happy to see you here — and so looking forward to your self-discovery story as well!

      It’s funny, I was just watching an awesome video that Jen Gresham put together (No Regrets Career Academy), and one of the things she discussed was finding your own set of core values. That’s a term we’re both very familiar with, as it’s very much pressed upon you in the Air Force. Anyhow, as I was reading your comment, there were so many great words that popped out at me and made me think of my own core values!

      Choices
      Possibility
      Open
      Evolution

      :)

  5. Lito Deveraturda says:

    Well for me I’m trying but could not really get a grasp for now on how to improve myself in whatever way possible. I think I was born a loser cos I always experience the saddest things. I hope you can come up with a phrase to boost up my self moral.

    • Adrienne says:

      Hi Lito,

      There are a lot of great resources out there for starting your journey — especially people who have gone through some terrible things and come through stronger. Have you read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”? It’s both incredibly inspiring and enlightening at the same time…that would be my recommendation for a place to start searching for that phrase.

  6. Deeone says:

    Hello Adrienne,

    Once again, very powerful post!

    I absolutely love your writing style. It’s so liberating, yet honest, open, and purposeful.

    This post spoke to me in so many ways, but I’ll limit my response to answering your question at the end.

    My life changing experience happened four years ago when I met my partner in life. Prior to meeting him, life for me was like walking in a dark room reaching for a switch to turn the light on and nothing happening. I had no focus, my mindset was stagnate and I didn’t have any desire to break free of it. It was really all that I knew.

    When he came into the picture he taught me how to question everything in my life. He showed me that there was more to life than settling for what society expected of me. My mind became a sponge and I wanted to soak up everything that I’d miss the 29 years before I’d met him.

    I’m truly a better individual because of him.

    That wasn’t the only life changing experience that I had, but it was the most impressionable one. It left the biggest impact in my life.

    So I completely relate to your message here, and truly thank you for sharing it with us.

    May all good things find its way at your front step. From what I see and read from you, you’re definitely deserving of it all.

    Your friend in Atlanta,

    Deeone
    The latest wisdom shared by Deeone: Versatile Blogger’s Award! Awesomeness!!My Profile

    • Adrienne says:

      Hi Deeone,

      Thanks so much for stopping by, for the kind words, and for sharing your experience with us! I’m happy to hear you are in a better place now and that you’ve found such a special person in your life. My husband has helped me grow in so many ways as well — I think that’s what a good partnership is all about. :)

      Once again, I’m glad we connected and I wish you all the best this autumn! (I’m headed to India in a couple days, so I’ll see you on the other side!)

      Adrienne

    • Deeone says:

      That’s awesome Adrienne! Safe travels to you! I can’t wait to read all about it. :)
      The latest wisdom shared by Deeone: Where is Kingkidd These Days?My Profile

  7. Hi Adrienne,

    I had to stop by after finding out we were fellow Versatile Blogger recipients on Deeone’s site. I’m glad I did.

    Self-Discovery is SOOO important. The backbone of every consulting job we do at my company is centered on this idea. We use DISC and Values assessments to help clients discover more about themselves, but your advice is very crucial in order to make any of that discovery sink in.

    I look forward to getting to know you better.

    Bryce
    The latest wisdom shared by Bryce Christiansen: How to Build Your Brand Using Social Media PsychologyMy Profile

    • Deeone says:

      Awesomeness!! :)
      The latest wisdom shared by Deeone: Versatile Blogger’s Award! Awesomeness!!My Profile

    • Adrienne says:

      Hi Bryce,

      Congrats, I’m sure it was well-deserved! It’s been great connecting with Deeone and now with you as well!

      I’m interested, what company do you work for? That’s exactly the same type of work I did in my previous job as an internal OD consultant. We did a lot of work with the Myers-Briggs as well. I love all of that stuff. :)

      That’s actually why I’m headed to India with NOLS in a couple days — I’m hoping to get into more adventure-based teambuilding.

      I’ll be gone for a month, but look forward to connecting when I return!

