Have you ever looked in the mirror and wondered who that person is looking back at you? Did you ever think about how complex you are as a human being? Have you ever imagined yourself a different person? Do you ever wonder about the potential that lies inside of you? It is natural to want to understand ourselves and to recognize those qualities that make us who we are.

Getting to know you

You can learn things about yourself in many different ways. One of the quickest is by exploring the way you think. It is said, "As a man thinks, so is he." Every minute of the day, all kinds of thoughts are running through your mind. Some of them you respond to; others you may be just barely aware of. What kind of thoughts are they? Are you thinking good things about others, or do you tend to distrust people? Do you generally see the good or bad side of a situation? How are you thinking about yourself? Do you usually think about your weaknesses and faults or about your good side? Do you think about other people's situations? Do you sometimes imagine yourself in someone else's position?

Thinking and doing: cause and effect

The idea that your thinking is connected directly to your behavior is not new. Many philosophers and thinkers have explored this connection. Many look upon the relationship between thinking and doing as one of cause and effect. In other words, the way one acts is the result of the way one thinks. That seems like a reasonable statement, but because we can't see others' thoughts, their behavior sometimes surprises us. For example, if a boy who never stole anything in his life suddenly becomes a thief, stealing everything in sight, his family and friends would be shocked. However, it is possible that this boy entertained thoughts of stealing for some time before finally acting upon them.

On the positive side, people who generally act in a good way do so because of their thinking. Because they think well of others, they have cultivated the habit of treating others with respect. If they see themselves as capable and intelligent, they will likely pursue a career they enjoy and in which they can advance. If they think their family members are tender, caring people, they are likely to trust them with their feelings and share openly with them, creating more closeness. Of course, there are other factors involved, such as a person’s experiences, which shape behavior. Nevertheless, the way people think plants important seeds for the kind of lives they will lead.

Fortunately, if we don't like the kinds of thoughts we have, we can decide to change our thinking. In fact, by changing our thinking, we can change our mood and even our destiny. For instance, say that we are in the habit of waking up in a bad mood, thinking: "Oh no, another day! This is going to be another awful day. I feel terrible already. I have that math class that I hate, and I know I’m going to have tons of homework again tonight." Our whole day can be affected by the way we begin it. But suppose instead, we wake up thinking, "This is going to be a great day! I feel great! I'm going to study hard today, and as soon as I get home I’m going to go straight to my homework, get it done, so I’ll have time to watch my favorite TV shows." The quality of our life is affected by just such a simple change of attitude.
+ or - ?
The "Glad Game"

Maybe you have seen the movie Pollyanna. It's about a girl who always plays a game called "The Glad Game." No matter what happens, you try to find something in it to be glad about.

For instance: the carnival that you were planning to go to has been postponed for a week. What is there to be glad about? Pollyanna would say you could be glad that you have a whole other week of looking forward to the carnival. Sometimes looking forward to something is as much fun as the actual thing itself.

Pollyanna is an orphan who is sent to live with her rich, but selfish and unfriendly aunt. She is given a dismal little room in the house, with no carpet, mirror, or pictures on the walls. Pollyanna is definitely disappointed, but she decides to be glad about something. She is glad there is no mirror so she does not have to look at her own freckles, which she hates. She is glad there are no pictures on the walls because she can appreciate the beautiful view from her window more!

Playing the "Glad Game" may seem childish, but many a great leader has led his or her people through the dark times of history by seeing the silver lining in every cloud, the light at the end of the pitch-black tunnel, and the beam of a lighthouse on a stormy night at sea. You'd be surprised at the power of this game.

Positive thinking: a tool for building good character

Finding the good in every person and in every circumstance is not easy; if it were, everyone would do it. We tend more often to notice a person's flaws or the problems in a given set of circumstances. As with everything else, thinking in a positive way is something that has to be learned, and it takes time to become good at it.

You may begin by pretending for a day that you are on secret mission. Your mission is to notice and write down three good things about the character of two of your classmates with whom you find it most difficult to get along (or you might choose a teacher or someone in your family). At the end of the day, read through your results. The next day when you see these people, remind yourself of the good qualities you noted in them, especially when their behavior bothers you. This is a good test of your self-control. Try to ignore your critical thoughts and feelings and think of the good qualities you found in them.

