Sometimes in our lives we get distracted by what others are doing, what we think we should be doing or what others think we should be doing. What is it that you actually want? I think it is important that we spend time learning about our own, unique wants and needs, so we can design our lives accordingly (rather than copying what others are doing and living inauthentically).
One practical way we can become more self-aware is via journaling. You can simply write in a stream of consciousness about whatever you are thinking and feeling in the moment, without editing or judging your writing or thoughts in any way, to see what (if anything) you can learn about yourself. Or you can use more focused journaling processes, such as the following:
"Why?" Method: Take one bothersome emotion you are experiencing of late. Maybe you feel anxious or restless? Ask yourself why you feel that way and journal some options. Once you hit on something that resonates, you can ask yourself another "why" question. For example, "why does my presentation tomorrow make me feel anxious?" Perhaps it is because you don't want to mess up in front of your colleagues? Ask yourself again why does messing up in front of your colleagues make you anxious? And keep asking yourself "why?" until you get to the root of your fear. Maybe you are afraid you will lose credibility, get fired from your job, and therefore have to move back in with your parents. Ultimately you will realize that the worst that can happen is actually not so bad and all that might happen is reversible. As long as you are still breathing, you have the opportunity to begin anew at any time.
Life Inventory: You can reflect on the aspects of your life that are important to you and assess where you are currently versus where you want to be. Assess yourself in terms of such things as your career, finances, relationships, physical health, self-care, creativity pursuits, and etc. Take the one thing that feels most important to you right now. What is your current experience? What is your desired experience? What is one thing you can do today, this week, month, or year to move you closer to your ideals?
Other Journal Prompts to Reflect on:
If you knew you couldn't fail, what would you do today?
If no one was watching and money wasn't an issue, what would you do? What excites you about these possibilities? What’s holding you back? Why are you afraid?
When you were a child, what is something you could do for hours on end without losing interest?
Who are the people in your life you admire and what about them attracts you? How can you bring more of "that thing" into your life?
In ten years, what do I want myself and my life to look like?
Who am I? How do I want to be remembered after I pass? How can I live more like that now?
When journaling, there is no specific end goal in mind. You are just giving yourself the space and time in your mind to reflect about your life. You are taking a moment to remove yourself from your daily activities to see if you are heading in the direction you want to, so you can course correct if necessary. Some people may think it's anti-social to want some time for solitude, but I think it's not only healthy, but necessary, so that you can get to know yourself and learn to live authentically, beyond the influences/projections of those around you. In the words of Judy Garland, "Always be a first-rate version of yourself, rather than a second-rate version of someone else."