  8. Hi Adrienne,
    Life had a series of circumstances that caused me to my personal development journey. If all of humanity would commit to growing and changing as individuals just imagine what kind of world that we could create.
    The latest wisdom shared by Justin | Mazzastick: The Illusory Nature Of RealityMy Profile

    • Adrienne says:

      Hi Justin,

      It’s that image that propelled me into starting this community in the first place! ;)

      I feel like I’ve grown in leaps and bounds from what I would have without this community! — Thanks for being a part of it!

  9. Christy says:

    Finding ourselves through experiences is getting close to who we really are and learning at the same time.

    • Adrienne says:

      Hi Christy,

      Definitely! I know there are more ways to get in touch with our true selves, but there are few things that have really helped me get in touch with “me” like a powerful shared experience. :)

  10. petra says:

    Hello Adriane,
    I just got my kick out of comfort zone; a new job (after years of unemployment), 20 miles across the border of my country (never was comfortable with driving a car and now i have to do it on a daily basis) and totally different language with weird dialect…After a week i started doubting if this was right decision and if it’d be better if i just quit… but i feel the change inside, some kind of maturing…anyway thanks for again a great post ! xoxo

    • Adrienne says:

      Hi Petra,

      Wow, definitely a big change — good for you for making that step and sticking with it (as long as it continues to feel right)!

      Thanks so much for sharing and good luck with your new job!

  11. Galen Pearl says:

    Hi, I popped over from your guest post on Sandra’s blog. I like your blog very much! My life changing experience was finding myself in the emergency room with a pain so great I thought I was going to die, and realizing that there was nothing physically wrong with me. It was my wake up call from life. No, that’s not true. I had wake up calls before but I kept hitting the snooze button. This was the wake up call that got me out of bed! I made a very conscious decision that night to get past my fear and make needed changes in my life. Now, years later, I look back and wonder how I used to live the way I lived. I love my life so much and I am blessed beyond measure.
    The latest wisdom shared by Galen Pearl: Thank Someone TodayMy Profile

    • Adrienne says:

      Hi Galen,

      Thanks so much, it’s a joy to have you here!

      Yours is the type of experience I can’t even imagine, yet one that many people describe as their “wake up call.” Regardless of what that experience is, the true gift is making that conscious decision, like you have done. It’s always so encouraging and inspiring to here others’s stories of self-discovery and transformation.

      I will be sharing several of those over the next few weeks from some very special friends, since I will be on a 35-day backpacking trip. I hope you’ll stop by and check them out. :)

  12. Emily says:

    Your story reminds me so much of what’s going on in my life right now. I’m a freshman in college and I am constantly worrying about religion, I was raised in a Christian home, but now I am beginning to wonder if I am only a Christian because of the way I was raised. It scares me to think that the God I’ve been following my whole life could just be a figment of my imagination, if he is then how will I be able to believe in any god at all? I’m in the middle of trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life and who I want to be but I’m so clueless. Also I am in a long distance relationship with someone right now that I am so madly in love with (despite my young age) and it’s so hard, we hope to get married some day but there is so much in our way right now. You’re story gave me hope because it is so similar to everything happening in my life right now. I’m still trying to figure out who I am and who I want to be, I just know that I want to find a way to live a life filled with passion and meaning, but right now I am having a hard time figuring out who I am. It’s hard to find yourself in a time when so many people are content with conforming and living an average life. Sorry I’m rambling, anyways thanks for the post, it always helps to know that someone has been where you are and made it out fulfilled and content.
    Thanks,
    Emily

    • Hi Emily!

      I’m another diligent follower of Adrienne. You’re not alone. I have also gone through similar challenges with faith. Grown up Catholic, but then doing work Internationally and learning more about several other religions. Also with the death of a close friend who throughout his live had overcome massive obstacles and was a beautiful human being. Then during his cancer and passing the question that haunted me, “why?” I think I have come to terms now and am no longer angry about it. I think it comes down to your individual faith and beliefs. No one religion is the “right” one (as several Christian religions believe). A saying I use all the time, “Just because something is different, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.” By talking with International friends there are beautiful religions out there that have deep history’s. All are special in their own way.

