To Know yourself, and to know the nature of human beings, is
of great importance; so important that the seven sages of
Greece made it their chief maxim at Delphi.
There was no greater knowledge than self-knowledge; to
know every inch of your character and mind. You cannot
hope to live with virtue or reason if you do not know who you
are; your strengths, your weaknesses, what makes you tick.
Without this inner dialogue or knowledge of what
influences your thoughts and actions, you cannot control your
In the same way you cannot read or be guided by the
stars unless you know and study them; watching how
they move and what courses they take. We cannot guide
ourselves unless we study our minds, especially the emotions
that influence our thoughts and motivate our actions.
Many ancient thinkers believed that you could learn more
from studying other people and yourself than you could from books. The ancient Cynics (who had a deep influence on early Stoicism) always began their apprentices philosophical training with ruthless self scrutiny and examination.
You can imagine them now looking out across the landscape and telling their students the answers were not out there, instead tapping their heads and saying "but in here". You too must look inwards.
Thomas Hobbes said it best: "whosoever looketh into himself and considereth what he doth when he does think, opine, reason, hope, fear, and upon what grounds; he shall thereby read and know what are the thoughts and passions of all other men upon the like occasions".
So proceed to look within; a good place to begin when trying to know thyself, is to know thy enemy.
This is mainly your flaws and/or weaknesses: the vices you don’t necessarily posses but ones you know you do not wish to embody. Knowing your enemy can clarify who you are and what type of person you want to be.
Questions and exercises to get you started
How well do I know myself?
What are my strengths and virtues?
What are my weaknesses and vices?
Does my life reflect who I am?
Am I being less than I could be?
Quotes to inspire
To men immersed day and night in the mediations comes understanding of the truth pronounced by the God at Delphi, that the mind should know itself. - Cicero.
To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom. - Aristotle
Dig within. There lies the fountain of good. It will keep bubbling to the surface so long as you dig. - Marcus.
Master oneself. Never waver in your resolve. - Marcus.
To begin with, then, you must purify your intellect by training your thoughts: disciplining the mind, turn your attention on yourself, examine your belief system. You mind should be purer than the sun - Anecdotes of the Cynics