This simple exercise shows us how difficult it is sometimes to focus on the good in people or in our circumstances. When we do, however, we feel ourselves changing for the better. Therefore, we learn that it is possible to train ourselves how to think, and to control our state of mind.

Beyond learning to see the world and others more positively, why is it valuable to train ourselves to think in this way? It is valuable because it helps us live a happier life each day and to regard others with a better attitude. When we can do this, we treat others better, and we conduct ourselves with greater integrity and sincerity. Therefore, learning to think more positively about ourselves and the world around us is an important skill to develop while we are still young.

Who I am today

One way to get to know who you are is to observe the surroundings you have created for yourself. Pass your hand over your forehead and wipe it clean so that you are looking at the surroundings you have created for yourself with fresh eyes, or pretend you are a friend entering your room, looking into your storage or locker space, looking at your sleeping area, or your desk or closet for the first time.

You may be startled to notice, "Wow, so much green! Everything I have is green. What does green mean to me? It reminds me of growing plants. I'm a person who really wants to be growing all the time!"
You may notice, "Wow, I really lined up those pencils in a straight row. Guess I'm neater than I think I am!"

You may think, "Only a romantic would put so many pictures of flowers on the wall!"

It may be, "There isn't anything in here but balls. Basketballs, soccer balls, footballs. I guess I like ball games! Maybe I'd better sign up for a team."

Where do I come from?

To really understand ourselves, it is helpful to look at where we came from, where we are and where we are going. By looking at the past, present and future, the meaning of our lives can become clearer.
Every individual is a unique human being—unlike any other who has ever lived. At the same time, each of us was born from the union of our parents, who in turn were born from the union of their parents. So, while we are unique human beings, we are also a product of those who gave us birth, inheriting not only some of their physical features but also elements of their character. If you know your grandparents well, you may have noticed aspects of them, both physical and spiritual, in your parents and even in yourself. If you were to explore your ancestry, you might recognize some of their qualities in your immediate family members. Therefore, while we may like to emphasize our uniqueness, it is also important to appreciate our connection to those who came before us.

Where am I going?

The next—and possibly most difficult—question we can ask ourselves is: "Where am I going?" Although we may have an idea of the kind of person we want to become, few of us have a solid plan of how to go about accomplishing it. If we are uncertain, we are likely to be pulled this way and that by circumstances and will never attain our goal.
To know where we are headed is a difficult task. While we are young it is worth taking the time to develop an image of the kind of person we wish to become, and how we plan to become that person. An excellent way to develop this image is to look for good role models from history, current events, and the adults in our own lives. Then we can try to model ourselves on the people we admire, ask ourselves what they would do in certain situations and try to do the same thing.

Questions for Reflection

1. What are your character strengths?

2. What are your character weaknesses?

3. Do you generally see other people in a good or bad light?

4. What makes you work harder?

6. How do you relate to your friends and family?

8. What were you thinking this morning when you woke up?

9. Think of yourself as being 30 years old. What kind of a person are you? What work do you do? What personal relationships do you have? Where do you live?

10. Overall, do you see yourself in a good or bad light?

Exercise: “You and the Mirror”

After reading this chapter, go to a mirror and look at yourself. Then, talk to yourself out loud. First, say three things you don’t like about yourself. Then, say three things that you do like about yourself. Make sure they are real compliments to yourself! Then note how you feel.
The eyes are said to be a window to the soul or spirit. What do your eyes tell you about your spirit?

Reflection Exercise: "Treasure Map"

Close your eyes and ask: "What is my buried treasure? In other words, what are the potential qualities that lie hidden within me?" Using some kind of imagery, think of your buried treasure.

Draw a picture of your buried treasure. Then draw a map with a path leading to the treasure. The path represents your life. Show the obstacles (blocks, hindrances) and the helpers (people, resources, assistance) you have come across along the way. You may draw these as rocks, bridges, or people, if you wish.

Have a conversation with the obstacles and then with the helpers. What do you talk about?

This is an excellent exercise for further exploring your hidden talents, abilities and desires. It can help you confront your limitations and make use of your resources to reach your goals.