      I also went through a long-distance relationship and am now married to her. :) Just in the the past few months I have really understood my true purpose and passions. Though I’ve had glimpses of it throughout my career, all the pieces have just come together. Take a look at my blog, I’ve pretty much documented the process.

      Anyway (‘m a rambler too), be patient. Clarification will come when it’s ready to. Learn, absorb and read as much as you can about any and all your interests. Things will click. The important thing is that you’re on an incredible journey and by no means alone. If there’s anything more I can do to help, contact me via my website. Will do anything I can to share my experiences if it means helping you on your journey.

      John
      The latest wisdom shared by John Kowalski: Connecting to Barce, Europe and BeyondMy Profile

  13. Mady says:

    Hi, Adrienne. I am a 14 year old girl. I’m trying to find my best self already and it’s difficult being so young as people don’t take you seriously.

    My “wake up-call” would probably be when I first met my grandfather. I met him when I was 10 and I visit him every year in the summer. My dad died in a car accident when I was a little girl. I never met him, but when I was 9 my mom contacted my biological father’s father. I went to meet him in August that year. He really opened my eyes to what could be. He is 70 years old and studies and practices psychology. He has run marathons and still runs and rides a bike. It’s been amazing getting to know him and who my father was. I look forward to seeing him all year.

    I have been struggling with faith as well. It scares me a little because I don’t want to be wrong, but sometimes things I hear just don’t seem right.

    I want to start my journey this summer to finding my best self, but I don’t know where to start. Any ideas on where? Like a book or a website? I’d really appreciate it if you could help!! Thanks!
    Madilyn

    • Olivia says:

      Mady! Hi, I’m Olivia. I’m 15 and I’m on the same journey you are on right now. Finding yourself in high school is hard, but rewarding in the end. I started searching for myself last year before starting my freshman year and I’ve come a long way. I’d love to know if you find any books or websites to help, I’m interested too! Best of luck. XO

  14. Sérgio Filho says:

    Hello Adrieene!

    I really like the way that you think, I mean people that are open to news ideas get likable to discover new points of views!

    This is extremely important to find the little life-changes experience that we lived daily, because each day is different from others and I’m sure that we can learn something – if we pay attention in ours faults – in the end of the day.

    Congratulation for your article!!!

    P.S.: I’ve to aks for comprehension about probably mistakes on grammar, but I’m still studying your idiom. ;D

    see you!

  15. Reis says:

    I am 19 working for my father. I don’t necessarily hate my job, but I don’t feel entirely happy there. Everyone thinks it is stupid that I am moving away from the prairies to live and ski every day in Revelstoke British Columbia for the winter, but I feel like it’s something I have to do. My parents say go for it, so I am. I leave November 25th. I hope to figure out where I am going in life while I’m there, and find out where and who I am.

  16. Christopher fleury says:

    hey what happened on your back pack adventure?

  17. raquel says:

    very powerful. Thank you for sharing these words with everyone.

  18. Carlos Antonio Raymond says:

    I began my journey of Self Discovery about in 1977. I did not know that what i started would be called Finding yourself or self discovery. Today, March 10, 2013, I am still on that journey, but life is a whole lot better now than when I first started. I am more at peace with my self now. Thanks for your article. I can relate to everything you’ve said ebcaue I see a basic connection. See you on facebook- Carlos Antonio (Raymond)

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  20. Courtney says:

    My pathetic story is that I’m 18 and was dumped by my boyfriend of over a year.. Being devistated And not knowing what to do I annoyed the shit out of him and made things worse completely ruining my chances .. My ex claimed I’m too immature and he is too so he wants to be with me in the future but I kind of think he will forget about me by then . So I’m trying to be able to live my life again and make a life for myself instead of living through his. I have no idea who I am and don’t know how to find myself .. I’m just trying to find things to make me smile again that dosnt remind me of him.

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